2 Timothy 2:14b,22b,23-24 – Stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. Pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. (NLT)

I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My mother turned to arson when life dissatisfied her. If we could keep track of her discontent, sometimes it was possible to head her off, but it wasn't easy. We lived mostly in isolation in the bush or outside city limits, on the edges of one town or another.

One time, standing in a crowd that had collected to watch our last house burn down, a stranger turned to me, seemingly delighted with the increasing flames. "I come to ALL your fires!" he said.

My aunt, who lived with us periodically, disagreed with her car radio and yelled at it, and us, ignoring traffic as she drove haphazardly around.

My grandmother would make her way to our rural mailbox when she saw the postman coming, reporting on the family and trying to involve him in whatever was going on.

Unable to stop any of it, my father kept to himself, scrounging at the city dump in his spare time and resorting to tranquilizers. I grew up knowing that my family would continue to be Bad Advice Central. I was married and many years away from home when I heard a woman talking about having her house burn. "Is this your first fire?" I asked innocently.

"What do you mean, 'my first fire?'" she asked, her voice rising. It was only then that I realized how different my life experience had been from everyone else's.

Oh, the difficult people in our lives! Probably not such extremes of behaviour, yet self-obsessed, cantankerous, and stubborn individuals are some of God's best tools to carve us into becoming accepting, patient, loving, faithful, and humble — like Him. They are unwitting blessings chosen by our loving God to help us grow.

"The only person I can change is myself," someone said. "Acceptance of others is the answer to all my problems today." God uses the difficult ones in our lives to bring us to Himself, through Christ, to change us into His likeness as we wade through the deep waters and fiery trials that they bring.

2 Corinthians 4:17 – These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! (TLB)

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, we know that You only design "our dross to consume and our gold to refine", when You use difficult people to grow us up in faith. Thank You for every instance of daily contact with the difficult ones, reminding us of the internal prayer, Bless them, Lord, and change me. Open our eyes to Your purposes for our troubles, that we may become the light that You trust us to be in Your world. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Rose DeShaw <rise370@gmail.com>
Kingston, Ontario, Canada

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