When You Can’t Force Conflict ResolutionJan 15, 2017 03:22AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
When there is relational conflict, is waiting a copout?
I would say that sometimes it can be, but there comes a point where we have to realize that even if we’re ready to move forward and heal with someone, we can’t force healing and readiness in others.
I sat across from her pleading with my heart and eyes to offer me a different answer. She could not. She confirmed what I had been hearing from God in my prayer time:
Me: “I want to, but I can’t offer peace in this situation.”
Person Offering Me Counsel: “Why do you think that is?”
Me: “Because I didn’t take it away in the first place. My actions did not cause any of it. They need to seek peace through and with Christ. Until they surrender that, I cannot offer what they seek, because it's not mine to give, and I don’t want to go ahead of what God wants to do in each person’s heart. Besides, I would only screw it up since I do not have His peace to act on this right now.”
Person Offering Me Counsel: “Then that’s your answer. You’ve prayed. You’ve sought godly counsel. You’ve daily surrendered this. You are so right to not go ahead of the LORD. He cannot be rushed.”
And that settled it in my heart—what, in many ways, I already knew:
Point #1: Waiting on God in a situation does not equate to abandonment.
While the reassurance came from another Christian, I needed to check myself with God. God would not give me peace about something that went against His will. He has led me in peace through some difficult situations when other people jumped off the island, emotionally and physically.
There is nothing like His peace, truly.
Not every situation can fit inside the exact shape of my particular scenario. I’ve had other relational snafus that played out differently because God guided them another way.
The overall point is:
Point #2: Sometimes it’s not our move, and when we force movement, it does not end well because we go ahead of God.
Ever have that tension when you just want to intervene and end the disagreement? In some cases, that is the way to go, for sure. If you’ve prayed and God’s peace is on your decision to move forward, then He will be faithful to honor that.
In other cases, like one I am experiencing that has many layers and years behind it, jumping in to something so complex with a “sure, this is over, so let’s pretend it didn’t happen” approach doesn’t help any of the characters in the play. It just perpetuates continued patterns of unhealthy interaction and legitimizes ongoing hurtful behavior. It is ultimately unsafe.
In simple terms, conflict that is buried without being looked at usually comes back to roar like a beast after being allowed to simmer at a low boil for a long time. If that is the case, then how do we know it’s okay to wait a personal/relational conflict out?
We have to be careful. Through the Apostle Paul, God says in His Holy Word:
Ephesians 4:25-27, ESV
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil [emphases mine].
Clearly, the truth is important, so we are not to pretend there is no conflict, but we are also not to sin against God or the people involved in our anger. The connection between our “simmering” and “giving opportunity to the devil” is crystal clear. The issue here is our posture. We are not to “let the sun go down on our anger,” meaning we are to exercise self-control. If our anger is a problem, we need to get it right with God first.
What beautiful protection God has in place so that we enter conflict resolution from a posture of having submitted our emotions to our Savior!
In some cases, this is a process. On occasions when my cycles of anger return to me, I have to submit them to Christ afresh. But the provision and the promise are there! We are not alone in our emotion!
King David understood this so well! Look where David took his honest anger! He pled his case first before the LORD:
Psalm 109:1-5, ESV
Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.
So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
David continued to articulate how the conflict had rattled him. He confessed how it consumed him.
Psalm 109:21-26, ESV
But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!
Do you ever feel this way when misunderstandings, assumptions, accusations, and significant disagreements appear on your radar?
Yeah, me too.
And later, as David released His fears, anxiety, hurt, anger, and all extreme emotion to His safe, holy, loving Father and LORD, He simmered down and ended with this:
Psalm 109:30-31. ESV
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.
What causes us anger may not always be of the magnitude of David’s woes in this Psalm, but he is a fantastic model as to what to do with these hurts.
Going back to Ephesians 4, surely conflicts are not always going to tidy up by nightfall—but our hearts need to get right with God by then. We need to meet with Him before our heads hit the pillows. That is the wisdom of Ephesians 4. Otherwise, woe to us going ahead of Him when we haven’t checked our emotion in at the door!
I choose not to simmer in the waiting place. I choose to live my life in positive ways until such time He brings the players back into alignment—if He does. I want to wait on God until peace, healing, and mutual understanding are the goals in every heart involved.
That’s my approach to most conflict, now that I’m “growing up” and learning from my Father in heaven. The truth is: Sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes the characters in the conflict simply don’t end up on the same page at all.
What matters is that we submit the healing needed to Christ and let Him take the lead.
Waiting or no waiting, I wouldn’t want to face conflict from any other posture than one under His Lordship.
I pray you find peace giving Him your conflicts too.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.