Waiting in conflict
We live in a world seeking instant gratification, comfort and control. Conflict, however, is uncomfortable, hard and we can’t control other people. It takes time and effort for conflict to be resolved. At times we must wait in the midst of the conflict. What is it to wait in conflict as Christians?
When do we have to wait?
When conflict comes, we want to glorify God. Our first responsibility is to consider the log in our own eye, then if appropriate prepare an apology, or a conversation to address material or relational issues, or we may decide to overlook. However, our attempts to resolve the conflict may be rejected. And so, we find ourselves waiting in conflict. It may be that the person avoids us or they may attack in different ways. [On a side note, there are some situations of serious relationship breakdown where one person’s safety is an issue and boundaries need to be established, with conflict resolution remaining unlikely.]
How does waiting impact us?
Regardless of why we are unable to resolve conflict, in spite of all our attempts to glorify God, waiting can be hard. The Bible tells us the devil is a roaring lion always tempting us to sin (1 Peter 5:8) and so waiting in conflict can result in us becoming bitter, angry, self-righteous. And to become less inclined to make peace. Ultimately, it could lead to doubting the sovereignty and the goodness of God.
Where is God in our waiting?
This is the most amazing aspect of our waiting in conflict, which really shouldn’t surprise us – the God of the universe is in the midst of our waiting. The more we see God, the more we see of his character and the more we can trust him as we wait.
There are some key aspects of God we need to remind ourselves of as we wait. In Lamentations 3:22-24 we are reminded of our God who is steadfast in his covenantal love, has always and will always be merciful, is totally faithful and as our portion he meets every need in every circumstance we are in.
And so, as the author of Lamentations tells us, we have hope. This hope of an eternity with God includes justice delivered and peace from conflict. Knowing God means we are certain of our hope and certain that one day all waiting will be over.
Our future is certain, but even while we wait now, the truth of who God is tells us God is in our midst. In Isaiah 55:6-13 we read of God being full of compassion as he takes the mess we make with our lives and pardons us.
Our God is totally trustworthy with a conflict that sits in the uncomfortable unresolved space.
So how then should we wait?
I recently was given the phrase ‘dependent obedience’. To me, this captures how we respond to God and especially in conflict. We are dependent on God as fallen creatures who are mercifully and lovingly called to be his children. Our only response to God being God, and to his love and mercy, is thankful obedience.
Jesus is very clear that we are to love, do good to, bless and pray for those who are our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Surely this includes our waiting in conflict. Yet, this is hard to obey, as it isn’t our natural position and so we need to depend upon God as we obey – we need God’s help to wait.
In practice our dependent obedience has many forms.
We must pray for those with whom we are in conflict.
We lament to God of the pain of waiting, with our eyes fixed on God as our hope.
We seek support and encouragement from trusted Christian friends who keep pointing us to dependent obedience.
We honour God with our speech in relation to the conflict.
We love the person in action.
We are ready should the situation arise to resolve the conflict.
Our God is trustworthy in all matters, and he is trustworthy in conflict. Creating a culture of peace as we wait requires us to trust and obey.
This article was written by Ann Cunningham. Ann works as Care Pastor in an Anglican Church in Sydney. She is married to Corey and they have three daughters in late teens and early twenties. The principles of biblical peacemaking have been transforming her work in pointing people to Jesus to both strengthen their love of Jesus and restore relationships.