We often view the situations we face as things God uses to mature us and refine our character. Those circumstances break us or challenge us and lead us to a place of dependence on Christ. But those situations, thankfully, can be few and far between. What if we were to look at our relationships as means of suffering and refinement? Sure, there are people that may intend to do harm physically or verbally, and those are times of obvious suffering. But what about our daily interactions with the people in our lives? We want people to like us. Conflict makes us uncomfortable. We think we deserve to be treated a certain way. Those ideals are not wrong, but what happens when we are treated unfairly, overlooked, taken for granted, or we have to be around someone that’s not easy to get along with? My tendency is to convince myself that I’m in the right, to mope about being misunderstood, and to pick apart what that person is doing wrong. I become selfishly absorbed in the unfairness of it all.
The fruit of the Spirit’s working in us should be evident through our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The New Testament is replete with commands to love serve, honor, encourage, and bear with one another (to identify a few!). The people around us everyday give us the opportunity to do just that, and not only the people that are easy to love or that treat us well in return. If someone is treating you unfairly, see it as God developing patience in you. If someone is unkind or rude, God may be refining self-control, gentleness, and kindness in us. This is not a call to be a doormat, but to change our perspective. A situation may require confrontation or other action, not out of self-righteousness but a genuine desire for the other person’s growth as well. The everyday “sufferings” that we face give God the opportunity to work in us and refine our character into Christlikeness just as much, if not more than the major challenges we may endure.
Much of what God desires for us would be impossible if we achieved our desired goal to have a comfortable life with people that are always nice to us. I would likely become spoiled and selfish. Somewhere along the way I believe that I could be more like Jesus if life were easier. That may be true… MY ability to be like Jesus is only possible when it’s easy. But God uses trying times and people in our lives to shape us like Christ from the inside out. Jesus set aside His rights to serve, love, and die for us. What rights or expectations do I need to set aside so that God can shape me through difficult people? Who has God given me to love today?
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Influenced by and written as a follow-up to April 22 in New Morning Mercies.