How important relationships are! More than anything else, good and open relationships have encouraged and motivated me to press on in times of hardship, opposition or ill health. on the other hand, if ever i have wanted to quit and leave, it is because of strained or broken relationships. Relationship problems sap our joy, health and energy; they cause us sleepless nights, headaches and stomach ulcers.

We tend to consider conflict as something negative, and its absence a blessing. But is this a realistic view? After all, it is obvious that some problems are unavoidable and therefore to be expected. Conflict is inherent in human life. In addition, we need to recognise the fact that conflict is not necessarily bad in itself. Conflict is normal, natural and neutral. Our reaction to the conflict determines whether it becomes a positive or a negative force in our lives. Each conflict or crisis presents us with an opportunity to grow and mature.

Physical pain often motivates us to seek medical help. In the same way, emotional pain or conflict can be a motivation for us to seek to change and to learn to relate better to the people around us. It is not in spite of problems and conflicts that we become more mature people, but because of them. The Apostle James exhorts us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverence. Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1: 2-4).

Although there is a potential for growth through conflict we must emphasize that it is not an automatic result of it. Tragically, some people suffer for nothing. There is a choice involved. Each conflict presents an opportunity, but also a risk. Hebrews chapter 12 tells us that we are to submit to our heavenly Father when He allows hardship to discipline us. We have to be trained by this discipline, so that we can reap the benefit of maturity.

Of course, we can refuse to submit; we can rebel against the Trainer and the training; we can choose to react with our natural pattern of reactions and fight circumstances and people. If we do this the conflict will still produce fruit in our lives, but of a negative sort. We will become angry, critical and defeated. Only if we submit to God and learn to react with spiritual responses, will the maturing take place.

A real hindrance to growth is that  we are often not honest about conflict. If we think that Christians should not have difficulties, we tend to deny or conceal our problems. Growth comes by facing conflicts and dealing with them in the right way.


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