By Joey Ruyter, MBC Prince William Discipleship Pastor
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re reading this, and you have a beating heart, then you’ve probably faced conflict in your life. It’s happened to the best of us, whether it’s between you and your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss, your siblings, a friend at church, or even your pastor. If you are engaged in any type of relationship, you have probably experienced it.
WHERE DOES CONFLICT BEGIN?
James 4:1 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
I have found in my counseling encounters—and even in my own personal life—this one thing to be true: the surface issue is normally not the issue at all. In our interactions where conflict arises, we typically wage war over minuscule things. For example, how many times have you said or heard someone say, “Last week, my wife and I started arguing—but I can’t even remember what it was about!”?
We so often focus on the symptom instead of the disease that lies below the surface. The reality is that James 4:1 is so true in our lives: our passions (natural, physical pleasures) dictate what we’re willing to fight over. The New Testament word for “heart” is “the desire maker”  Our inner self is constantly lusting after something.
OUR DESIRES WAGE WARS
This concept of wanting is best explained by Ecclesiastes 3:11b – “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” God set into each of our hearts the taste of Eden, what pure perfection tasted like. Imagine, pure shalom (perfect peace) with God and one another. Because Adam and Eve sinned, the “perfect peace” that was in the Garden was corrupted on earth, and can only be restored through hope and faith in Jesus. As we see laced throughout Scripture, man is now chasing after that peace, trying to fill a God-sized hole, with the fleeting, natural, physical pleasures of this world.
Since the pleasures of this world can never satisfy us, they wage war within our hearts, our souls, and our lives. This wreaks absolute havoc in our relationships with not only those closest to us, but everyone we encounter. We are chasing the taste of Eden, and making everything about our own selfish desires.
SO, WHAT DO WE DO?
1. “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME.” It’s cliché but it’s so profound. We need to understand, first, the concepts presented to us in James 4:1 and Ecclesiastes 3:11b. This helps us put things into perspective. I’ve never seen a conflict where one person had to own 100% of the issue. Both parties are going to have things to own in the disagreement, and the only way to achieve true restoration is to understand you’re not perfect, and you have selfish motives. Becoming self-aware is a must!
2.) “I’M SORRY, GOD.” We often focus on which person needs to apologize. We need to understand, though, that in conflict we grieve the Holy Spirit and sin against God. Our sin is, as John Piper puts in his, book, Future Grace: “sin is what you do when you are not fully satisfied in God.” We engaged in the battle because we sought the passions of our heart, instead of devoting a heart of worship toward God.
3.) REPEAT THE FOLLOWING OVER & OVER: “GRACE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, RESTORATION, REDEMPTION, PEACE.” Those words are simply the words etched on our Father’s and our Savior’s heart. We will cover this concept a lot in the next couple posts, but when engaged in conflict, it’s so imperative to understand our God’s desire instead of focusing on our own. The above-italicized words are just a few of the many beautiful facets of the Gospel. Knowing them, understanding them, and reciting them will set you on solid ground in approaching the conflict you face in your life.
I am praying for everyone who reads this post—that God would work in our hearts and satisfy our desires. Check back for my next post, where I will discuss negative narratives and the damage they can cause.
Father, help us understand that conflict originates when we are trying to fill our hearts with earthly, abominable passions that are worthless and fleeting. And as a result, God, please help us replace the desires of our own heart with the desires of Your heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.