Hang In There

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” –  James 1:12.

As a pastor, I often look at a person or couple and say, “hang in there!” Likewise, people tell me to hang in there as well. In that phrase I intend or receive a word of encouragement and hope. Galatians 6:9 essentially says the same thing, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Paul is telling us that it is possible to become weary at doing good, and that includes our relationships and marriage. 

To “hang in there” we need perseverance. It is what makes life worthwhile in spite of adversity. It usually requires a level of courage we may not know we even possess. And it calls us to lean on and draw strength from the Lord when we are facing challenges that have left us weary and discouraged. We may be to the point we feel like giving up. But God hasn’t given up on us. At the proper time, we will receive the crown of life.

But sometimes it seems like things are just not working out. Happily ever after. Yeah, right. No one told you you’d be as miserable as you are. You started well, but now you’re living with a broken heart, feeling trapped in a difficult marriage without hope, and you don’t even want to begin to think about the future. Hope has taken the last train out of town, and you are resigned to facing some tough days ahead. Is this my marriage? Has it really come to this? You’re not able to run away from the reality that your marriage is empty.

My answer to that situation will not be popular with today’s culture and can seem like pie-in-the sky dogma that you would expect from a pastor. That answer is to not give up on the marriage. Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop praying and searching for a way to turn your marriage around. Miracles happen, and people change. I’m seen some pretty dire situations fixed through prayer, hard work, and determination. Where people work even harder to get the marriage on track and over time do exactly that.

That’s all fine and good but you tell yourself, “I’ve done this all before and have gotten the same negative result: Nothing really changes.” You are tired, frustrated, becoming cynical, and leery about ending up even more disillusioned.

I would encourage you to continue hanging in there because even then, God wants your faithfulness. Even in lonely times, God’s message is unchanged, “be holy as I am holy.”

Mature marriages result from two people developing the skills and selflessness needed to address the hard issues in their relationship. These marriages are a result of honest work and sacrificial love and are filled with transparency, humility, and honesty. They, indeed, have a depth of maturity that serves as a positive model. Along the way, at some time and in some circumstance, they chose to hang in there.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you ever feel like you can’t hang in there any longer? What made you feel that way?
  2. Do you believe that God can fix/heal any situation? Do you believe some situations will never get batter?
  3. Do you believe you owe it to God to hang in there?
  4. What can you do this week to demonstrate your commitment to your marriage? 

Pride And Conflict

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant ? – 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Pride and conflict go hand in hand. Pride is, “I’m more important than you. What I’m doing is more important than you. So, whatever you want, whatever you think you need, whatever you’re doing, stop, because me and my situation, activities, and needs, they’re more important than yours. Don’t inconvenience me with you. You and I should both agree on how important I am. I’m more important than you.” Now that may seem both harsh and unrealistic, but is it? If we look closely we all probably have some degree of selfishness and pride manifesting itself in the relationship.

It is hard to remove ourselves and our emotions, self-interests and personal judgments from a conflict. And the stark fact is we hate to lose.

If you can’t stand to lose, if you have to be the victor at the expense of your spouse, you probably should not get married. Because every married person is going to have to lose on occasion. Sometimes you will lose because you are wrong and sometimes you will lose because you care more about the relationship than the argument. And you may lose because you are trying to be more like Jesus.

Jesus practiced mind-blowing, unfathomable humility. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us: ”Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[ being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Think about it for a second. God becomes a man. He goes from heaven to earth. He goes from a throne to a manger. He goes from riches to poverty. He goes from hearing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” to “Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him.”  Jesus repeatedly teaches on humility. He says in Matthew 30:26, “…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”  You want to have a great marriage? Then be a great servant.

When in conflict or at any other time for that matter ask yourself: Do you consider your spouse and his or her needs above your own? Does it show up practically with how the money is spent, and time is spent, and what the holidays look like, and what vacations look like, and what date night looks like, and where you live, and how life is put together?

“But Marty, I’m mad.” 

“He offended me.”   

“She’s wrong.”

“He owes me an apology.”

