Moses had his share of difficult folks to contend with. Let’s take a look at how he dealt with them. Numbers 11:1-Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord.
Numbers 14:2-4 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Numbers 11:4-6 4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Numbers 11:10 10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.
There was a whole lot of mumbling and complaining going on in the camp. Folks didn’t like what was on the menu. God had been supernaturally supplying food, but instead of gratefulness there was grumbling. They let their minds go to the worst-case scenario. They believed they would die in the wilderness. Because they believed the worst, their memories became pretty unclear about what had actually been the worst. They had been slaves in Egypt. There was nothing positive about that experience. God had dramatically brought them out. They were in transition, yes, but the worst was behind them. The best was yet in front of them, but they became fixated on circumstances being ideal and completely had a memory lapse about how bad things really were in Egypt. Funny how that happens, huh? We can easily forget the blessings of God.
Not only did folks not like what God was serving for lunch every day, but they didn’t care for their wilderness accommodations. (Numbers 20:4-5)
In Numbers 11:11-15, after witnessing the attitude and hearing the complaints of the people, Moses went to the Lord in prayer. He asked why things were happening as they were. He asked God how he could possibly make them happy. He called their emotional state a burden that was too heavy for him to bear. We see here the first step in dealing with difficult people is to:
- Pray and process your feelings with God.
Moses had feelings. Their negativity took a toll on him. They blamed him for their circumstances. The people were expecting Moses to “do something” and what they wanted was beyond his ability to produce. He not only wanted to quit, but he asked God to take his life if it was going to be like that going forward.
We can allow criticism or negativity to push our buttons and get us to react negatively or to the place where we internalize the stress and just acquiesce, give in and relinquish the God-given place we are occupying OR we can start with prayer, giving us a an outlet for our feelings and giving us an avenue through which to receive the God-given direction that is available to us.
God told Moses he didn’t have to bear the burden alone. He told Moses to choose 70 leaders to help bear the burden of the people with him, so he didn’t feel so alone. Pressure is easier to handle when people are standing against you. God made a way for Moses to have help.
- Step two for dealing with difficult people is to resist receiving everything as personal.
Sometimes difficult people just make life difficult for everyone around them. It isn’t personal. It is just who they are as people. When the people grumbled and complained, their angst wasn’t really with Moses; it was with God. Moses was simply an easy target.
Moses even had to deal with criticism and negativity from his brother, Aaron, and sister, Miriam, in Numbers 12. God called a meeting with the three of them, and He defended Moses to Miriam and Aaron. He said in Numbers 12:7 that Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Perhaps we are sometimes too quick to defend ourselves, too quick to go on the defense when people say things about us, when we should count on God to have our backs, on God to reveal the truth about who we are? Just food for thought. God disciplined Miriam by striking her with leprosy. That was a pretty big judgment against her.
Moses could have thought, “Well, that will teach you to run your mouth, Miriam.” But what did he do after Miriam was struck with leprosy? He begged God to heal her. He hadn’t taken her criticism or her jealousy personally. He still viewed her as a sister, as someone he loved. He didn’t let her lapse in judgment or her harsh comments destroy the bond that they shared. He didn’t cut himself off from her just because she said something that I am sure she later regretted. He prayed for her to be healed, and God healed her.
Had Moses washed his hands of Miriam just because she made some stupid comments, he would have missed an opportunity to be part of a Divine healing miracle in her life. She would have died. The last words between them would have been tragic.
Third and finally, I would suggest to you that dealing with people requires that we:
- Maintain a spirit of meekness.
A humble person will be concerned with the best interest of all in each situation. Humble people will want to be used of God to diffuse difficult situations. What do we read about Moses in Numbers 12:3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
That phrase is in the Bible for a reason. We are supposed to know that about Moses.
Meekness is power under control. When you know whose you are and who you are and what you have done or haven’t done in a situation, and your heart is clear, you can move through difficult situations with difficult people without losing your cool and without losing control.
Had Moses not maintained a spirit of humility, his responses could have disqualified him for God’s next assignment. Where would that have left him? Where would it have left the children of Israel.
True leadership requires humility. Just because you could squash someone like a bug doesn’t mean you should.
So, what has God said to you about dealing with difficult people? Can you pray about them and process your feelings with God? Can you resist receiving everything as personal? Can you maintain a spirit of meekness? Can you bring those names before the Lord, and ask God to help you develop a holy strategy for dealing with them in a way that will still allow God to use you in their lives as He sees fit?