For those just joining, this is part of a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. For the last letter, click this link.
“Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Yours.” St. Therese of Lisieux
So, why does God leave difficult people in your life? What purpose could he have in leaving people that seem to be spiritual irritants to you? After all, he could make it easier by removing them (or refusing to create them at all), but he does not. Why would that be?
When I was younger, there was a particular person in my life who had become an irritant to me. Every time I was around this person they would annoy me. They seemed to think I was fond of them, as every time I was around them they would talk to me, give me a hug, and generally acted as if we had a relationship. Little did they know, it just frustrated me all the more. One particular morning, as I was praying, this person came to mind. Immediately I began to think of how much this person irritated me. It was a very spiritual moment. A picture of two magnets presented itself to my mind. When I was young the repelling force of two magnets fascinated me. Trying to force two magnets with the same charge to mesh together was an entertaining game.
In this picture, these two magnets were pushed toward each other and the sides with the same charge were facing each other. Each time they came close they would react against the other and each would repel the opposing magnet. In an instant I knew this was a picture depicting myself and this person. My irritation had more to do with me than with them. The Lord was showing me that the issues I had with this person were actually issues that had resided dormant in my own heart. Their magnet had the same charge as my own.
As water reflects the face, so the heart of man to man. Proverbs 27:19
This principle became readily apparent in a dream. One night, as I dreamt, a person I knew to be generally unhealthy in their emotional and mental state was standing before me. I was holding a gun. Slowly, I pointed the gun at the person standing in front of me and shot them in the eye. Next, I turned the gun on myself, pointed it at my eye, pulled the trigger, and then I awoke. While the imagery is fairly graphic (it was not actually very graphic in the dream itself), it conveyed a powerful message. I knew that the unhealthiness I saw in this person I needed to bring to death in myself.
Difficult people present the potential to fundamentally challenge the way that your brain has been formed. Jesus, the word of God, takes his statement seriously in Matthew 7:
“And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
Often, the difficult people are there to show us that we have a log in our eye clouding our judgment of others. We see others through the lens that has been formed through our own experiences. When God brings a person into your life that is an irritant to you oftentimes it is to show you an issue in your own heart. The loving response is not to get irritated and distance yourself, but rather to ask God the question, “What do I see in them that needs to die in me?”