I understand. But Jesus was wronged. You got what He clearly didn’t deserve. He could have done things differently, but He humbled Himself. We can mirror our Savior if we put our pride and our need to win aside. Attack the problem, but never the person, communicating about difficult topics, with humility and reconciliation as the goals. Don’t let your pride blow things out of proportion. Serving your spouse with humility communicates that you still care about the marriage. It protects each other’s heart.

Every conflict presents us with a choice. We can either stick with pride, and miss out on all God has in store for you and your marriage: or we can stick with God and find out all the adventures that He has in store for you and your marriage. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with pride? In what areas of your life.
  2. Do you struggle more with pride against God or with others?
  3. How is pride destructive to marriage or relationships?
  4. What can we do this week to eliminate pride in our lives? Pray and ask God to show you the areas of your life where pride has taken hold?

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

“…I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.  1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)

Is being a peacemaker the same thing as being a peacekeeper? Many marriages today pursue a “peacekeeping strategy,” hoping to prevent conflicts and the crisis that sometimes result. But since conflict is often inevitable, the peacekeeping mission does not always succeed. What we need as married couples is a “peacemaking” strategy. Psalm 34:14 says: “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Many people believe that being a peacemaker means being submissive. Christian women can feel as if submission means that they may state their opinion, but then they back down and let the husband make the decision. That means the wife did not question and she did not agree. If our aim is to seek peace and not just elude conflict, then this does not solve anything.   

That’s because we tend to see conflict as something to be avoided: so if we disagree, one must submit, or else the conflict will keep going. But what if all conflict is not win-lose? What if handling conflict effectively means that you each find a win-win? What if conflict can actually be one of the routes to a more healthy marriage?

A peacekeeper simply avoids conflict. When there’s a disagreement, they retreat. A peace-maker is aiming for much more: they’re aiming for reconciliation.  And reconciliation is active, not passive. It means working through our disagreements in a healthy way. It means listening and understanding your spouse’s feelings. It means developing solutions together.

Can you see the difference? There is no name calling. They talk through the issue, and at the end of the day, the couple find out new things about each other. They found out they were on the same page, that they did value each other. It’s just that sometimes it went unrecognized. By talking it through it brought those feelings out into the open and the peacemaking process can go forward.

That’s what being a peacemaker is–it’s getting the husband and wife on the same page. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a peacekeeper and a peace maker in your mind?
  2. Is it realistic to think you can keep the peace all the time?
  3. Do you believe that one person has to submit in order to solve a conflict? Does one spouse have to lose? Why?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you develop into a peacemaker in your marriage.

Glass is Half Full

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you..” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Finding anything good to focus on is difficult when you’re in the midst of a conflict in your marriage. Waves of emotion create a gulf between you and your mate. And with the emotional connection disconnected, seeing the good in the conflict can be even more difficult. 

The first principle necessary to resolve conflict is to remember that the conflict does not necessarily have to be detrimental to a marriage relationship. Conflict, as with all trials, is meant to test our faith, develop character, and draw us closer to God. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3-4) Conflict is really just an opportunity to grow, but that depends on how we look at conflicts and whether we view the marriage glass as half full or half empty.

What I am about to say is hard, really hard in to do: we can have a joyful expectation, even in conflict if we remember that God has a purpose and often He is using our spouse as sand paper to smooth out areas in our life that don’t reflect Christ. This doesn’t mean it is not painful. It is both a recognition of pain and a future hope as stated in Romans. 

So it boils down to what is our attitude when we encounter conflict with your mate? I would suggest that you view the glass as half full. That does not mean I am looking through rose colored glasses. It is about remaining hopeful that God is still in charge. Remembering anything positive is challenging in the midst of heated emotions. Everything can appear bleak. That’s the nature of crises. Perceptions are skewed, emotions are frayed and edgy, and the outlook appears dismal.

In the midst of this conflict, however, opportunity awaits. There is a chance to remember what was good about your spouse before the conflict or crisis, and to add to the marital legacy. Consider the children, a beautiful house where you enjoyed so many memories, the vacations where you laughed till you cried together, your families and all the joy they add to your lives, a vibrant church family and small group that prays for you, all the shared interests and activities, and finally the strong attraction that brought the two of you together in the first place. If you do that, I believe the conflict will not seem as formidable as it once did.

