Every church has them. In fact, every person probably has at least one. “Problem people,” I call them. It’s hard to be grateful for them, but Paul told us to be thankful in all circumstances (Eph 5:20, 1 Thess 5:18) and to abound in thanksgiving (Col 2:7). Here are some reasons to be thankful for the problem people in your life:
- They’re a reminder that we’re called to reach sinners. We sometimes get so cocooned among believers and friends that we forget our need to live in the real world. Problem people take us back to that world.
- They force us to look in the mirror. Truth be told, we all have the capacity to be somebody else’s problem person. Problematic people should cause us to avoid being that kind of person.
- They remind us of God’s grace. Were it not for His grace and mercy, we not only have the capacity to be a problem person; we’d be that person.
- They not only remind us of grace, but they almost force us to learn to be gracious. This is seldom easy, but extending grace to problem people is a mark of God’s work in our lives.
- They challenge us to live like Jesus taught us. He told us, in fact, to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us (Luke 6:27-28). Problem people are an opportunity to let the Spirit of God move our hearts in this direction.
- They may be fertile soil for evangelism. Some problematic people are that way because they don’t know Jesus. If they’re already in our life, they might be a field ripe for the harvest.
- They might be an opportunity for discipleship. Believers who are problems are sometimes thoroughly undiscipled, and their grumbling is evidence of that neglect. I’ve seen God grow whining babies into mature believers when somebody gives them godly attention.
- They make us pray. We need to pray to love them . . . to forgive them . . . to teach them . . . to minister to them . . . to be patient with them . . . to know when to confront them . . . to know even if/when to consider church discipline. We who are often self-dependent need such gifts that drive us to pray.
- They keep us humble. That happens when we face people whose heart we can’t seem to reach. We learn again how little we can do without God’s help.
- If they’re believers, they’re still brothers and sisters in Christ. They’re still part of the family. Problematic members of the body, yes, but they’re still in the fold.
What reasons would you add to this list? Help us respond well to problem people.