22 May 2008
I am not very popular. Some people may not even like me. conflict
I'm not the life of the party or everyone's favorite guy. conflict
Things don't always come easily for me. Things certainly don't just fall into place. conflict
I usually don't put on a shining smiley face for the party or the public. conflict
I am usually WYSIWYG (wizeewig) -- "What You See Is What You Get" -- as the old computer term goes. I am fairly consistent (although we all have personas that vary given a context) and I do not vary a whole lot in my context. I may seem more pious at church and more driven at work, but I am who I am.
Most people I know have had to work to get where they are. Some have not only worked, but also struggled. conflict Without giving into the sin of self-pitying pride (not the boastful or typical proud kind, but self-centered nonetheless), let me use myself as a case study.
I was diagnosed with a chronic disease by age 7 and it would proceed to bring despair upon me in my early thirties with its complications. conflict
I always felt "different" as a child. I recall even at age 9, rushing out of my paternal grandmother's house from my 3 siblings and my parents and going to the car crying. When my mother and one of my siblings came after me, they asked me what was wrong, and I said with tears, "I feel different." conflict And often, I feel I am or maybe I'm just unique like everyone else. ☺ Maybe my feeling different is really a form of self-centeredness. Maybe it is perceived. Maybe it is fact. I think it is likely a little of both, but nothing to pity myself over.
I don't even need to discuss all the bad and broken relationships I had with girls during my adolescent years, college years, and twenties. conflict
By age 32, I had already had 2 careers, despising the latter, and failing as an entrepreneur. conflict With health costs, despite insurance, and low income for the field in which I worked, I found myself on the lower end of the income ladder compared to many of my peers. conflict It was tempting to feel sorry for myself.
Yet God was there through it all! It did not and does not always feel like that, but that is just another revelation as to why emotions are called emotions and not reason. An emotion is what it is, whether caused by an actual or perceived event. What's comes out of the emotion and what thinking is behind the emotion is where things can be disputed or changed.
How can I say, "God was there through it all"? I remember going through a difficult time
in college, even feeling like my spiritual walk was crippled. conflict
I remember my roommate saying to me that
I had been a witness to him, an example.
I was shocked. I asked how. He said that I live with a chronic disease and I don't let it get me down. I don't let it stop me from living. I don't let it keep me from believing in God. He said that impacted him. He said he would be at his wit's end if he had the diagnosis I had (have). I am glad he shared those words with me. Make sure to share words from your heart with people. If someone comes to mind, call them today.
God was there and is here. Eventually, my complications subsided as did my despair. He blessed me with a godly wife and family. He blessed me with a career I enjoy. And while I am still not rich in the worldly sense (though I live like a king compared to folks in some countries), I am rich indeed. I learned not to feel sorry for myself (though in my sinful nature I am tempted to). God used the conflict of life to teach me.
I once wrote a paper in graduate school that discussed what motivates people. I concluded that conflict motivated people. I still believe that today, but I'd like to make an addendum. God is sovereign and He orchestrates conflict. He also drives us to make the choices we make. Yet, we do have free wills. However, we only act with a free will if we are in Christ. We, then, have the freedom to make choices as God intended us to do -- in a manner that glorifies and enjoys Him. If one is not in Christ, then the only option is to give in to the sinful nature. Even the good things done are self-motivated. Even if we do something for someone else, in the sinful nature, we are gratified by the recognition or prestige that might follow.
Conflict can be perceived or actual, intra-psychic (within one's mind) or inter-psychic (between minds), within oneself or between people, overtly in one's conscience or subtly and stealthily in one's unconscious mind. conflict It doesn't matter which of them it is, really, since it's a conflict no matter what type. It's not fruitful to debate an emotion. Debate reason. An emotion is what it is. What comes out of it? What precedes it? That's where the debating needs to occur.
We all have conflict. conflict
I remember one time when one of my graduate school professors questioned me on my theory. I told him we are all always in conflict. conflict He said he thoroughly liked golf and that if he went golfing with me, he would not experience conflict. I challenged him. I said he would be motivated to play by a discrepancy and any discrepancy is a conflict. And there's always a discrepancy. His discrepancy might be completing the hole versus not completing the hole, proceeding with the activity versus not proceeding with the activity, scoring better than me versus scoring worse than me, improving his game or not improving his game, etc. Not every conflict is a challenge, but every challenge is a conflict. He suggested that I had won the argument. Conflict motivates us.
The phrase "nuni dé" is Greek for "but now" (nuni = now; dé = but). It's a turning point. I now realize that God was there. I also realize that God has taught me through conflict. He has deepened me. He has given me more opportunities to identify with more people since we are all experiencing conflict. And He's allowed me to know that. I've learned that God is more concerned with holiness than happiness. I've learned that a life well-lived is more concerned with significance and legacy than with success and prestige. I've learned much from God through conflict.
Even if we don't admit to ourselves that we experience conflict, we still are. Not accepting the reality of living in a fallen world is a denial of reality and the discrepancy is between reality and the perception of fantasy. All of us are in conflict about something. We may not be "broken up" about it. We may feel happy. Yet but now, it's there…even if we aren't aware of it. There's some discrepancy. It may not even be a challenge. It may be simply sipping a drink through a straw. Or it may be gut-wrenching and painful. And there is the conflict of the standard of Christ as compared to us. Granted, it would be pathetic for us to even rely on our own works as motivated by conflict to bridge the gap. We can't bridge the gap. We must depend on Him.
What does He say about it?
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4, NIV).
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, NIV).
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV).
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:1-5, NIV).
"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6b, NIV).
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
~ Psalm 34:17-18, NIV
"[I]f we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself."
~ 2 Timothy 2:13, NIV
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21, NIV).
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (The words of Jesus in John 16:33, NIV).
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11b).
What is your conflict? What is He teaching you? If we always have conflict, then let us discover what it is and what God is continually trying to teach us through it. You may have conflict. conflict But now, but now you can do something different with it. How is God calling you to minister out of the conflicts you have experienced?