“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
The election didn’t go the way I wanted. I can still be grateful. My neighbor’s yard sign irritates me every time I look in that direction. I can take a deep breath. Family gatherings will be tense as we carefully tiptoe around extra-sensitive topics in our conversations. I do not have to let it get to me.
I would never wish for pain and suffering for others who disagree with me. But God often does allow challenging circumstances into our lives. Struggles can be opportunities for growth. Challenges can deepen our dependence on Christ. God can even use uncomfortable interactions with other people to serve his greater purposes.
Set against this biblical backdrop is a growing trend in our society today. More and more people are advocating that we cut toxic people out of our lives. Maybe giving someone the silent treatment is better than getting dragged into a fight in which no one wins. Maybe cutting people off is advice that’s easy to package in bite-sized social media posts. Maybe it’s just the most painless way to handle problem people. It’s just easier to find people who tell us what we want to hear. It’s hard to determine if people are toxic when they simply share a differing opinion. Do they deserve to be cut off just because they hurt our feelings?
I see a troubling attitude at work in my own heart. I complain about people who are offended when confronted by clear teachings of Scripture. I also allow myself to get irked and irritated by people expressing opinions about much less consequential issues. When I am no longer willing to engage with someone—even someone who expresses erroneous beliefs—the message I am sending that person is that he or she doesn’t matter and his or her opinions aren’t important. I don’t value that person.
Facing conflict graciously
I am always amazed at the way the apostle Paul consistently expresses gratitude in his epistles. Paul’s problems stemmed from personal conflicts. Yet Paul had peace from the Lord. Knowing his Savior and the sacrifice that earned eternal security served as the ultimate comfort for the apostle. That certainty of a place at Jesus’ side dominated Paul’s heart even when dangerous people threatened to disturb his mental state.
When challenges arise, I don’t always get the answers I want. Yet I do have the biggest and best answers for life’s questions. God hasn’t forgotten me. God’s overriding desire for his children is that we grow closer to him in every situation life throws our way. God promises to work all things positively for our ultimate spiritual good (Romans 8:28).
So the question isn’t really if I will face conflict. Rather, it’s what I will do when it happens. How will I handle those problem people? How will I react to their irritating and sometimes offensive comments? God’s peace can dominate not only my heart but also my interactions. God’s peace can influence my willingness to listen. God’s peace can help me be slow to speak so I can show how much I value the people—even the difficult ones—in my life. God’s peace can show that I care more about people than setting them straight.
Challenges can be opportunities. Opportunities to deepen my appreciation of God’s peace. Openings to share peace with another troubled soul.
Author: Jeffrey Enderle
Volume 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022
- Resolving to share joy - 2022/12/09
- Miracle in the mess - 2022/11/27
- Thank God for conflict - 2022/10/29