Cultivate a positive and thankful mind-set. We’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter what the situation, there’s always something to be thankful for.

Be thankful to God for what He has done in your lives. Learn to appreciate your spouse’s good qualities—rather than dwell on his or her shortcomings. If you maintain a positive outlook, your spouse is likely to follow suit.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you tend to be positive or negative during conflcit?
  2. Is it easy for you to raise an issue or disagree with your spouse or someone you have a relationship with?
  3. When in conflict, can you share your feelings, without anger? If not why not?
  4. Do you deal with the “real” issue and find resolution and do you tend to deal with raw emotions?
  5. What would it take to create a safe or comfortable space for conflicts and differences for you? For your spouse?

How About Healthy Conflict?

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,  but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.“ – Proverbs 15:18

Is there such a thing as a healthy conflict? Is it possible to have a fight with your spouse and do it well? That sounds like a trick question, but it isn’t. Most married couples would think it is far better to eliminate conflict rather than do it well. Minimizing conflict is admirable, but it is also unrealistic. There really is such a thing as “healthy conflict” in marriage.

There are basically three belief categories for married couples about marital conflict. One is the couples who enter marriage expecting an unrealistic level of agreement and perfection in their relationship. If they’re truly happy and meant for one another, they believe, there shouldn’t be any conflict. That’s not a very realistic view of human relationship.

Another group of couples understand they’ll have conflict, but they believe the solution is to put the gloves on and go at it until they vent all of their anger at each other and somehow arrive at a solution. There’s a lot to be said for making your point and getting important issues on the table. But just going at one another is potentially very damaging.   

In fact, there’s a lot of research to show that poorly handled conflict impacts more than just the couple themselves. For example, children; here are the two most important people in a child’s life, and here they are yelling and being nasty to each other. Seeing their parents arguing and being uncivil to each other causes stress and confusion. Our children function best with emotional stability and safety in the home.

And that leads to the third group of couples. If you find yourself in either of the first two groups, our goal of Sunday’s message on conflict is to move you closer to this third one. The third group are couples that resolve conflict in a way that honors God and builds up their relationship rather than eroding it.

How do we go about doing conflict well? Here are a few things to consider. Try to listen better.  Many couples are so determined to get their point across they don’t really listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings. They want to win the argument instead of resolve the problem. Secondly, try to harness your emotions and stay calm. No matter how passionate they feel about their disagreement, healthy couples avoid getting nasty. Not only will overreacting not solve anything, it’ll drive a wedge between a husband and wife. That causes even further conflict down the road.

Finally, never threaten divorce: Emotions can run high in the midst of a conflict. If you find yourself in that situation try to walk away to calm down. Then come back and continue the conversation. But do not make threats to end the marriage. At best it may help you manipulate the situation to get your way. But at worst, could damage the relationship well-beyond the conflict the couple finds themselves in. 

Here is the bottom line: We can develop or improve our communication skills and learn how to disagree with our spouse without being disagreeable. It is possible. Remember that even couples with healthy, happy marriages disagree. But, also remember those marriages remain healthy and happy because they treat each other with respect even in the midst of conflict. It is not about the husband or wife winning the argument, it is about resolving the problem while protecting the relationship.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Healthy conflict resolution requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences.  Agree or disagree?
  2. Healthy conflict resolution requires defeating selfishness. Agree or disagree?
  3. Healthy conflict resolution often involves loving confrontation. What does this mean to you and what is the difference between loving and regular confrontation? Healthy conflict resolution requires forgiveness. How can we use forgiveness to resolve a conflict?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you develop a godly, loving way of dealing with conflict.

Conflict in Marriage

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Victor Frankl

William James said that “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is how we react.”  I agree with him. It is all about reaction. Our reaction should be based on a fundamental question: Is the issue causing the conflict important enough to fight about?

Here’s the thing: Circumstances themselves cannot cause problems. Our emotional reactions are what ultimately cause problems, because negative reactions often escalate the situation. 

So while it is impossible to eliminate all possible causes of conflict in marriage, it is possible to pause and consider our response to them. If a husband loses it and explodes on his wife unfairly, it will be the wife’s response that will define the outcome. She can escalate the situation or she can defuse the situation. This also works in the reverse situation – if it is the wife exploding at the husband.

