Growing through conflict: #2 Discern your internal triggers

Every conflict reveals something about your identity.
A conflict can be like a mirror for your soul–if you take the time to look.

What was it about this conflict that made you angry (or hurt, etc.)? The typical response isn’t good enough: “Anyone would get angry at this!” And here’s why: when we rush past examination to arrive at justification, we miss learning critical personal insights.

It’s difficult to go beneath the surface and examine our motives. First, this isn’t something we normally do, it’s much easier to simply respond or react. But we are more than animals, we don’t have to be driven only by instinct! Second, our motives are often mixed and can even contradictory. Sometimes we love a thing, and later we hate it. Sometimes both love and hate the same thing. Other times we love two things that are mutually exclusive. To gain greater insight about your internal triggers, consider the following:

 

  • Assumptions: What expectations did I bring into this conflict?
  • History: Did I have any grudges or unfinished business from the past?
  • External factors: Did anything from “outside” the conflict make things worse?

 

Read and reflect on Psalm 19:12.

 

Growing through conflict: #1 Identify the basic facts

Conflicts come in all shapes and sizes. They are rational and emotional and the most difficult ones are personal. It’s tough to think clearly when we’ve been hurt, offended, angered, etc. (chose your own description, I don’t want to put you in a box!). Everyone has blindspots, and these seem to grow when we feel attacked.

To grow through conflict, the first step is to identify the basic facts of the situation. This can lead to greater perspective and objectivity. Feelings are important, but you’ll examine those after looking at the surface details. Ask yourself:

  • Who was involved? Who saw what happened?
  • What happened—what was done and said? Create an order of events that reflect the causes and effects.
  • When and where did this take place? How did the time and place impact the conflict?

Read and reflect on Psalm 4:4.

 

Bible Study: Psalm 23

One of our small groups recently used the Psalms Bible study (download here for free) and decided to also study Psalm 23. I wrote the following to help guide their personal reflection and group discussion.

 

Psalm 23

The twenty-third Psalm is a classic! The imagery is simple, yet powerful and profound. It is easy to read for the first time, yet the psalm’s depth allows for a lifetime of reading and reflection without ever running dry. This psalm is a well the soul can return to time after time, secure in the promise of renewal.

Begin with prayer, thanking God for his goodness and blessings. Confess your sins and ask him to make your heart pure. Beg for wisdom and cultivated an open heart so that he might draw you closer to him.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Table — In the original usage, this referred to a leather mat spread on the ground upon which food was placed.

Rod and Staff— “Palestinian shepherd normally carried two implements, a club (or rod) to fend off wild beasts and a crook (or staff) to guide and control the sheep.” (Craigie, P. C. (2004). Psalms 1–50 (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 207).)

Anoint—Literally, “make fat” with oil. The imagery of excess is paralleled with the cup that is overflowing. In the Bible, an anointing was special, signifying that the person (or object) was chosen and set aside for a purpose.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

After reading this Psalm, what was personally encouraging, inspiring, or uplifting? What new insight, lesson, or teaching did you learn? Did this psalm raise any questions or confusion for you? If so, what are they?

According to this psalm, what specifically does it mean for the Lord to be a Shepherd? What actions and promises does the shepherd make?

In our world, who or what can take the place of the Lord as our Shepherd? What are some common things people follow and trust?

Expressing a deep sense of contentment, the Psalmist says, “I lack nothing” (NIV). In your opinion, how did he win the battle against greed and envy? Why is contentment so difficult for people to attain?

What does it mean, the a the Shepherd acts “for his name’s sake?”

The Shepherd leads the psalmist to “green pastures” and “darkest valleys.” How can it be both? In your opinion, why isn’t it only green pastures and quiet waters?

Share a definition of fear. What are some common things many people fear? In your opinion, why is fear so powerful? According to this psalm, what is the antidote to fear?

How does verse 6 describe the life and after-life for those under the care of the shepherd?

In your own life, what do you need most from the Shepherd?

  • To be content
  • To be led
  • To be refreshed
  • To be free from fear
  • Something else?

Summarize, in your own words, the significance of this psalm in a single sentence.

Respond to the following summary, what changes would you make?
“No matter what is happening in our lives, we can find contentment and comfort from the presence and promises of the Shepherd.”

The Infinite Value of the Psalms

I LOVE the Psalms, but…I didn’t always love them.

