After 30 years of ministry I have seen many families that torn apart by internal struggle. I have seen many churches torn apart by internal struggle. I have seen faith based organizations torn apart by internal struggle. In most of these cases, the people involved loved each other, but they seemed unable to overcome their negative feelings toward each other. Some relationships broke apart and no longer have any connections with each other. Others remain connected, but tension lies just under the surface, ready to erupt at any moment. I have often pondered why people who love each other have so many struggles with each other.
James 4:1 seeks to answer the question of why we have struggles and conflict with other people in our lives. This verse identifies the root of these conflicts as the cravings that are inside all of us.
What do we crave? We crave acceptance. We crave love. We crave control. We crave power. We crave recognition. We crave security. We crave both connection and independence, which makes us feel conflicted internally. Some of these cravings are normal and may not lead to conflict with others. But some of these cravings will cause conflict because the other people in our lives crave different things, or sometimes the same things but in different ways.
While there should always be enough love to go around for all members of a family or group, it is impossible for everyone to be in control. While every member of a family or church should be accepted for who they are, not everyone will have equal power or independence because they have different roles. When we forget this important truth and our cravings collide with the cravings of others, the result is always conflict.
What is the solution? For non-Christian, I am not sure there is a great solution. They will just have to negotiate the situation the best they can and hope it works out. But for Christians, the solution is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew16:24-27). As Christians our goal should not be our own power, our own control or our own agenda. As Christians our goal should be to lift up Jesus in every area of our lives. That can be hard in the midst of a heated discussion with those we love. But it is the only path to lasting happiness and peace. Any other path will lead to constant conflict with those we love.
The next time our cravings begin to collide with the cravings of someone else, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves what response would glorify the Lord. Then, as hard as it may be, we should choose that response. Though it might not result in instant gratification, it will produce long term healthy results. After all, we will be part of the family of God for the rest of our lives and for all eternity. A future without constant conflict sure sounds better than one with constant conflict.
Lord, help us not to create conflict with others because we allow our own sinful desires to rule us. Amen.
This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: