2 Samuel 3:31-39 – If You Had A Goat, They Would Get It: Dealing With Difficult People In Your Life

Posted: May 23, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel

2 Samuel 3:31-39
David Mourns Abner’s Death

Sometimes, we just have a difficult person in our lives. If it were up to us, we wish we could just get rid of them and not have them in our lives at all. But sometimes in life, difficult people are in our lives and we cannot get our personal preference – to get rid of them from our lives completely. Because of circumstances, these difficult people are in our lives and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. You know this experience, right? Maybe, it’s an employee working for you. Maybe, it’s your boss. Maybe, it’s a co-worker that you have to deal with on a daily basis. They seem to be opposed to everything you say. They seem to be a loose cannon and do things their own way. And their own way often impacts you in a negative way. They seem to be the one that always has a different opinion on how to do things. They second guess you as boss, subordinate, co-worker, whatever in every decision that you make. They are the ones that if you say something about how you had an experience with the issue at hand that chimes in that they have done it and done it better. They are the ones that always one-up you. They are the ones that are passive-aggressive toward you. Little comments here and there intentionally to belittle you and its not just a rare thing – it’s a pattern of passive-aggressive veiled negativity. They are the ones that lump you in veiled comments that generalize the kind of person you are. You know the ones. We have all had to deal with these types of people in the workplace. They just get your goat and just being around them makes you uneasy and puts you on the defensive. For as long as you both work at the same place, you are going to have to deal with this person. You’ve been there. You know the drill. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

In your personal life, maybe it’s an ex-spouse who happens to be the other parent of your children. You can’t get rid of them (without doing prison time! LOL!). You must deal with them. They know your “hot buttons” and they regularly push them and it is often just to aggravate us for sport. They do things the opposite of the way we want things done for our children and seem to glory in the fact that it was in opposition to our way. Maybe, you are a daughter and your mom is the one that gets to you. Maybe, she criticizes your home’s appearance. Maybe, she criticizes your appearance. Maybe, she criticizes how you raise your kids. Maybe, she does all these things. Maybe, she not only criticizes you constantly but in every case she offers examples of how she did it better when she was in your stage of life. Maybe, you are a son and your father is the one that gets to you. Nothing ever meets his expectations of you. Nothing is every good enough. You could have always done it better. This is how I would have done is often heard. Maybe, its your older brother or older sister. Maybe, it’s a person that you volunteer with at church. It can be anybody. We all have those people in our lives that we cannot control. We have those people in our lives that seem to always do things in opposition to our opinion, our role as a leader, as a parent, as a fellow church member, you name it. Into every life, a difficult person falls into it. Some you can avoid but many you cannot.

That idea of having a difficult person on your staff at work, a difficult person in your personal life, whatever the case may be, is what came to mind as I read about how David had to handle this situation of critical national importance (the murder of Abner) that had been caused by someone who was critical to the success of David unifying the kingdom under his rule. He had a difficult person in his life, Joab. Here, we see the beginning of a very rocky relationship between the two. It got me to thinking about how we must deal with difficult people in our lives that we must deal with each and every day – whether it be at work or in our personal life. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:31-39, now:

31 Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. 33 Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as fools die?
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”

All the people wept again for Abner. 35 David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”

36 This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! 37 So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.

38 Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? 39 And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the Lord repay these evil men for their evil deeds.”

In this passage, we see that David ordered everyone (including Joab) to mourn, possibly because few people were aware that Joab had committed the crime and because David did not want any further trouble. If this is true, David was thinking more about the kingdom than about justice. Joab and Abishai were the two sons of Zeruiah David mentioned. David had an especially hard time controlling Joab because, although he was loyal to David, he was strong-willed, preferring to do things his own way. In exchange for his loyalty, however, David was willing to give him the flexibility he craved.

Joab’s murder of Abner is an example of his fierce independence. While David opposed the murder, he allowed it to remain unpunished because (1) to punish Joab could cause the troops to rebel, (2) Joab was David’s nephew and any harsh treatment could cause family problems, (3) Joab was an influential member of the tribe of Judah and David did not want any rebellion from within the tribe/land that he had already under his control, and (4) to get rid of Joab would mean losing a skilled commander who had been invaluable to David’s military prowess. Certainly, Abner paid for his prideful rebellion against David. He did not want to subject himself to David’s rule until the handwriting was on the wall that David was going to win this civil war. Personally, watching Abner’s moves here in these passages, I am not sure that I would have trusted him as David did. But David was a far greater man than me. He saw the big picture and sometimes I do not.

So, David’s in kind of a pickle here. What to do? What to do? We all have had or still have difficult people in our lives. As leaders, we often have people on our staff that are highly talented, brilliant people who seem to purposefully push against us in our leadership. Questioning everything. Offering alternatives sometimes for the sake of offering alternatives. You tolerate it because you need the skills that this person possesses. In our personal lives, there are often people in our lives that we have to deal with and there is nothing that we can do about it. They drive us nuts. They anger us. It seems that they are there in our lives just to be a thorn in our sides. They criticize us in everything we do. Often if it was up to us, we would rid ourselves of this person but for whatever reason these “difficult people” are in our lives for good and we must learn how to navigate in, through, and around them. Whether they are an employee or a just a person in our personal life, they force us to be prepared. They force us to think things through. They can be exhausting because we have to always be on our game when around such persons.

The one thing that we must figure out is why we find this person so difficult. What do you do with the difficult people in your life? Do you go to Jesus for strength, for courage, for wisdom, for love, in order to deal with them? I think, as Christ followers, in an employment setting or in our personal lives, we must look at how we respond to difficult people. First, we must ask ourselves if the way we respond to them gives glory to God. We must ask how best to represent Christ in the situation. Second, we must examine how we, ourselves, are contributing to the contentious nature of the relationship. Does this person push our buttons because they expose our weakness, insecurities, our sins, our jealousies? Are they more talented than us and we feel threatened by it? Are we insecure in some area of our life and they seem to be a flash point, a spotlight on our own insecurities? Let us examine just exactly why this person “gets our goat”! Third, we need to simply be honest with this person and let them know the exact things that they do that get us all in a knot. Usually, we just complain to others and talk behind that person’s back rather than deal with the person and the issues head on. It will be amazing (in most cases, not all) what a little straight on honesty will do to solve a contentious relationship. Finally, work to reconcile the relationship after having examine our own contributing factors, after confronting the person in love, then, pray for ourselves and that person to be reconciled. Pray for understanding of how that person operates. Pray for that person to understand you. Pray that God will enlighten both of you as to the need for unity among you. Instead of disliking them, go against your grain and show kindness to them. See their good qualities. Even though your stomach churns at first when doing, pay them compliments. Intentionality and prayer will lead us to see them as flawed human beings in need of Christ’s love just like us. That changes everything. Love wins over hate every time.

Amen and Amen.


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