Matthew 5:25 tells us, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.” How much more should we agree with our spouse quickly?  Finding agreement is the key to preventing escalation of conflict.

Try waiting until all the heated emotions and verbal sparring settles down before seeking agreement. I’m not suggesting you ignore any issues that pop up between spouses. I’m simply suggesting you wait until things quiet down and you have some perspective. Romans 6:11 says  “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We are to be dead to sin and we are to live the reality of our position in Christ. Restore your spouse in meekness and humility, knowing you also need that same grace of Christ on a daily basis.

Then push the conflict into the past. We have to ask ourselves how badly do we want to avoid fights? Badly enough to yield to the Spirit of God and to forgive and forget and maintain happiness in your marriage.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the issues that result in conflict? What kind of faults in your spouse do you tend to not tolerate? What faults in yourself create conflicts with your spouse?
  2. What keeps you from compromise in your marriage conflicts?
  3. What is the difference between trying to change your spouse and trying to resolve a conflict?
  4. Who is responsible for fixing the conflicts that need resolving.

We Put The “Fun” in Dysfunctional

Cities tolerate crazy people, Companies don’t. – Geoffrey West

Most people have at least one crazy person in their lives. It can be just about anyone. It can be someone in one of our relationships, but it could be your spouse. “The longer we are married, the crazier he or she seems to get until we put a plaque on our wall that says ‘But as for me and my crazy household, we will serve the LORD.’”

We hear things like: “home is where my crazy husband lives.” Or  “families are a like sundae, they have a few nuts like my wife.” Or “weirdness doesn’t run in my family, it gallops.” And “I don’t have a favorite child, they all annoy me equally.”  Then there is the “I check the kids into Kids programs at Northstar. Too bad I can’t check my husband into one as well.” And finally, “but remember when we get to church, or as far as anyone knows, we are a normal family.”

Ah, the wonder of marriage. The dirty socks on the floor. Being late. The way he chews. Putting his feet up on the furniture. Honey, it was on sale.  Finishing her sentences. He sits on the couch watching sports and pretends he’s listening to you by saying “uh huh” every once in a while. Crying and then the occasional wailing. The wet towel left on the bathroom floor. The snoring. Constant criticism.

Like the relentless drip of a leaky faucet, those small, more typical than crazy things erode the goodwill that underlies all relationships and in its place conflict grows like crazy. Gradually, you begin looking for evidence that your spouse is a little wacky—and of course you find it. Irritations are inevitable in relationships. It’s just not possible to find another human being whose every quirk, habit, and preference aligns perfectly with yours. We each have differing values and ways of looking at the world, and we want different things from each other. You don’t just live with your spouse in your home, you also have to live with them in your head. It is a matter of perspective. The same can be true of other relationships as well.

It was actor Chris Pine who said, “The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.” That makes sense to me. It requires some thought and asking the question: Do you you need to change your perspective on conflict? The answer is yes if we don’t factor God into the equation.

When we are involved in conflict, we must decide whether or not we will trust God. If we do not trust God, we will inevitably place our trust in ourself or someone else, which ultimately leads to the conflict deepening and remaining unresolved. On the other hand, if we believe that God is sovereign and that He will never let anything into our life unless it can be used for good (Romans 8:28), we will see conflicts not as accidents, but as assignments and opportunities.

This kind of trust glorifies God and inspires the faithfulness needed for effective resolution of relational conflicts. When we invest time in our relationship with God, He will pour out His love on us and at the same time gently convicting us that we need to change and that Jesus is our life-changer. John 16:8-11 says, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

This week, pull the focus off of the conflict itself and develop God’s view. It will make sense of all the crazy around you.

Discussion Questions:
1.  Do you experience conflict from little crazy things?

2. Do you trust God or yourself in the midst of crazy moments?

3. What is the first step you can take to begin trusting God in the midst of conflict?

4. Pray and ask God to lean on Him in every conflict.

Conflict And The Bible

Benjamin Franklin is known for famously saying, “but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” To that we can add conflict.

