The Role of Conflict

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.  Maybe 10 years or more, in fact.

It is true that once we have things settled in our mind it is difficult, almost impossible, to change that pattern.  We don’t want to give up our understanding of how we think the world works, as that plays a vital part of our mental stability, and sense of well-being.  But, there are times when we must reevaluate our base definitions if we ever hope to be able to move to the next level in God.  This is exactly where I’ve been on the topic of conflict, and attempting to understand what role it plays in our life.

You see, I, like many of you, have worked a lifetime to avoid conflict, or to at least defuse conflict when it attempts to raise its ugly head.  Conflict has the appearance of warfare, destruction, violence, frustration, and a host of other negative emotions.  It can leave scars that linger long after the conflict is over.

But, I’ve noticed that for all my effort many times conflict simply cannot be avoided.  In some cases, it cannot be avoided because it involves the protection of our family.  In other cases, it cannot be avoided because it involves basic rights we are entitled to, but not receiving.  In still other cases, conflict may involve defending the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.

Of course, we haven’t really defined what conflict means.  While most of the time our mind conjures up scenes of physical violence or war, in this posting I’m mostly talking about conflict that is personal and mental, not necessarily physical, in nature.

For all of my prayers and efforts I’ve been largely unsuccessful at avoiding conflict in my life.  I have managed to diminish the damage conflict can cause, but I cannot eliminate it entirely, as much as I would like to.  Which brings me to the biggest question of all – “If I live for God then why do I have to face conflict, and what would the purpose be?”

After many years of dealing with this I’ve come to a surprising conclusion.  I’ve broken down my conclusion into several steps:

  1. Stop trying to eliminate conflict from your life.  It is a part of life, much as breathing is part of your life.
  2. Look at it from God’s viewpoint.  While all conflict appears bad to us, it may play a vital role in our development that we know nothing about.
  3. Learn to accept the fact, that conflict, when God is in control, gives you a chance to experience victory, not defeat.
  4. If God allows conflict to enter your life, it is for a purpose – not to destroy, but to bring us to a different level.

Not to say I’m particularly happy about this conclusion.  I’m not.  But, it is better to face life with a realistic appraisal than to try and live it through ‘rose colored glasses’, wishing for something that is not going to happen.

If occurs to me if conflict cannot always be avoided, and probably has affected every individual who has ever lived, there must be a ‘higher’ purpose we cannot always see.

Now to get down to specifics…

We have a much better time understanding complex subjects like this one when we have concrete examples to draw from – preferably from someone else’s life, and not our own.  Fortunately, the Bible is full of such examples.  In fact, it would be hard to find an individual in the Bible who did not experience conflict in their life.  And because the Bible does not hide anything we can often see the long-term effects such conflict brings to individuals.  And for those individuals whose lives were committed to God, the end benefits of conflict are clearly illustrated, and they are conclusively positive and not negative in nature.

But, the real question is whether we can see the same benefits in our own life experiences, or do we view conflict as simply something to be avoided, and are simply glad when it has passed.

In 1944 the European portion of World War II was going badly for Germany.  They were fighting the Russians on the Eastern front, and the combined Allies on the Western front.  But, Hitler, facing imminent defeat refused to consider surrendering, preferring to have Germany, and its people, destroyed first.  In the summer of 1944 an attempt was made by some of the German officials, who saw the madness in Hitler, to kill him in an assassination attempt.  It failed.  The war dragged on for another 9-10 months before ending with the destruction of Germany, Berlin, Hitler, and his empire.  It is a mystery why the war could not have been terminated with less destruction and death than it did.  So tragic.  But, wait….  Let’s say the attempt on Hitler’s life had been successful, and the leaders had been successful in negotiating a peace with the allies.  Wouldn’t that have been better?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Remember, World War I ended in much the same way with a negotiated peace settlement that barely lasted 20 years, and ultimately planted the seeds for World War II.  Is it possible the total destruction of Germany, and its leadership, was necessary to ensure world peace (at least from World War) until the present time?  Of course, we don’t know.  But, consider the point I’m attempting to make, which is simply, things may look bad, they may feel bad, there may not be a glimmer of sunshine anywhere, but out of this dark place may arise victory for the future.  Which I think also applies to our discussion of conflict.

I might wish things could be different, but alas, my wishing doesn’t change anything.  I just need to realign my thinking so that I can deal with the things in my life and be the overcomer God wants me to be, and not listed with the defeated.

Which brings me to the question – Can every conflict result in victory?  The answer is a surprising, YES, if God is in the works.  This does not imply every conflict will be comfortable, or pleasant, but does indicate it will lead to ultimate victory and success, if we continue to follow the plan of God.  Portions of the victory will be realized while we are still alive, while other parts of the ultimate victory will not be realized until we are on the other side.

So, do I welcome conflict, because it may work to my good?  No, I do not welcome it.  Nor do I go looking for conflict.  But, I don’t have to worry, it seems to find me without any difficulty or effort on my part.  Some are small battles, and some are larger.  Some only threaten to annoy me, while others threaten to take me out entirely.  Some affect only me, while others affect my family, too.  Conflicts come in all sizes and shapes.  They can affect relationships, finances, health, security, the list is long.  But, in each case God has given you the tools and training necessary to win, to be victorious, to be successful.

When David faced Goliath he had many things at his disposal.  We talk about his courage and determination, but we often fail to grasp he had been trained by God to do this job.  For it was his previous encounter with the lion and the bear, that gave him the confidence and training necessary to tackle this new challenge (conflict).

So, thanks, for taking this journey with me.  I’m still working on my world-view of conflict and its positive role in my life.  I still find myself trying to side-step it, or to avoid it entirely if at all possible, but also knowing that ultimately into every life some conflict must come.  And, if it must come, then I certainly want it to produce a positive outcome, and not a negative one.


2 Responses to “The Role of Conflict”

  1. Bea McGuire Says:

    You have no idea how accurate this blog is! Your conclusion in the four points stated above is dead on! I have learned this mainly in the last 2 years and 2 months of my life. It gives different meaning to this journey and once learned it makes the journey of “conflict” a little easier. I only wish I had had this understanding some 52 years ago but then that’s what life is all about…..learning. I continue to learn daily as I continue this walk. Thank you for such inspirational insight into so many subjects. You are always and continue to be a blessing!

  2. Bea McGuire Says:

    PS I so wish that every Christian could read this blog!

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