To be honest: when I was a younger Christian, I thought the Psalms were a waste of space. Harsh And horrible thinking, I know. How could a person claim to love scripture (which I did), but not like the largest book in the Bible? Theologically, this amounts to believing that God didn’t know what he was doing when the Holy Spirit inspired the Psalms. Older Christians would often speak of the Psalms with a special reverence, and for the longest time, I just didn’t get what all the hype was about.

My shame runs even deeper—even after I had read through the entire book of Psalms a few times, I still wasn’t convinced of their importance. Two or three times a year, I’d get a strong impression that I needed to read/study/pray some of the Psalms. Occasionally, I’d ignore this desire, and I ended up with some pretty fruitless quiet times…so it was with reluctance that I would return to the Psalms, and God would bless my time with him—but my heart was still too hard to love the Psalms like other believers do.

Over time, this changed. There wasn’t a single moment where God changed my entire attitude over night. I wish there was, it would make for a better story! Instead, for me, it was a gradual process where I began to develop a deep love and appreciation for the Psalms.

The Psalms stand as one of the most unique books among the collection of already unique books that make up the Bible. It’s the biggest book, by far. It’s quoted more than any other book of the Bible. Although I couldn’t prove it, I bet it’s the most read.

I think the most interesting thing about this book is its dual nature. The Psalms are holy Scripture, and this means it’s God’s Word to people. As songs and prayer they are also our words to God. When you or I read from the Psalms, we are simultaneously listening to God and speaking to him. Weird, I know. The very idea of hearing and speaking at the same time calls for reflection.

If you struggle with your prayer life (I should probably write WHEN you struggle), the Psalms are a great place to turn. Praying the Psalms back to God can be an amazing experience. I often meet people who say, “I don’t know how to pray or what to say.” The solution is the psalms. There are many things in the psalms that are confusing, but human experience is universal. We all feel moments of triumph and moments of pain. We are thankful and joyful and ready to glorify God. And we also feel lonely, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. The Psalms express all of these things—and more.

The book of Psalms is a book about knowing God… talking to him honestly and authentically, listening to him, searching to find out what he’s really like. It’s a book that documents the journeys of different God-seekers by letting us in on their conversations with the Creator. Through their prayers and songs we can follow the well-worn paths they traveled as they discovered greater intimacy with the Father.

THIRST, day 26

Scripture: Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases… (Psalm 103-1-3)

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are worthy of my praise, thank you for your blessings and your presence in my life. Forgive me for the times I praise the things I shouldn’t.

Reflection: Praising God is so much more than singing songs with other believers, it is an attitude of the heart, a posture of the soul. In your life, what distracts and interrupts your praise of God?


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Thirst: 40 days of seeking God through scripture, prayer, and reflection

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:2)

The World offers so much! Unfortunately it takes time and pain to discern its true emptiness. We are promised satisfaction and fulfillment, instead we are handed momentary distraction and self-deception. Even the best this world has to offer never satisfies the needs of our soul. Many of us have recognized a deep longing for something more: God’s presence, the power of his Spirit, and the guidance of his Word.

The idea behind THIRST is simple: each day will have a single verse, a simple prayer, and a thought for reflection. My encouragement and prayer for you is that you would Go and Meet God, his Son is the Living Water which ends our deep thirst.

Choosing contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

What’s the opposite of being content? What effect does the lack of contentment have on a person’s soul? According to scripture, it is a great loss.

I have seen both the rich and the poor have problems being content. Contentment is obviously not a matter of spending power, nor how much we own.

True contentment comes only when we become more like God, when we deny ourselves and pursue the unique design he has created for us. This is the pursuit of godliness.

Denying ourselves doesn’t equate to never wanting, because God wants. In fact, his want is so powerful, one of his names is Jealous. What kind of jealously can possibly be good? For God, he’s wanting that which rightfully belongs to him–our hearts–and he doesn’t want our hearts to be divided.

When we want the things that God has given and provided. When we shape our delight to find first joy in God, our other desires become appropriately subordinated. When we seek first the kingdom of God, worrying about lesser concerns won’t consume our attention.

When we want the things we can never have, we become discontent.
When we want the things we can’t yet have, we become discontent.
When we want the things God has provided, we are living in the “great gain” of godliness with contentment.

Contentment is more than satisfaction. Satisfaction says, “I’ll be happy with what I have.” Contentment says, “I’m happy because this is God’s provision in my life.”

BIBLE STUDY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
When do you struggle most with contentment? How has a lack of contentment driven you?
Do you ever feel guilty for the stuff that you do have? Where do you think this guilt comes from? What needs to change?
Make a list of ten things for which you are thankful to God for.