It’s inevitable. Conflict will happen. The question is: will you let conflict sink you? If there’s one mistake we make when leading change, its pretending conflict doesn’t exist. We’d like to think we don’t avoid conflict, but more often than not, we don’t address it. Instead, we make a big deal out of the small stuff and ignore the awkward situations.
Here’s how I understand conflict, and how I’ve attempted to navigate them:
When I see a rainbow, I’m amazed each time. How could something so beautiful come from reflecting light through rain drops? Basic science collides with breath-taking wonder. In recent years, the rainbow has been connected with the LGBTQ community. It is certainly the symbol of gay pride and celebration. The rainbow, however, has deep roots and we can’t forget where it all started.
In a world where our sexuality is a focal point, it’s not surprising that understanding sexual struggles (and sometimes resulting sin) can be problematic. It shouldn’t really be surprising — the Church and culture speak different languages. The key is understanding why and how to humbly move forward in grace and truth.
One of the biggest problems within the Church is that we may not fully understand the difference between temptation (or struggle) and sin. On the other hand, we seem to be quite good at categorizing our struggles. For example, any sexual struggle is said to be a bigger issue than any other struggle. There even seems to be bigger and lesser struggles within sexual struggles.
Paul made a point to speak of the significance of sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18), but that significance isn’t really about being lesser or greater, rather how sacred our bodies are. The Church in Corinth clearly didn’t understand that significance.
In order to understand and respond to sexual struggles, we have to understand some fundamental concepts. Here are five things the Church must remember:
Is God’s grace really enough? In life’s most painful moments, can grace really make a difference? Paul shared how God’s grace impacted his pain. We can experience the same grace, no matter how painful our pain is. Telsie shared (19:28) this past week at Bethel – of how God’s grace has impacted her as well.
We inherently know that God’s grace is enough. So why do we sometimes wonder about God’s response to our pain?
Paul’s Story of Pain…
Paul experienced “visions and revelations of the Lord,” but didn’t consider himself holier than others because of these experiences (2 Corinthians 12:1, 6). In fact, he understood that he experienced pain (a “thorn in his flesh”) to stop him “from becoming conceited” (12:7). His pain was a reminder that he wasn’t greater than others.
Just like two patients in the emergency room dealing with the same issue may rate their pain differently on a scale from 1-10, we all experience our “thorn in the flesh” differently. If we knew what Paul experienced, we would be tempted to compare his pain with our own. I’m glad we can’t compare ourselves with Paul’s pain; we all have a unique story of pain.
God’s response to pain…
For a moment, think of your pain (your “thorn in the flesh”). I’m sure you’ve done what Paul did and pleaded before God to remove it. But what happens when God says the pain isn’t going away? This was God’s response to Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In the moments of our pain, no matter what that pain is, God’s response is that his grace is enough. God is indeed able to provide healing. It may be now or later, or it may be never. Either way, his grace is sufficient in this very moment.
For the last number of years, Telsie has struggled with the pain of losing her son to suicide. With baggage from past life experiences, Telsie had no choice, but start trusting in God’s grace to bring her through. She allowed her weakness to be her strength in Christ.
Part of Telsie’s story (19:28), along with a sermon on Paul’s struggle can be found here:
How have you processed your pain? Have you experienced God’s grace and strength during a painful experience?