Last month I had the privilege of being a part of our church camp for college students. We had a lovely time away from the noise, the pollution, all social media notifications, the traffic and the daily pressures that life has to offer. It was a perfect picture of tranquility with hills, river and nature’s beauty at its best. One can’t help but be overcome by a strange peace as the body begins to rest.
In the midst of all this beauty, I got the opportunity to speak with many young girls face to face. I heard their struggles and witnessed the brokenness of this world. Behind those beautiful smiles and makeup were stories that brought tears to my eyes. Most of these young people were in conflict, either with themselves or with someone else. They were tired of carrying the burden that conflict brings along. As we drove back home, my thoughts were drawn to my own childhood. I do not recollect at what age but as long as I can remember, I was in conflict too.
I was in conflict with myself. I argued endlessly, fought fiercely, screamed and cried, but it was beautifully hidden and camouflaged by an effervescent personality - which in itself was another conflict. Conflict by definition means a clash or a disagreement. Can you imagine the weight people carry around when they are in conflict with themselves?
“Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.” says, Charles Spurgeon
I was raised in a family where my dad was an alcoholic. He was an absolute gentleman in the morning and a different person altogether in the evening. One part of me loved my dad and the other part was bitter, angry and unwilling to forgive. My actions were mostly dominated by the latter. The ramification of this conflict was psychosomatic; I could see my mind turning into a war zone and my body as a result started slowing down. I became short tempered, angry, irritable and sarcastic. I was in conflict with my dad; clearly he was the reason for this self conflict (at least that’s what I thought initially).
The conflict evolved as I grew older. A part of me was now well trained to win any argument and even hurt him without feeling bad about it. I even tried blocking him from my life. I could easily go on for months without having a word with or about him. Within a few years, from being in conflict with myself and with my dad, it was with men in general and eventually with God (He’s the One who gave me an alcoholic father after all); I had the full list ready. If I couldn’t win, I would write people off from my life.
After many years of negative self-talk, sleepless nights, anxiety and stress, I was left with no strength to fight. Who can ever win against God? Instead, He won me over with His love. The distorted view of a father made me look at my Heavenly Father through the same lens. But Jesus made peace between me and my Heavenly Father. The very first time I accepted Jesus in my life, I experienced peace. Peace that I had never experienced. Can He change your outlook, relationships, situations or your spouse? Absolutely! He is able and He can but He is more interested in changing you. My dad didn’t stop drinking but the Holy Spirit began to change me. For the first time I saw the ugliness of my sinful life and how Jesus had to pay the price for my sins.
Life has not been the same since. I had to work hard with the Holy Spirit to discipline myself. If given a choice, I would go back to my old self in no time. It’s a daily discipline. And it’s hard to be a living sacrifice at the altar. I continue to fail often but what a blessed assurance that I’m still at peace with my Heavenly Father, who places me right back where I belong.
Who are you in conflict with? Are you in conflict with yourself? Or with someone who treated you badly or cheated on you? Are you fighting God or angry at Him for not being fair? The Bible says about Jesus that, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” Ephesians 2:14. Whose voice will you listen to - your own, of this world that demands revenge or the One who is Peace Himself? The invitation is open. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Few practical things to think about:
Are you engaging in self-talk? We all talk and give ourselves advice. When you wake up in the middle of the night, are you talking to yourself? If yes, what are you telling yourself? Turn your self-talk into a prayer and tell your concerns to God rather than to yourself; allow the Word of God to speak to you, so that you can meditate upon it and gain wisdom to handle your conflict better. Seek prayers of a few friends that you can trust.
Do I regret my childhood? Not at all! I can’t thank God enough for the wonderful lessons He taught me. In fact, it was just the perfect childhood I needed, to be shaken off from my empty pride and be broken enough to receive God’s grace early in my life. Did I enjoy it? Clearly not! But it sure was worth all the tears and pain. I gained the trust of many young friends who had similar background and I got the opportunity to point them to Jesus. My mother has been married for over forty years to my dad and is continuing to display her Christ-like behaviour each day. Do we get upset? Yes absolutely! But we’re learning to keep short accounts with God and with people. We are trying to live one day at a time and to be more like Jesus.
Conflict is not necessarily bad. In fact, it can be an opportunity - an opportunity to be more like Christ!
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