Forgiveness & Difficult People
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V. Tests Every Christian Goes Through: Forgiveness and Dealing With Difficult People

The ability to forgive, I believe, is a test every Christian faces. It certainly is also one of the stumbling blocks Satan uses to try to bring us down. I know, because I was one of Satan's victims once, bound up in unforgiveness. But the Lord in His graciousness reached out to me and helped me get out of the awful prison I was in.

James Dobson used to say that when a Christian gets hurt, the person most in danger spiritually is not the one who did the hurting, but the person who got hurt. It seems so unfair, but heĎs right. Often the person who hurt you has no idea what they've done. Do you remember how on the cross, Jesus said, ďFather forgive them, for they do not know what they do.Ē Luke 23:34? They didnít know. Like the Romans, often hurtful people are completely oblivious. But the person who got hurt is in tremendous spiritual danger if they become offended and donít forgive.

If you donít forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive you:

Matthew 6:14-15 (Jesus speaking) "For is you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Moreover, if you don't forgive, your prayers will not be heard:

Psalm 66:18 if I regard iniquity (sin) in my heart, the Lord will not hear.

If you donít forgive, youíll be like the servant who would not forgive his fellow servant for a debt of about twenty dollars, even though his master had forgiven him for a debt of something near a million dollars. He was thrown into prison, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18, where he was tormented day and night. (Matthew 18:21-33)

I know about those tormentors. They used to come and visit me at night as I lay awake reviewing all the horrible things people had done to me. That prison of unforgiveness was a terrible place. I recommend forgiveness instead.

If you have problems with forgiveness, as I did, Colossians 3:13 helps. It says that we are to forgive one another, ďeven as Christ forgave you, you also must do.Ē I was reading that one day when I finally saw it. Of course! When Christ forgives us, He gives us the grace to forgive others. I can forgive other people because God forgave me for so much more.

Another Scripture that helped me was 1 Corinthians 6:7 where Paul says, ďWhy do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?Ē As I thought about that one day, I realized that I would rather be wronged and cheated than to carry such a heavy load of unforgiveness. With tears running down my face, I prayed to the Lord, ďFather, I am angry, and I have every right to be angry. But Iíd rather be wronged, Iíd rather be cheated than to carry this anger. Please forgive me. I am giving up my right to be angry. Iím giving it to You.Ē From that moment, I felt God take the burden of my anger away from me. And interestingly, it was from about that time that God began dealing with the people who had hurt me so badly that I had PTSD.

I also learned that forgiveness is a walk. Do you remember how Peter offered to forgive up to seven times, and Jesus answered more like 70 X 7 times? (Matthew 18:21-22) That would be 490 times. Sometimes I felt like I forgave all 490 times--in one week. But I was determined to forgive, and when those thoughts came into my mind, I would tear them down casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10:5. I also would say out loud that I chose to forgive! And then I would rebuke any tormenting spirits, and tell them to flee, in Jesus' name, James 4:7.

The Lord also continued to teach me how to deal with difficult people. Consider the following:

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Together with other Scriptures--Prov. 11:16 a gracious woman retains honor; and Romans 12:21 do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, there is a pattern the Lord gives us of a gracious person who deals with others graciously and overcomes evil with good. He or she treats others with honor, yet at the same time retains his or her own honor and dignity.

I have seen this work! Iíve seen gracious words completely change unkind people! When I deal with others, I am determined to be kind, gracious and loving. I look for ways to give kind words to others--true words that are also kind. So, for example, I said to a woman who had been very unkind to me, that I really thought she looked well. I noticed her blouse and remarked what a nice color it was on her. All true comments. I remember this conversation because she was totally dumbfounded. She had been going around making cutting remarks about me. She knew that she didnít deserve my kindness. And yet I was kind to her--with plenty of help from the Lord (Romans 5:5!).

That woman totally changed her treatment of me. Today when she sees me, she comes up and hugs me. Amazing.

Each of us can be a gracious person, as God directs, for Romans 5:5 says that the love of God is poured out by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. Romans 5:5 says that we have Godís love in us--isnít that so amazing!

As for blessing, here is a Scripture you can pray even for your worst enemy. In Acts 3:26, where Peter is addressing the crowd on Solomon's porch, he says that God sent Jesus Christ to bless them, in turning every one of you away from your iniquities. What is the greatest blessing you have? Isn't it knowing Christ? Pray this blessing for your enemies, that they will come to know Christ, and that God will turn them away from their sins. Even if the person who is hurting you claims to be a Christian, pray for them to come to know Christ more deeply, and for Him to turn them away from their sin. Also remember that if they are coming against you, they are coming against the blood of Christ which covers you, 1 Peter 1:2. God will deal with them--as long as you don't get in the way.

In almost every case, being gracious and kind helps tremendously in dealing with difficult people. There are times, though, when another approach is appropriate. Jesus didn't stay around the Pharisees when they were set on destroying Him. He retreated, John 11:54. Similarly, when a person is set on destroying you, retreat. You may also have to go to the governing authorities and ask for help. Ministering authorities are, after all, given to us by God to protect us, Romans 13:1-4.

Even in retreat or going to authority, FORGIVE. Forgive, and firmly give the situation to the Lord. Forgive, and continue praying blessings on the person who has hurt you, especially the blessing in Acts 3:26. You cannot change them. Only Your Father in heaven can do a work in them at that point--and His work will be hindered if you try to take justice into your own hands.

So forgive, and return good for evil. And bless, so that your Father in heaven can bless you. Because God does bless those who are like Him--kind, forgiving and loving, pouring out mercy even when it is not deserved.

Diana Clancy
Copyright October 2007