Dianne Barker helps women navigate the challenges in their lives, encouraging them to follow Jesus. In this UPGRADE, she offers practical tips for tough relationships.
“Where do they come from? Surely there’s a factory somewhere in America turning out cantankerous people like an auto assembly line. They’re everywhere!” Dianne said. “Grocery check-out. Department store. Medical office. Work place. School. Neighborhood. Church. Under our own roof.”
A woman’s name instantly came to my (Dawn’s) mind as I read those words. How about you? As you read this post, think about the “cantankerous” person in your own life.
Dianne continues …
We encounter cantankerous people when we least expect them—prayed up, filled with joy, minding our own business…then bam! Somebody comes along stomping out happiness.
Unprovoked touch-and-go stranger clashes rattle us momentarily, but we recover, pray for the person, and move on. The challenge: living in a daily unchangeable relationship with a cantankerous person. I call this complicated dimension hard lovin’.
I wasn’t sure cantankerous was a legitimate word. It is indeed and loaded with meaning. Bad-tempered, irritable, crabby, argumentative, difficult, complaining, unreasonable, belligerent, cranky, grouchy, grumpy, disagreeable. Anyone you know?
We spend life from cradle to grave sharing relationships. Some are easy. Some are downright hard.
How do we practice hard lovin’ in permanent relationships with cantankerous people who may act more like an enemy than kin?
Jesus, in His own words:
“…Make it a practice to love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred. Invoke the blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you (who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you)” (Luke 6:27-28 Amplified).
That kind of love is gut-wrenching! Why bother? Apostle Paul said, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16).
I bother so my conscience is clear.
I’ve learned this:
1. One person in the relationship, relying on God’s grace, can change the relationship.
“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
2. The relationship is more important than the last word.
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).
3. Loving most is a Christ-like thing. He laid down His life.
He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
4. If I do all the giving, I get all the blessing.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).
5. The quality of a relationship is determined by one radical decision: I will obey God, putting into practice what His Word says, no matter what.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).
More from Paul (Romans 12:9-12):
- “Let love be genuine…
- Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor…
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…
- Live in harmony with one another…
- Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…
- Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
- To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
How do we practice hard lovin’ in difficult permanent relationships? Just do it.
“Let a man be what he will, you are to love him” (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender).
Which of the five tips will help you best respond to your “cantankerous” person?
Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned (life of Harold Morris, Focus on the Family Publishing). Her new book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life throws a rope to the desperate drowning in disorganization—purging interior garbage (inferiority, low esteem) and submitting fully to Christ. She and her husband James have two married children and one grandson.
Graphic in text adapted, Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net