Devotion #8

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

Conflict exists in marriage. When two people, who carry two different sets of experiences, two sets of values, two sets of priorities, come together to do life, there is going to be conflict. It’s inevitable. Each person comes into the marriage with their own set of beliefs on how to manage finances or how to raise children, each come with an idea of what constitutes downtime or with their own definition of comfort and security, each person with their own interpretation of love and respect. You can try to line those values up when you’re courting, but the reality is you won’t really know every response until you’re in a situation that pushes on a particular belief. When you choose to do life with another person, you will encounter situations that press down on all different parts of your heart, even those hidden parts, and there are bound to be conflicting responses.

The conflict isn’t the problem in marriage. Conflicts happen, and they are a natural part of doing life in close proximity to another person. How we respond to the conflict is where the problem can be found – this is where the challenge exists; this is where the struggle happens; this is what reveals our heart.

1 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

James explains that it is the desires within our hearts that cause the quarrels between us – not the outside forces, my friends. The battle is within ourselves. The desire for security, love, respect can all battle within us for a seat on the throne of our hearts. We place such importance on those things that they become our idols.

Our passions are at war within us. In other words, what we want is constantly trying to rise to the surface. Even when we know we should be placing the needs of the other person over our own, the desire for what we want fights to make it on top. The internal conflict we experience heightens our insecurity and causes us to take extreme measures in our relationship with others. We become protective of these passions and will fight to keep them alive. Each of us has these deep desires and conflicts within ourselves, and when we interact with others in relationship, these passions and conflicts at war within our own hearts bump into each other. Our expectations are not met when the other person doesn’t place a priority on our desires, and the tension grows.

Try as we might to point our fingers to a person or a situation in our struggles, the Bible is quite clear about where the problem exists. We all suffer from the same terminal disease – no one has escaped it. We can try to fool ourselves or justify our actions, we can become masters at blaming others for our struggles, but it doesn’t take away the truth. There is simply no denying the hard to accept, but crystal clear message of the Bible: we are our biggest problem.

Rather than look inward at the root of the problem, we try to fix the problem at the surface. Sometimes we think we can fix the problem by going after the person that’s causing the problem, or perhaps changing the situation that we think is the core of our struggle. If I end this marriage, my problems will go away. Sometimes we think we can solve the problem by going after the behaviors in us that need to change. We recognize the problem in us, so we resolve to be more loving, more kind. All that striving will never resolve the real issue – it may cover it up for a while, but we will eventually become exhausted and frustrated from dancing around the issue. That exhaustion and frustration will lead us to one of two places – anger and bitterness, or fear and despair. Either way, we won’t find freedom.

There is one place to find freedom from our struggles, and His name is Jesus. He can help us to see our hearts as He sees them, and release the sin we have stored in there. Keep the blame off of your spouse this week, and humble yourself in front of the Lord. Ask Him to reveal the passions that you hide so deep in your heart, and you will find freedom from the conflicts.

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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