“From the Hart” Devotional for Feb. 22, 2024

“Love Difficult People”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44

I recently came across a quote by Bob Goff: “Love difficult people. You’re one of them.” I stopped for a moment and thought about all of the things that are difficult to love about me — it’s a pretty long list! I have too many ideas, I make everything a production, I have no sense of time or direction, I over-program/over-commit/over-do things, I’m messy, I’m forgetful, I want certain things a certain way. I mean, I could go on and on, but you get the point. I can be quite unlovable.

I have a gratitude book that gives me one question to reflect on each day. Recently, it asked me to write down the name of a person that I struggle to get along with. That was easy! Then it challenged me to write down three positive things about them. And do you know what? It was even easier to think of three positive things about that person. I realized that even though they might frustrate or upset me sometimes, they have so many great qualities and make great contributions. I suppose that’s true for most of us. While there is a long list of difficult things about me, there is also a list that I could make of good qualities: I love people, I’m a hard worker, I am forgiving, I am encouraging.

Thankfully, God loves each and every one of us (even the unlovable parts) and that is what is expected of us. The Bible talks a lot about love: that we are to love others as ourselves, we should love as God loves us, and that God even wants us to love our enemies. If there is a difficult someone(s) in your life that you may be struggling to love right now, here are some things that might help:
• Pray for yourself. Pray before you spend time with them. Pray for grace and patience and to be able to see the good in them.
• Pray for them. Pray about their circumstances that might make them difficult to be around; and pray that God might use you to shine light into their lives.
• Put yourself in their shoes. Think about the struggles they might be going through that might make them bitter or crusty. And think about them as a beloved child of God, beautiful to behold.
• Be kind. Even when kindness is not returned.

As I was writing this devotional, I received a text message from a friend who is a part of the letter-writing workshop series that Phyllis Murray and I are leading this year. In our last class, I issued a 40-days of Lent challenge to write one letter a day and I suggested thinking of some unexpected people to write to, maybe even from way back in our past. She accepted the challenge and she’s been writing a letter each day. Today, she sent me a text saying that she had just written a letter to someone who doesn’t even like her. My first thought was: how can anyone not like her?! My second thought was: good for her! She’s doing the very work that Jesus taught us to do. She is loving the unlovable. She is showing love to someone who does not make her feel loved. That’s big. That’s life changing. That’s GOD!

OK, your turn.
Think about a person in your life that is annoying, difficult, hurtful, critical or negative.
How do you feel when you are around them?
Do you think that how you feel might be evident to them?
Now think about three good qualities about them.
Ask yourself if you have ever told them about those qualities that you admire about them.
What do you think might happen if you did?

This week’s challenge is to tell one of those “difficult to love people” one thing you admire about them. Dig deep if you have to. For those of you looking to do extra credit, I challenge you to say a prayer for them every day this week. Fair warning: they may not change one bit. But I believe that you will change just a little.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to love others as you love me. When I am faced with a difficult person, help me to see them as you see them. And when I am the difficult person, help others to see me through your eyes as well. Amen.