Q: Some of my friends are so negative, discouraging, and judgmental. It seems as if the Christians are the worst! I know I should try to be a good influence on them, but it's difficult to be around such negativity all the time. What should I do?
—Missy Cooke, via e-mail
A: Sometimes God does put difficult people in our lives, so that we can minister to their needs and serve as godly role models—whether they appreciate it or not! In his famous treatise on love, the apostle Paul lists some of the qualities we should exhibit when dealing with difficult sisters and brothers in Christ: patience, kindness, forgiveness; we are to always trust, always hope, always persevere (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We have to be willing to suffer the slinging of a few fiery darts and arrows for the sake of our friends' spiritual growth.
But then again, the Scriptures repeatedly warn us to guard our own hearts and minds, and look out for our own spiritual wellbeing. There are some people whose spirits are so toxic that we have to limit our time with them—if not cut off contact completely. When it seems we just can't avoid these people, we have to remember that God may be using them to teach us patience and perseverance.
As in so many aspects of life, the key is balance. While you nurture others, actively seek godly friends and role models for yourself—people whose friendship will challenge and inspire and nurture you. Proverbs 27:17 explains, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Involve some of these friends in your ministry efforts. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up." Godly friends will hold you accountable and keep you on course, while you prayerfully reach out to others.
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (Crossway) and Take It to Heart: 60 Meditations on God and His Word (Crossway).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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