Conflict is inevitable. Whenever people are involved, there will be conflict. Normal relationships, even healthy relationships, encounter conflict occasionally. That is true whether the relationship involves family members, friends or co-workers; and even within the church. We are often surprised when conflict develops among believers, but because a church is made up of people, conflict is inevitable at times.

Conflict is never fun, and it never gets easier no matter how much practice we get at trying. No relationship is immune. We are afraid to confront our mother-in-law about undermining discipline with our kids. Or we think it would weird to tell our brother about drinking less. Or it is potentially damaging to tell the boss you don’t approve of his lack of ethics. Resolving conflict can harm relationships. Fortunately, we have a guidebook, a set of guardrails, a source of solutions and wisdom, and a general guide for life’s journey; the Bible. Here are a few verses that speak to the subject of conflict:

You are more willing to listen to them than speak to them. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”– James 1:19

You regularly pray for them. “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Corinthians 1:4

Your speech builds them up. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

You quickly repent when you are harsh to them – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

You are quick to guard your tongue so you do not hurt them. “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” – Psalm 141:3

You speak wisdom to them so you can serve them. “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.” – Proverbs 16:23

You are selective in your speech so you do not sin against them. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” – Proverbs 10:19

You carry them in your heart. “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Conflict is a part of relationships. The more intentional we are at allowing conflict to promote and maintain healthy relationships, the greater our success will be in dealing with conflict. Rather than viewing all conflict as a painful part of life, let’s begin to see it as God building stronger, God-honoring relationships.

Discussion Questions:
1. How would you rate your ability to handle conflict? What is your biggest weakness?
2. What is ultimately the root cause of conflict?
3. What differentiates biblical conflict resolution from worldly conflict resolution?
4. So how should Christians respond to conflict? Why?
5. Which of the above verses would help you most in resolving conflict today?
6. Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to deal with conflict.

Abraham And The Art Of Conflict

In the last devotional, I talked about the fact that there are battles to fight and battles to let go of because at the end of the day, it is not a case of having conflict, but how we handle conflict.

God’s word contains many opportunities and many solutions for resolving conflict. One such place is in Genesis 13:1-18. In this passage of Scripture, we see a conflict brewing between two family units: Abram (Abraham), and Lot, who is Abraham’s nephew. The conflict concerned the right to land use. It seems the shepherds working for Abraham and Lot were arguing over whose flocks should have precedence when it came to grazing.

Abram, being more interested in having a relationship with his nephew, suggested that they separate and that Lot take his choice of the land. Abram considered Lot before he considered himself. Some would call that commendable, while others would suggest that was not a wise decision, because the other party could easily take advantage of him.

This passage of scripture gives us several tips on how to resolve our relational conflicts. One is maturity. Immaturity in a relationship will cause conflict rather than solve it. In this story,  Abram said, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me.” These words are a picture of maturity and what maturity should produce in a believer. Humility arises in the heart of a Christ follower and asks: What is God’s way of solving this? What is the MOST important thing here? What is the greater answer to this conflict?

Second tip. Who wins in this story? Some would say Lot because he was given first choice of land. Sometimes the best option is to put aside our interests and allow the other person to have his/her way. Yes, it is natural to hold out for what we want. When conflict occurs, even when trying to preserve relationships, we tend to think, “If I don’t look after my own interest, who will?” Compromise can be an option. In fact, when we consider the interest of others, we can receive the greater benefit. Abram considered Lot before himself and, as a result, received the greater blessing. Abram let Lot have first choice of which land should be his. God was pleased with Abram’s unselfish choice and told him all of that land would someday belong to his descendants. In contrast, Lot’s selfish choice meant that he moved near the wicked city of Sodom.

The third tip is having faith. In the Bible’s hall of fame in Hebrews 11, candid pictures are given of great men whose faith stands out in Old Testament history. Most are descendants of Abraham. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Faith in God means that Abram didn’t need to worry about who won and who lost, or whether his ox was getting gored. He left it to God because of his faith.

So can we.

