Managing Difficult Relationships

Managing Difficult Relationships

By Jill Briscoe

Who hasn’t had the challenge of managing difficult relationships in their lives?  How many of us have come unglued when called to work with someone who drives us crazy?  Some people find it really hard to work with people!  They would rather fly solo and be their own boss.  Perhaps they have a difficult personality, hold strong opinions, can’t delegate, or feel they need to do everything themselves.  I don’t know how Jeremiah and Baruch felt about working with other people, but I do know that God had a partnership in mind for both of them.  Among other things, He has companionship and mutual encouragement in mind.  “It is not good for the man (or woman) to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

In marriage you have a choice about the one with whom you will spend the rest of your life.  In ministry, however, other people often choose our partners for us.  The church gives us our colleagues.  And so often it seems that the church would be a fun place except for the people in it!  How often does the women’s ministry place two women who can’t abide each other together on committee?  How often do the elders call a new member to the staff without checking with the rest of the team?  And whether we choose our partners or not, it is in both marriage and ministry that Satan sees his chance to work a whole lot of mischief.  He knows if he can’t get us from outside the camp, he will get us from inside.

Edinburgh castle in Scotland had never been captured in its history until a traitor let down the drawbridge from within and the enemy ran amok.  So it is with us.  Satan works with the enemy within us – our old nature – to bring us down.  We need to learn not to let the drawbridge down!  He knows very well that strong personalities clash.  He is the father of dissension.

They say that opposites attract.  It was certainly true in Stuart’s and my case.  My husband is laid back, and I am habitually uptight.  He is full of fun whereas I have to enter “Have fun – Thursday” on my schedule, or it doesn’t happen!  He is very precise where details are concerned while I am a dreamer and love to exaggerate.  Opposites do indeed attract, but give the marriage time, and opposites begin to irritate!  If this is true in marriage, it is all the more true where strangers are put together in ministry, and if it is true in our time, then it was certainly true in Bible times.

In the New Testament, Paul and Barnabas had their disagreements.  They had a falling out over giving young John Mark another chance after he had let them down on a missionary journey (Acts 15:37-40).  And look at Jeremiah and Baruch in the Old Testament.  Jeremiah’s temperament is legendary, for he has gone down in history as “the weeping prophet”.  All who knew him said he was a melancholy individual.  Whether he started off life this way or not, we don’t know.  By the time he linked up with Baruch, he had wept his way through not a few laments and was well on his way to earning his reputation of weeping.  It could be that life in all its harshness caused the sadness in his soul, or he may have just been made that way.

Baruch, on the other hand, was named “Blessed.”  Let us presume the name speaks for his character or personality.  God, having a wry sense of humor, put this weeping prophet and blessed scribe together.  We could call them “Weepy” and “Happy”.  God told them:  “Just do it, and do it together!”  Now that was quite a challenge.  There is no doubt that the two men had little in common but the Lord, but that was quite enough to make their partnership work.

Did Baruch, the meticulous scribe, and Jeremiah, the mystical dreamer, ever struggle with putting it all together?  You can be certain that they did.  But they found their common ground, compromised where necessary, and celebrated their differences with God’s help and so can you!

Just Between Us (JBU) is here to support you in cultivating strong relationships. Take a moment to read through our articles and advice on managing difficult relationships.  Learn from the experience of others and perhaps find comfort and encouragement in your own circumstances.