Relationships are thorny, prickly things. You find yourself coasting along, fairly smoothly for a while, when out of nowhere, a speed-bump appears, throwing you off balance. Tempers fray, words are spoken, tears are shed, and wounds are created. We deal with all sorts of relationships in life: parents, children, spouses, in-laws, friends, colleagues, bosses....the list is endless. And conflict soon crops up in most of them. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we are called to be peacemakers, but more often than not we find ourselves adding to the problem (or causing it!) rather than resolving it.
When I’ve had to deal with difficult people in my life, my reactions have ranged from “oh-no-I’m-such-a-horrible-person” to “Lord-smite-them-with-Your-wrath”. I have seen the effects of holding on to my anger, filled with righteous indignation cause “I am right”, which has actually led to more conflict and utter lack of peace. And I’ve seen the effects when God has given me the grace (and strength!) to keep my mouth shut and take the first step towards forgiveness, which has actually brought peace.
The thing is – we know all this. We know we should be peacemakers. We know we should forgive. We know it intellectually. We experience it intermittently. Yet we fail to live it continuously. So what are we missing?
The point we (myself very much included) seem to forget is that this life is not about us. It's not about living a comfortable life, having the dream job/marriage/children/house, travelling the world, finding security, having great health, or entertaining ourselves. Let's go a step further, it's not even about finding my life’s purpose, my joy, my fulfilment. It’s about God and the story He is writing. It's about His kingdom and the purposes He is fulfilling. He, being good and wise, has created us to live here; not to bury ourselves under our own petty plans, but to live in terms of eternity.
One of my favourite verses is in Isaiah, who says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.” [Isaiah 26:3]
When our minds are stayed (remain, rest quietly and confidently) on God, we will have peace, especially while dealing with difficult people. Because we will know that it's not about proving our points, making our stands clear, changing their misconceptions. It’s about laying our pride down, letting down our guard, allowing others to misconstrue our actions and words, having to say “sorry” several times, sacrificing our convenience, and forgiving in the face of rejection – which looks something like dying to ourselves.
We are able to die to our fallen instincts and tendencies because our trust is not in our worth, our hopes, our expectations, or our strengths. It is in the Great and Holy One, the One who knew us before He formed us; who placed us in our families and circles, specifically and intentionally; who created good works for us to accomplish beforehand; who is just and merciful; who forgave us and accepted us while we rejected Him; who always listens to our side of the story and knows our selfish intentions, yet reaches out to us in love.
This frees us to live as peacemakers in our troubled, conflict-ridden world. It enables us to take ourselves out of the equation and bring God’s wisdom and perspective into bitter relationships. It is a voice of peace amidst the cacophony of dissent.
What a blessed way to live!
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