I have been teaching a class on Resolving Conflict based on the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. The material is wonderful and the class has been very good. As I have been reading and studying conflict, there are some insights that I have found very helpful. I will share a few here, hoping this will help people understand why they have conflict in their lives.
In James 4:1-3 it says:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
What an amazing portion of Scripture, as we look into the root of why we have conflict in our lives. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 15:19: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Ken Sande says “These passages describe the root cause of conflict: “unmet desires in our hearts.“ I would add to that the emotion of fear, as we fear our desires will not be met or we fear a certain outcome.
Some desires we have are unhealthy, like revenge, lust, greed, jealously. Some of the desires we have can be good, like a happy marriage, a loving spouse, respectful children, a raise a work, a promotion, for people to respect you, a new iPad or a growing church. The problem is when someone or something blocks us from having these desires, conflict happens. Sande shares that there are basically two options at this point; God’s way or our way.
- Trust God and seek your fulfillment in Him – “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Psalm 73:25. When we see ourselves as God sees us and completely trust Him for all things, He will give us what we need to overcome anything that comes our way.
- Ask God to help you continue to grow and mature no matter what the other person does – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
- Continue to love the other person who is blocking your desire, pray for God’s sanctifying work in his or her life, and wait for the Lord to open the door for progress at a later time – “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must love his brother.” 1John 4:19-21
- By choosing God’s way, He promises to bless you and, no matter what the other person does, to use your difficult situation to conform you to the likeness of Christ – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29
- We demand – When we see something as being essential to our fulfillment and well-being, it moves from being a desire to a demand.
- We judge – When a person demands something of another and that person does not listen, we can quickly judge them. We judge others by criticizing, nit-picking, nagging, attacking and condemning. This can also quickly lead to feeling superior, condemning, bitter or resentful.
- We Punish – Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we will find ways to hurt or punish people so that they will give in to our desires. It may be through hurtful words, using guilt or shame, stomping and slamming, ignoring, withholding love or respect or even physical abuse. Inflicting pain on others is one of the surest signs that an unhealthy desire is ruling our hearts.
So here are a few questions to ponder:
- How am I punishing others?
- How am I judging others?
- What am I demanding to have?
- What is the root desire of that demand?
- What am I preoccupied with? The first thing on my mind in the morning.
- How would I fill in this blank?: “If only _______, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure.”
- Where do I put my trust?
- What or Who do I fear?
- When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
- How can you cultivate a more passionate love for and worship of God?
Take some time to answer these questions honestly. Ask God to reveal areas where you have gone your way instead of His way.