There was a man that lived in the tombs and had an unclean spirit. No one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains but had pulled them apart and the shackles broken in pieces. No one could tame him. One day as Jesus came near the place the man was, the man ran to Him and worshiped Him. When the people in the same area came to see Jesus and saw the one who had been demon-possessed sitting, clothed, and in his right mind they marveled. Later, when Jesus got into the boat to depart from that place, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might go with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” Mark 5:1-20 (paraphrased).
I love this story. The demon-possessed man was radically changed. After his encounter with Jesus, he was seated, clothed, and in his right mind. What I find interesting is that Jesus insisted this changed man stay in his own community around the people that had so dreadfully despised him. He was forced to interact with the very people that he had daily left fear stricken by his unpredictable behavior. Jesus wanted the man and the community to learn compassionate behavior toward each other.
Sometimes, like with this man, God allows people into our lives that seem to constantly test the outer limits of our patience. He puts us in situations we would rather avoid. He creates a space where valuable life lessons can be caught. Yes, many of the most intense stretching times are often the exact opposite of what we want, but the changes that happen there cannot be taught any other way.
Rather than working so hard to extract yourself from the uncomfortable situations, I suggest asking for God’s wisdom and help. In the midst of our difficulties, God may make radical change not only for your life, but also in the lives of others.
Friend, I encourage you to press through the pain of your strained relationships today. Remember that you, too, were like that demon-possessed man before you were saved by God’s grace.