Sandpaper People: God’s Purpose in Difficult Relationships

As I stroll around the block, I lend an ear to a friend in dire need of consolation. I listen as she pours out her heart. She speaks rapidly, her hand gestures in sync with each exclamation as if to make her point more impactful. Her tone begins to increase and so does her pace. She furrows her brow and clenches her fist as the words come gushing out like a dam giving way but then, there’s a break in the commotion. A moment of silence where the right words are amiss. Her eyes pool with tears as her pace begins to lull. Her shoulders hunch over as she looks down at the floor. No more words pouring forth or hands flailing in the air, just complete and utter silence. I could feel the tension surrounding her, a thick blanket of frustration.

“How can people be so mean?” she asks, a look of despair in her eyes.

We have almost all experienced moments like this in our life, haven’t we? Where one person just rubs the fibers of our heart raw. Where hurtful words and actions leave us tattered and torn. I once heard a speaker refer to these people as “sandpaper” people. You know, those friends, acquaintances, relatives…even spouses, who rough up and aggravate our soul.

Fortunately, we’re not alone in this. Even some of the great leaders of the Bible encountered these “sandpaper” people. Jesus himself faced constant rubbing from the Pharisees and even some of those closest to Him at times. What does He teach us to do to those who mistreat us? Does He tell us to argue back? Does He tell us to complain about them or speak badly about them to others? No, He tells us exactly what we’re to do in Matthew 5:43-44:

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!’”

Praying for those who hurt us can seem impossible.

God must not know this person I have to deal with? Surely, He’d make an exception? This scripture must apply to everyone else but me and my situation. These are the thoughts that rampantly run through my mind when I read these verses—maybe you’ve felt the same way?

I love how Jesus expands on this command in verse 47, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

Even pagans do that–wow.

We are commanded to be different, to be set apart, but it can be a daunting task. So how can we gain victory over our actions when dealing with difficult relationships?

What would we see if we stepped away from our fleshly perspective and looked through the lens of Christ? (tweet this)

I believe we would see the edges of our soul being polished and perfected.  

God uses sandpaper people to smooth out our rough edges, like a carpenter to a hewed piece of wood. With every swipe, He’s teaching us. (tweet this)

He’s teaching us patience.

He’s teaching us forgiveness.

He’s teaching us humility.

He’s teaching us trust.

He’s teaching us love.

He takes our raw state of existence and refines it.  Sometimes the grit is aggressive, but that’s where the splinters, coarseness, and imperfections are removed. Other times, we simply need to be smoothed out and polished up. We are all raw materials in the hand of God and without His craftsmanship, we are of no use.

If you have “sandpaper” people in your life, don’t avoid them at all costs. Look at them through the lens of Christ and see them as a tool in the hand of God. Pray that the Lord would not only use them to hone and perfect you, but would use your gentleness to wear down the grittiness of their heart.

Stop and Reflect: As you read this message, I’m sure there was a person or people who popped into your mind. Can you look through the lens of Christ and see how God is using them to refine you? Take a few minutes to pray over this difficult relationship and ask God to use them to polish and perfect your soul.

God bless,

Anita Marie


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