“The best things in life invariably cost us something. We must sacrifice to attain them, to achieve them, to keep them, even to enjoy them. That is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life. It is the message that we know we ought to instill in our children: patience, commitment, diligence, constancy, and discipline, will ultimately pay off if we are willing to defer gratification long enough for the seeds we have sown to sprout and bear. A flippant, shallow, and imprecise approach to anything–be it sports or academics, business or pleasure, friendship or marriage–is ultimately self-defeating. It is not likely to satisfy any appetite–at least, not for long. The world is indeed full of seemingly harmless little distractions; humorous and silly things; banal and trivial things; things which take the path of least resistance; things which come cheaply and easily. Beware of all such things–they are the enemies of substance, truth, and honor.”
— Tristan Gylberd
All of us face conflict in this life. But is there something we can do to reduce it and live more peacefully? Is there a way to limit strife and better reflect the wisdom of God? There is when we come to terms with the source of our conflicts.
The Bible tells us that conflicts arise from our desires: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (Jas.4:1-2).
With these words, the Lord reveals the origin of every human conflict – from world wars to household squabbles. The cause, according to God, is our own unchecked desires.
Take, for example, a husband and wife discussing what they should have for dinner. The wife, because it is getting late, desires convenience. The husband, because he’s getting hungry, desires something substantial. Although this seems like an insignificant everyday event, it has the makings of a ruined evening or worse if the husband and wife don’t keep their desires in check.
Desires in themselves, of course, are not the problem. There’s nothing wrong with wanting convenience, or a good meal. In fact, there’s a whole host of desires that we deal with continually that are perfectly legitimate. The problem is when we become selfish regarding these desires, and pursue them apart from God.
For this reason, God may actually withhold the fulfilling of our desires. He tells us that we do not have because we do not ask Him, and when we do ask we don’t receive because we ask with the wrong motives. We are only interested in our own pleasure (Jas.4:3).
This does not mean that God is against having desires, or even pleasure. But it does mean that He is serious about not having our desires and pleasures take the place of Him. And this is why He says that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (Jas.4:4).
And this is where the battle rages hot for all of us. We live in a world that continually reminds us of its expectations and woos us with its superficial charms. When you combine that with our natural desires and pride, conflict often inevitably results. First within our own hearts, and then with those around us.
So, what’s the solution? The Bible tells us: live in humble submission to God (Jas.4:7-10).
Our own desires can be our greatest enemy. The devil knows that and seeks to make the most of it, leading to untold conflict and misery. Because of this, we cannot seek to manage our conflicts on our own terms. We must do so in submission to God.
Make a clean break with any and all selfish desires. It only leads to conflict. Instead, make it your greatest desire to honor God in all that He shows you. This is the way to peace – with God, with yourself, and with others.
Within the past year our family has had the joy of celebrating two fiftieth wedding anniversaries. The first was for my parents last November, and the second was for my wife’s parents just a month ago in July. While reflecting on these milestone events, I was impressed by the fact that my parents and in-laws have shared one hundred years of marriage between them. Quite an attainment for our day, and a real blessing to others at that. Especially for our children.
Thanks to their grandparents, my children now have a testimony of over one hundred years of marital faithfulness to gain from. Not only does this loyal example help provide them stability that so many children in our day lack, but it also gives them a model of covenant keeping to remember as they someday build marriages of their own.
In reference to marriage, the Bible says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mt.19:6). I’m thankful that my parents (including in-laws) have taken this seriously. And our whole family has been blessed because of it — and will be for generations.