Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seeking the Lord in conflict

I've been praying about a situation for a long time now and the Lord has been showing me a lot lately. The blessings that we can receive by just digging in to His word are incredible and sometimes a bit overwhelming....for me this is one of those times. Not overwhelming as in something that is bad... just a lot to absorb and being human as I am the impatient side of me wants to highjack all that the Lord is showing me in scripture so here I am sort of thinking out loud.

Some of you know that for a long time now my family has been dealing with a very painful conflict that presented itself to us in the form of a bitter attack against me and divided our family. My flesh desperately wanted to crawl all over that person and give them a piece of my mind, however with the help of the Lord, and the prayers and support of my family in Christ I was able to respond with a measure of grace that was far from normal for me and keep the situation in prayer. Though the situation hasn't been resolved yet I've had enormous peace about it until recently. Recently it seems as though the entire episode is coming up over and over again and it has been a near constant struggle for me to just continue in prayer until I began to really dig into the scriptures for help. I'm so thankful that every time I've taken this to the altar of the Lord in prayer He has been faithful to give me guidance from the bible!

After conversations over the weekend triggered an uncharacteristically bitter response from me I decided that I had no choice but to really dig deeper into God's word for some specific scriptures that would help resolve all of this once and for all. You see, I have allowed myself to become bitter about the situation and most of the people involved in the conflict. I've been up all night in tears asking the Lord to forgive me for that and show me how He would have me to resolve this mess so that I can just put the whole thing behind me one way or the other....what I've learned is that the answer isn't so simple but if I handle this according to scripture (which by the way addresses every need in such circumstances) not only will I feel better but true resolution that leaves no cause for bitterness will have taken place.

I started by asking the Lord why I've become so bitter about this. I'm not normally a bitter person, and usually I'm quite good at moving past painful episodes and just going on with life. I've struggled a lot since this all began with this thought of "turning the other cheek" you know? I thought that to just be silent and leave the situation alone was imitating Christ in my life.......I've come to realize that to "put on" this kind of behavior unless done freely and without resentment is not a reflection of Jesus in me but instead a pharisee like imitation that can only lead to bitterness and further disobedience to the Lord's will for us. It is just following the letters of what we are told is right rather than living out the intent behind it...ugly huh?

So I found out that faking "meekness" doesn't resolve a conflict but the other "simple" options of giving in or giving up are also inconsistent with God's word. What a blessing to learn that God's word includes the concepts of justice, restitution, and personal accountability. In scripture we are given direction to handle conflict and instead of seeking to follow that I assumed that pretending at something instead would take care of the issue for me. Feigning a 'meek and lowly' attitude doesn't help me to become more Christlike, but in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 we can clearly see that conflict should develop in us the ability to rely on His strength, grace, and power rather than "power through" on our own.
2Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Though this situation is not yet completely resolved I feel like now I have a much firmer understand of how to approach a resolution based on scripture rather than what I "feel like" I should do. I'll share a little of what I've learned and update ya'll later on with the results of real life application. I've learned.......

1- We should see conflict in our lives as an opportunity to practice obedience to the Lord and to bear witness to His goodness in our lives.
- So many times since this all began I've wondered why this has happened....truthfully none of it makes any sense from any practical perspective. Instead of wondering and worrying the matter I believe I should simply not count it as a burden but as a chance to please the Lord and draw attention to His wisdom, power and love for us. In 1 Corinthians we are told to glorify God in all that we do....
1Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

- The Lord has shown us in scripture that he will use even our conflicts and times of trouble for good. This perspective gives us an opportunity to take a positive and confident response to these times, difficult as they may otherwise be.
Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

2- We should look at our own part in the conflict first.
- Look not only at what you've done or said, but look deeply at your attitudes and motives. Doing this in a honest fashion and in prayer will reveal our sinful attitudes and will help us to see what we should change, in order to grow and become more Christlike.
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. 5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
1John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

- We can only grow in this way when we look first to our own wrongs rather than stand firmly in our wrongness and point out the errors of others. We must accept responsibility for our own contributions to conflict first or it is impossible to clearly see the truths of the situation.
Matthew 7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

3- Look for steps that you can take personally to resolve the conflict.
- Few things in scripture are as clearly stated as the steps we are to follow in resolving conflicts! Each of us is commanded to make the first move when in disagreement with one another. We are to do this even if we don't believe that their anger is justified.
Matthew 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

- Sometimes a resolution can be as simple as serving that person with an act of kindness or mercy.
Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

-Sometimes resolving conflict will require loving and constructive confrontation.
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

-The Lord's approach was to be merciful even while confronting a harmful attitude or action. Our attitude must be one of obedience to and reliance on God and the aim should be peace with others whether they be believers or unbelievers.
1Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

4- Part of resolving conflict may be to accept consequences and changing some of your own behaviors.
- Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

5- To truly approach the task of resolving personal conflicts in our lives requires commitment.
- We must be committed to restoring damaged relationships with a spirit of forgiveness, open communication and cooperation to clear away the hardness of hearts that is often left by conflict. At times that can become as simple as having the faith to accept that justice belongs to the Lord and not to us, but there are great rewards in answering the conflicts in your life the way that we are taught in scripture rather than what "feels right" or what seems easiest at the time.

Luke 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. 30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

6- Above all in times of conflict seek the Lord in prayer!
Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

As I said earlier in this terribly long post....this situation is not resolved. I have instead allowed myself to become bitter over something that should have been dealt with scripturally from the beginning. I intend to follow the plan that the Lord has laid out for us in scripture and accept whatever His will is from there. I can say that I do believe that the Lord is already working in this situation and I'm so thankful that He allowed me to see the bitterness I had begun to develop so that can be dealt with and not further hinder an already difficult conflict.

I've also been studying alot on compromise and out, there may be more exceedingly long posts to come!

1 comment:

Angela D. said...

The length is no problem for me, I'm just sitting here at the computer desk nursing the baby several times a day. The chair is a straight-back and is comfortable for the duty. I also read daily devotions on Dave's Power Bible disc while here. haa-haa Only thing, it's hard to type a comment one-handed while holding baby. So don't feel badly if I don't always comment.
Thank you for sharing what God has done for you.
Love you,