Transforming Irritations

When I went off to Florida Bible College after high school, I roomed with two older fellows. They were both very old (25 and 31). 🙂 Also, they were both veterans of the military. The younger one was a Marine, no less. When I forgot to make my bed, I got a note taped to my bunk with an assignment: “Don’t forget your ‘make-your-bed-ups'”! Although we had our share of differences, the relationship lessons from the dorm were almost as valuable as the ones in the classroom.

How do you react when you are in a frustrating relationship? In the friction of the moment it is easy to lose sight of Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” We tend to define “good” as what is pleasant and comfortable; however, God defines “good” as that which is based upon His ultimate goal for all believers. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”

God can transform our irritations into spiritual growth if we abide in Him.

This radical faith perspective challenges us to see things from the vantage point of God’s wise–and sometimes inscrutable–providence. Yet, this acceptance of God’s permissive will can free us from the roller coaster of living by our emotions and circumstances.

A 13 year old delinquent girl was having conflicts with her roommate. When she sought counsel, she was directed to Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” When asked if she would be willing to work on a project that could give her a whole new outlook on her situation, she agreed. A staff assistant went with her to seek 15 reasons for “why God would allow the girl to have a roommate she could not get along with.” Armed with an attitude of faith and a perspective of God’s overall purpose, she was enabled to write the following list:

1. It has motivated me to respond correctly when I am upset by others.

2. It has uncovered rights which I have not yet yielded to God.

3. It has forced me to learn more about the commandment to love my neighbor as myself.

4. It has given me the opportunity to praise her to others.

5. It has helped me to learn how to relate to others.

6. It has taught me to cooperate with others in difficult situations.

7. It has motivated me to pray more often.

8. It has made me turn to God for a friend.

9. It has drawn me closer to my family.

10. It makes me glad there are people with whom it is easier to get along.

11. It has shown me ways not to irritate others.

12. It has caused spiritual growth in me.

13. It gives me a perspective of Eternity–when everyone will be perfect.

14. It has taught me to be more gentle.

15. It has motivated me to think about the needs of others. [1]

Similarly, the apostle Paul found encouragement from God to see his difficulties as opportunities to discover God’s sustaining grace. He testified to the Corinthians of his struggle to accept God’s higher purposes:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Stewart Dinnen, a missionary leader and Bible school principal, recalled a letter from a student who learned this grace lesson:

“Perhaps the most important lesson the Lord began to teach me in college was, ‘In everything give thanks.’ I learned to look behind difficult circumstances and see a loving God who was only bringing pressure on me to prove me and draw me closer to Himself… It seemed that God was constantly allowing me to get into situations where my reserves were inadequate that I might draw on His limitless resources. In coming to an end of myself I found God to be all that He had promised to be. It was only pressure that brought me into a wealthy place of a new love for God and simple dependence on Him.” [2]

Back in the year 2000 our family was driving from Ontario, Canada down to Tennessee, U.S.A. for a Christian Education conference. After a few hours of driving, we heard a crunching sound in the right rear wheel of our minivan–not a sound I wanted to hear! The brakes gave way, and I gradually was able to pull off the road without an accident. After praying and waiting a few minutes, I set off in search of a telephone. Thankfully, about a kilometer away was a small store and a phone. After calling emergency road service, I walked back to the minivan and the waiting family. When the tow truck arrived, the driver discovered our rear wheel problem and called for a flat bed tow truck instead. Eventually, the new truck arrived, and Scott pulled our vehicle up onto the flat bed truck. Incredibly, we were told to just stay in the minivan; we rode along on the back of the tow truck! To make a long story shorter, the garage was able to fix our minivan that afternoon. We spent our time walking around the town and even found a nature trail. Since we began our trip early, the delay did not cause a problem. We were further blessed the next day when Christian friends gave us a gift that about covered the repair bill! Looking back on the episode we can see God’s watch care over us.

During the conference in Tennessee my wife and I said “yes” to the Lord regarding a commitment to do biblical home education for our family. It was a decision which pushed us way out of our comfort zone. If God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, we needed plenty of enabling strength for that chapter of family discipleship.

When we encounter difficulties that are beyond our ability to endure, we are “crowded to Christ” as the only One who can sustain us. As Andrew Murray pointed out,

“How often we as Christians have thought that we were able to do that which is good. How often we thought we were making ourselves better. Let us remember Christ’s words, ‘Apart from Me ye can do nothing’ and henceforth rely only upon Him. What cause for thanksgiving! Christ has united us to Himself, and so dwells within us. He may work in and through us each day and all day. This is the secret of the spiritual life: the Lord Jesus working in us, enabling us to do His work.” [3]

So when you are frustrated by the tough relationships and circumstances, let them push you further into the arms of your faithful Savior. He can give you the wisdom to see all things working together for your ultimate well-being. He can transform your irritations into spiritual benefits!


Notes

[1] from Effective Counseling, part 5, I.B.L.P. http://www.iblp.org

[2] Stewart Dinnen, When I say Move, (CLC) p.50.

[3] Andrew Murray, The Secret of Christ Our Life, (CLC), p.40.

Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. 2nd edition. Permission is granted to copy for non-commercial use. Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.


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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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