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Earthly Thorns That Trouble Us- 3- The Thorn of People

Earthly Thorns That Trouble Us
Day 3- The Thorn of People
Daniel Petterson

“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV)

“If possible, so far is it depends on you, live in peace with all people.” (Romans 12:18, ISV)

I’m quite confident that every single reader of this article won’t take very long to think of at least one person in their life they would call “challenging.” Unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life! “Challenging” can mean many things, too. A person might drive you up a wall; they might push all your buttons. They might have it out for you; they might make your life miserable. As I think over my lifetime, I’ve had many such people cross my path. I’ve encountered them in school, at work, in the neighborhood, in friend groups, and even at church. They are the people that test your patience, your fortitude, and even your Christian testimony. And be honest, you’re thinking about certain people right now. Hopefully I’m not one of them!

There are times when these issues resolve themselves. At work, the person quits. At school or in your neighborhood or at church, the person moves away or moves on. You immediately lose contact, and so the issue is over. But in those days, weeks, months, or years that you have no choice but to have them in your life, what do you do? I can tell you from the experience of a miserable situation I had to live through, it isn’t easy nor enjoyable—at all. Depending on the situation, it can involve a lot of biting your tongue, deep breaths, and prayer. I remember praying earnestly every day for the person to be removed from my life. My stress level was off the charts; people could see it in me. The day this issue was resolved is a day I may never forget. I may have sung out loud the Chris Tomlin song, “My chains are gone/I’ve been set free!” So if you’re dealing with a serious problem with a particular person right now, please understand I know how it feels.

The verses above, especially the first one, present a tremendous challenge in these situations. Paul tells us that even when it comes to the most challenging “thorny person” in my life, I must be careful. I can’t repay them in kind—evil for evil, snark for snark, outburst for outburst. Instead, Paul says we must “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” I underlined those two words to point out the most difficult part of this verse: always means no breaks; everyone includes “that person.” This is an exceptionally hard thing to do, but it isn’t impossible. I can choose to be good and kind to even the most difficult people in my life. As they heap on the bad, we can respond with the good. Sometimes, it can lead to that person becoming ashamed of their own behavior. In Romans 12, as Paul notes we can provide food and drink to our hungry and thirsty enemies, he says in vs. 20 that doing so can “heap burning coals on his head.” A bully, enemy, or a difficult person in our life is sometimes dissuaded when confronted with goodness. This may not always happen, of course, but it’s nice to know I’m following the Word of God when I choose this path.

Even if that doesn’t work out, I still need to keep Romans 12:18 in mind. I shouldn’t be the one stirring the pot. It can be very hard to let things go and move on, but I think that’s part of how this verse can be applied to us today. And in case it needs to be said, I’m not talking about crimes or abuse that have been committed against you; that’s a whole different story. With a challenging person, if things are currently at peace, then let them be at peace. I shouldn’t dredge up the past to remind them of how miserable they’ve made me. That would surely start up more misery. What’s the good in that? If it comes down to me, I need to promote peace in how I deal with people. That means no riling them up, no thinly veiled takedowns on social media, no diss videos on TikTok. None of that. As long as it’s in my control, the goal is peace with all people. Yes—even that person.

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