Devotion #26

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

Our passions are at war within us.  In other words, the things that we desire the most, those things we are passionate about, become the source of our quarrels and our conflicts. Our passions are those things we are willing to sin to get; they are our idols. James is trying to help us see these idols are the reason we end up in conflict. 

Sometimes those desires can be worldly. For example, many of us desire to be rich or to have material things, some of us long for power or control, still others want to be the envy of their peers or their hearts lust after something forbidden. If something gets in the way of us satisfying those desires, we will go to battle to protect them. If your passion is a sports car, just think about your reaction when your spouse dents the fender in a parking lot or loses a sippy cup under the seat. If your passion is tied to the amount of money in your savings account, how would you respond to your spouse’s recent impulse shopping spree? Your responses are born out of your passions, and can spur a conflict that may last for days. 

Interestingly, though, as often as we fight over worldly things in our marriages, I actually don’t think those conflicts are the most dangerous battles we fight. God has a way of ridding us of those worldly desires by revealing them. When we hang on to them too tightly, He will yank those desires from our grasp and expose them for the idols that they are. Somewhere in our inner being, we know it’s wrong to hold on to these worldly things, so we eventually let them go. 

No, it’s not our desires for worldly things that I think is the most harmful to our marriages; it’s our desire for Godly things that can be the most destructive. Our hearts have a way of hiding those idols. We can subtly turn something that God desires for our lives into a passion, and suddenly we are willing to sin to get it. Our hearts will justify our conflict because our desire is Godly, and the enemy will sneak in to divide and conquer. 

Maybe our desire is to have a Godly spouse, to be respected by those living in our homes, or to have a secure future. Perhaps we want to feel loved, to have meaning in life, or obedient children. Some place a great deal of importance on peace in our homes, our reputation, or our accomplishments. As desires, each of these things are good and pleasing to God. In fact, many of them are God-given desires. At their core, they’re not sinful.

But when we’re in conflict, if we drill down on why we’re so upset, we will find those desires have become our passions. Desires that begin as Godly can turn into idols the minute we deem them as necessary for our happiness. We want those things so desperately, they begin to define who we are. Our desires turn to expectations and then to demands, and suddenly we find ourselves in a difficult conflict over them. 

Since our desire began in a Godly place, we allow it to dictate or justify our wrong behavior. It’s not wrong to want to be respected or to feel loved by your spouse, but it is wrong to demand it or to respond angrily when your expectation is not met. It’s not wrong to desire a secure future, but it is wrong to tear down your spouse when they seemingly put your future at risk. It’s not wrong to desire peace in your home, but it is wrong to issue the “silent treatment” when your spouse interrupts your peace.

Keeping our desires from slipping into expectations is how we keep from quarreling and fighting within our marriages. Take some time to dig down beneath your conflict to uncover your desire, and check that desire for expectations. If you think you have a right to expect your spouse to behave in a certain way, you may have passions at war within you. 

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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