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Have you ever noticed that deep relationships often involve conflict?
It feels counterintuitive. We tend to think, "If you like me, you will agree with me, be nice to me and not cause me pain."
I first noticed this phenomenon with my daughters. For some reason, as they progress through the stages of life, all-out war seems to be followed by a time of peace and friendship.
Then I got really mad at my boss. You might know this mad—I was so mad I prayed David's "destroy my enemies" prayers. How intense!
Soon, I realized I needed to fix things, and I went to my boss to iron out the issue. A funny thing happened. After we ironed out the issue, the trust in our relationship actually increased.
What is it about conflict that draws us closer?
Does this relationship dynamic happen with God? We know difficult times often send us clamoring to be in His lap, but what about those times when He frustrates us? How can we fight for intimacy instead of running away?
There are two incidents in the Bible that help shed light on how we can handle conflict with God.
Moses: Called to Change
Moses was finally happy. He'd released any hope of returning to Egypt and spent countless contented days watching sheep throughout the hills of Midian.
In the wilderness, fire is an odd thing. It is destructive and life-giving. It helps things to grow by clearing out all the underbrush, but first it destroys everything in its path. For Moses, fire in the wilderness was not welcome. If the fire was containable (i.e., still on just one bush), it should be stopped.
Imagine Moses, intent on protecting his sheep, approaching this bush. The fire wasn't spreading! It stayed on just one bush. As Moses approached to smother the fire, God spoke.
Immediately, Moses realized his sheep weren't in danger. Instead, he faced a bigger threat to stability: God asked Moses to do things he didn't want to do.
Return to leadership? Take on Pharaoh? Moses was comfortable. Life was good! Why should he take on all that stress? Moses and God were in conflict.
Here's what we can learn from Moses' conflict with God.
1. Talk to God. Remember when you got mad at your mom or dad? Some of us yelled, some of us just huffed, but almost all of us stomped off to nurse our wounds. Moses didn't do any of that. He talked to God. He didn't worry about offending God. Instead he was honest: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?"
2. Stay engaged. When God answered one of Moses' frustrations, Moses brought up another. He didn't capitulate until they'd discussed all the details. This is a very stressful way to converse. A lot of times, we want to walk away and avoid the conflict until it isn't so intense. Moses stayed engaged.
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