Discussion Questions.
1. Why were Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen quarreling? Who chose first?
2. Did Lot make the best choice? If you didn’t know the outcome, would you choose as Lot did? Why or why not?
3. Genesis 15:1:” After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 22:17 says,”I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.” Would holding onto God’s promises make a difference in how we handle conflicts? Why or why not?
4. What does it mean to live by faith? How does this affect our relationships?
5. How do you live in faith? So often, we live as if faith means bringing God into our little story when it’s convenient to do so. How do we elevate our faith?

Conflict And Confrontation: Who Wants That?

In 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was trying desperately to end the looming conflict between his country and Hitler’s Germany. His policy, one of appeasement, was to give Hitler what he wanted in order to avoid war. In reality, Chamberlain’s appeasement policy made war more likely because Hitler thought he could get away with anything. Could he have prevented the war if he took a different course of action? History suggests war was inevitable. But it does prove what each of us instinctively know; that resolving conflict is not simple and running away or ignoring it is never the answer.

The word conflict often stirs up negative emotions in us. Our comfortable, compartmentalized little world where we just get along in total harmony with those around us is suddenly littered with a pothole or two. A great day at the office or home suddenly becomes a day full of fear, pain or anger as conflict interrupts our perfectly self-designed environment and plans.

Neville Chamberlain must likely realized that whatever position he took, the conflict was inevitable. So should we fear conflict? Should we avoid conflict at all costs? Common sense suggests that there are some conflicts we should avoid if at all possible. For example, if you are driving your car and suddenly someone cuts you off, it is best to avoid the conflict especially if it involves retaliation. Tempers and egos may flare, accelerating an emotional situation out of control and jeopardizing your safety and the safety of others. Also, it is probably a good idea to avoid conflict and argument when a gun is pointed in your direction. In most cases, discretion is surely the better part of valor in those instances.

But what about conflict between husbands and wives or in other relationships. Should we avoid conflict at all costs in those instances at the risk of a short-term peace that might fester and cause serious damage in the future? Or should we embrace conflict in hopes of resolving the issue?

Jesus was often in conflict with the Pharisees. He was also often in conflict with His disciples, who had a hard time understanding His teachings and why He came to earth. Jesus always had not only the perfect answer, but being God, He knew the perfect way to deliver His message of love and truth. Unfortunately we as humans are not the Son of God. So we must move forward as best we can in facing conflict and seeking a resolution that honors God and those we are in conflict with whether it be husband, wife, brother, daughter, neighbor, Northstar Group member, etc. .

During this week we will be talking about conflict. Let’s start with what I consider the basics. First, when a conflict arises, we first need to gauge its importance. Christians have arguments over when Jesus will come again. Yes, Jesus coming again is a very big deal. Matthew 25:13 tells us: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” That verse tells us this is not conflict worthy. There are little annoyances in every relationship that is not worth jeopardizing the relationship by starting a conflict. In those cases, we should let it go.

But if the issue rises above the insignificant, we must determine if our motive is improving the relationship or just getting our way. In other words, is the discussion one where both parties in the relationship are open to gaining knowledge, understanding and wisdom? Or are we simply out to prove how smart and right we are? These conflicts where we want our way or want to prove we were right don’t often end well.

To end well, humility needs to be present. We must state our case with grace, realizing that communication is more art than science. If you disagree with something you hear from your spouse, sibling, neighbor etc., approach the conflict with an open mind and heart. Tell them what you heard and give them the opportunity to explain what they meant to say—it may differ from what you think you heard. Go in with an attitude seeking clarification, not justification.

Lastly, is your motivation in the conflict one where both parties can benefit from the discussion and one where God is glorified? Are you open to an exchange of ideas and interpretations that will build each other up? Or is your goal to prove your “superiority” in spiritual or practical matters?

We shouldn’t always shy away from conflict. Rather let us pursue it with wisdom, humility and grace—along with a willingness to learn. Every conflict is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken our relationships.

Discussion Questions:
1. Have you ever been in seemingly intractable conflict and didn’t know what to do or how to get out of it? If so, what happened? What went well, if anything? What would you have done differently, if anything?
2. When two parties are in conflict, which one should take the first step to initiate the peacemaking process? Why?
3. Pray and ask God for wisdom to handle conflict in a way that glorifies Him.