“Trouble and distress are woven into the very fabric of this perishing world. Only Your Life in me can empower me to face the endless flow of problems with good cheer.”
– Jesus Listens Prayers for Advent
Jesus said in this world we’d have trouble, but somehow we usually think it’s found the wrong address when it knocks on our door.
Misunderstandings. Disagreements. Clashing personalities and preferences. These are just a few of the relational conflicts we encounter in our homes and workplaces. And it should come as no surprise. On this side of the Fall, life is riddled with strife, but the good news is that God hasn’t left us alone to be overcome by difficulties. We live in the presence of a Redeemer who is at work in us, desiring to use even the most challenging situations to make us more like Himself.
So when we encounter conflict with family members and coworkers, we have a choice to make: allow the problem to damage our walk with the Lord and take us backwards spiritually, or lean into the power of God in our lives and grow through the situation.
Here are 4 ways to move forward into Christ-likeness through relational conflict:
1. Trust that God is in control of the people He allows into your life.
When we’re in the midst of a relationship strained by conflict, it’s easy to believe there must be some mistake. Hard situations and difficult-to-love people in our paths must mean something’s gone wrong. If only we’d known that the coworker would be so irritable, or the supervisor would be so demanding, then we would have made the “right” decision and not taken the job.
But the Lord knew exactly what personality types we’d be working alongside, and He allowed you and I to say yes to this role. He planned precisely who our family members would be, and included us in their lineage. Acts 17:26 NIV reminds us that God is sovereign over these things. He determines our appointed times and even the boundaries of where all humanity lives. Let’s trust God with the people in our lives. He is working out His plan.
2. Pray for the situation and the person you’re in conflict with.
Remember God’s heart is to conform us into His image through difficult relationships (Romans 8:28-29). That’s His will. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV tells us He hears us when we pray according to His will, and will grant our request.
But we’re usually too busy fuming about the situation to pray. We’re too preoccupied with gossiping about our offender to instead ask the God of the universe to move in the situation for His glory. He can do this, but do we believe enough to ask? Are we surrendered enough to go to Him for the solution? His ear is open to our cry. If we don’t ask, we won’t receive. Let’s pray!
3. Forgive them.
It’s been said we are never more like Christ than when we forgive. Just think: His entire mission of coming to earth was to forgive sinners so they could be reconciled to God.
Conflicts caused by personality clashes or differing preferences may not be tied to a direct, sinful offense, but our hearts tend to keep records of these annoyances, and before long, we’re harboring anger and resentment toward others. In other instances, a true sin has occurred toward us that must be dealt with. Colossians 3:13 NIV gives us the same remedy for both situations: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
As we dwell on how much the Lord has forgiven us, His Spirit will empower us to demonstrate forgiveness toward others, and we’ll continue to move forward in Christ-likeness.
4. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
This requires grace and humility. We think we are experts at reading others. We’ve observed them enough, seen how they behave, and heard their responses. We believe we know why they do what they do. Based on our limited knowledge, we assign motives to their actions.
But there is only one all-knowing being in the universe, and it’s not you and me. God alone is omniscient. Man looks at the outward appearance, but only God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).
We must discipline ourselves to notice our thoughts when we assume we know the motive of those we’re in conflict with. Then we must replace that thought by giving them the benefit of the doubt, by offering grace, and by believing the best about them. Love believes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV).
Having a heart posture of love, grace, and humility goes a long way in not only bringing peace to a difficult relationship, but will also be a catalyst for our own growth and flourishing.
All of the Christian life is intended to be an upward motion, eyes set on things above, progress forward as we put off the old and put on the new. God will not waste any aspect of our lives. He will even turn our relational conflicts at home and work into lessons for our maturity. Let’s follow Him as He brings redemption to even the most difficult conflicts and makes us more like Jesus through it!
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