The news wasn’t what I wanted to hear. There’s a delay on the project — again! How can we get it back on schedule?
Delayed projects are troublesome for me. I want to know that I’m moving toward the end goal, that I’m diligent with how I allocate my time and resources, so I can avoid kicking the project down the road.
Whether the setback is justified or not, my “internal agitator” kicks in, requiring me to pause and carefully listen intentionally, so I will respond responsibly — rather than react.
Without that deliberate pause, I’m inclined to assume that others are the source of my conflict.
Why didn’t they stay on top of the project? Someone needs to be held accountable. Why aren’t they more efficient?
Conflict also reminds me that I’m not able to control everything.
The delay was legitimate. No one could have anticipated the events that bogged down the project. However, somehow I wanted to blame myself (or someone else) for something uncontrollable:
You should have monitored the project more closely, Richard! How could you not see this coming?
I wasn’t happy to hear that the delay had happened. But the hold-up created an opportunity for me to remember: The root of the conflict is internal, not external.
Many are conflicted today. We’re displeased that things aren’t happening as rapidly as we want. We’re frustrated with argumentative people. We’re troubled by hate, disturbed by disagreements, and appalled by injustices.
There’s no way to eliminate conflict; it’s a part of life. We will never escape contentious situations. But remember:
Conflict is internal, not external.
James asks a rhetorical question, then immediately answers it:
“What causes quarrels, and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” - James 4:1 (ESV)
Conflict comes out of inner desires that drive us to get what we want at any cost. James allows us to see how forceful our cravings can be:
“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel…” - James 4:2b (ESV)
I struggle to make sure my aspirations align with God’s purpose. Without a deliberate — and ongoing — submission to God’s intention:
My desires drive me, and I fail to drive my desires.
“…You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions.” - James 4:2c-3 (ESV)
It’s not that we’re not asking. We’re asking all the time, but we often ask to receive what we believe will benefit us. When our passions are more urgent than our longing for God’s purpose — self-entitled requests are unending.
Unchecked desires always lead to quarrels and disputes.
The delay to the answers we want may be an invitation for us to remember: Our conflict has more to do with us than others.
Are you conflicted and tired of 24/7 disputes? Would a little tranquility be a relief? Allow the words of Isaiah to remind you of your source of peace:
“You [LORD] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you -- because he trusts in you.” - Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
Fear is one of the most significant obstacles we face in our spiritual journey. If you need more direction and guidance on managing anxiety, my book, The Five Barriers to Freedom, is a great resource.