How do we love the difficult people in our lives?
In truth, I have had, and still have, some unlovable people in my life. It has been a struggle to love them because of the way they have treated me. In my flesh, I would “love” nothing more than to lash out at them and give them a piece of my mind, if truth be told. And, I will be honest in saying that it has been a real struggle to not allow roots of bitterness to take hold of my heart.
Have you ever had really stubborn roots in your garden that no matter how many times you pull them out they still come back? Well, I envision a root of bitterness to be like an unrelenting weed that never stops trying to take root inside the heart. It tries to get its interweaving arms around it to choke it.
A root of bitterness can be hard to pull or eradicate from our live, but pull them we must, because if that weed is allowed to flower then hate will overtake the heart. There are seeds of bitterness that can be placed in our hearts by people in our lives who unfortunately can be puppets in the enemy’s hands.
A puppeteer is a person who manipulates… a puppet… to create the illusion of life. The puppeteer may be visible to or hidden from the audience. A puppeteer can operate a puppet indirectly by the use of strings, rods, wires, [and] electronics or directly by his or her own hands placed inside the puppet or holding it externally. …the puppeteer's role is to manipulate the physical object in such a manner that the audience believes the object is imbued with life. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppeteer).
Some people find puppets already scary, but this is even scarier to think about in the spiritual sense. We have an enemy that does exactly this with people in our lives to get us riled up. He manipulates people in our lives to take us out, to make us react in our fleshly nature, and then sits back and laughs at our reaction.
So, what can we do, how do we love someone who has hurt us and not allow that bitterness to get a hold of our hearts. I can say from experience that it is not easy, but necessary. It cannot be done in this human tent. If you depend on your human emotions, strength or resolve, you will fail…guaranteed. Only by God’s grace can we love the unlovely people in our lives. There’s no other root treatment that will truly kill this root.
Some of you may be thinking…but you don’t know what this person has done to me, said about me. And I don’t. But I do know that the pain you are feeling is real and it hurts. It is like a poison that you can’t get out of your system. It is the kind of pain that wants to consume you, depress you. It keeps you awake at night and the first thought that greets you in the morning…I know because I have been there too. And as hard as this may be to read, you can’t change the way people may chose to treat you—but you can change the way you choose to respond.
We need to choose to remain in His peace. We need to choose to remain in His joy. We need to choose to be in His presence every day. We need to sing His praises no matter how we feel inside. That is the only defense against this type of root. It is the only way to keep our heart neutralized from this sin. Then and only then can we grow the sweet fruit of righteousness in our lives.
Repentance should first be heard from our own lips for those we have hurt, and then pray for those who have hurt us to come to repentance that they too may be saved.
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:14-15 (NLT)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Ephesians 4:31 (NLT)
Esau allowed a root of bitterness to take root in your heart. In Hebrews 12:14-17, we see the warning written for all to heed saying that Esau because of his bitterness towards Jacob and the promise concerning him allowed himself to discount his own birthright for a morsel of food. That morsel of food tasted better in his mouth then what God had for him.
Beware brethren that that “morsel of food,” your bitterness, does not become more savory in your mouth than the sweet reward God has for you and take it upon your heart to retaliate. Anger and payback can steal away our birthright. Check your heart then and see if there is any root of bitterness that needs to be eradicated. Esau’s heart became so hard that there was no place for repentance—we too have to be careful that we do not also harden our hearts towards God’s leading.
Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Hebrews 12:3
Jesus is our perfect example on how to deal with the unlovely people in our lives and how not to allow a root of bitterness to overtake us. The world will push you to the point of wanting to revile but when it does, consider Him, and draw strength from knowing that you are not alone. That He knows what you’re going through. He sees your pain and sorrow because He walked that road before you.
…who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; I Peter 2:23
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Matthew 5:11