The leech has two suckers that cry out, “More, more!” There are three things that are never satisfied— no, four that never say, “Enough!” NLT (Proverbs 30:15)
No one likes serving people who are suckers. You know, people who only call you when they have a problem or need something, takers, and done their way, and only their way.
Our instinct to serve others tends to have an expectation of reward, such as: love, friendship, business profit, etc. Where is our reward when we serve people who seem not to care, or we do not see any positive outcomes for our efforts? How do we still serve people when they literally suck the life out of us?
We live in a time when we hear a lot about the importance of taking care of ourselves which encourages less patience and time for others, especially life suckers and fruitless result makers. We justify removing ourselves by making this assumption, “Those people are toxic.” Now please do not misunderstand me. Some people truly are toxic, and some relationships do need to be cut off; by doing so we can better serve God, take care of our families, and ourselves. However, sometimes God brings difficult people into our lives and He says, “I want you to serve them with your whole heart.”
Jeremiah is a great biblical example of serving people who sucked the life out of him. Jeremiah, a prophet called from birth to the stubborn people of Judah before, during, and after the fall of Judah to Babylon. Jeremiah was not just called to serve these difficult people, but to deliver a difficult message of repentance! Jeremiah was not honored or rewarded for serving the people in his generation, yet he faithfully shared God’s message of warning, destruction, repentance, and hope. He was in fact constantly persecuted and often alone. God did not allow him to marry or have a family and was betrayed by most of his friends. He was persecuted, mocked, ignored, attacked, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and repeatedly sentenced to death.
Jeremiah was called to a conflict-ridden, agonizing, and lonely life. It is no wonder why he is called the “weeping prophet”. Jeremiah also knew that his ministry was doomed to failure because the people were so deep into sin they would not repent. At one point God told him not to pray for the people in his generation! But Jeremiah served with his whole heart and he never gave up!
Not everyone is called to serve like Jeremiah but serving difficult people is inevitable. Everyone has a difficult person in your life that you are called by God to serve. Maybe it is your strong-willed toddler or teenager! Maybe a co-worker constantly trying to upstage you or that church member always ready with a critical comment. No matter the person, God desires to equip you in the same way he equipped Jeremiah to serve people when they are difficult and life-sucking!
Here are three practical ways, to show love to a difficult person God has placed in your path.
1. Make sure you prioritize your time with God.
When you prioritize your time with God and your identity is found in Him then it is impossible to be drained! Yes, takers and life-suckers will try to drain you of time, energy, and joy, but the God-given cannot be taken by man. Jeremiah was able to serve difficult people for 40 years without much reward in his lifetime because his joy was in Jesus. He allowed God to fill him up! Friends, the only way we can serve difficult people in difficult seasons: determining to make God your source of joy, peace, and fulfillment. Make sure God is your portion then you will not be disappointed when people let you down. Jeremiah did not find his identity in what he did, but in God alone.
2. Become steadfast in your service to people!
Jeremiah would witness the fulfillment of God’s warnings of disaster, and he would share in the sorrow and troubles that would follow the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, Babylon attacked Judah’s cities repeatedly until the destruction of Jerusalem and the collapse of the Jewish nation. Jeremiah warned the people what was coming, and they hated him for it. They did not change, but neither did Jeremiah. When they were stubborn, he was steadfast in his obedience and love.
One time my husband, Pastor Josh, was praying about an alcoholic who attends our church and eats at our kitchen ministry. Josh was intensely interceding with God to change him and set him free. God spoke to my husband’s heart and asked Josh, “Will you continue to love him even if he never changes?” Josh did some soul searching that day and decided that he would be steadfast in his love for God and the people God sends to him even if they never change.
When God asks you to love and serve difficult, stubborn people then you must become steadfast. Like Jeremiah God has called us to stay the course and not give up.
3. Look for eternal rewards, not immediate results.
Other prophets had results. Moses led the people out of bondage; Elijah and Elisha saw miracles, and Jonah saw a revival. Daniel was the confidant of royalty. Yet at the end of 40 years of ministry Jeremiah had a people being taken into captivity, no miracles, a ruined temple, an unrepentant nation, and was persecuted by the leaders of Judah.
Was Jeremiah a failure then? Jeremiah was not a failure because of one thing – he was obedient to speak God’s word and he trusted God to reward him in his time. Jeremiah’s words came true and were valued by those who were godly. It appears that Daniel had a copy of Jeremiah’s prophecies with him in Babylon. Jeremiah did not see results in his lifetime, but he planted seeds which bore fruit for future generations.
A couple years after we planted our second campus, I was frustrated with God at the apparent lack of fruit I saw from all our efforts. The church was not growing fast enough and people I thought were on our team abandoned us for easier works. Frankly, I had a bad attitude. I wanted to throw away every leadership book I owned or demand our money back because the concepts were not working for us, but instead I submitted to God and prayed.
God spoke to my heart and shared with me that Kingdom success is different from earthly success. Earthly success is about results, productivity, and seeing tangible fruit. This is not all bad and sometimes God allows that within the ministry but do not get confused. That is not what Kingdom success is.
Kingdom Success is being obedient to the King—-period!
Kingdom Success is being in the center of God’s will.
Kingdom Success results in eternal reward.
Friends, if you struggle loving and serving difficult people in your life you are not alone. The next time you are dealing with your toddler throwing a tantrum, teen rebellion, a nosy in-law, or work-place drama, remind yourself that God has called you and equipped you to serve that hard- to-love person in your life. When you make sure you prioritize your time with God, become steadfast in the face of stubborn people, and work for an eternal reward, then serving difficult people becomes a little more bearable.
Need a little more grace loving that difficult person in your life? Join me in this prayer:
Father, thank you for loving me unconditionally and looking beyond my sin, selfishness, and flesh. Thank you for forgiving me when I mess up time and time again. Please help me see people the way you do and help me love and serve the difficult people in my life, the same way you love me. Give me the needed wisdom and courage to serve hard-to-love people in my life.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.