By Neil Evans
What is it with families? We are all born into families. Anyone you speak to will have a story of strife and conflict in a family. There is always some offence caused (either imagined or real ), a diversion of choice leading to behaviour that upsets family members, or some other matter resulting in strife.
It may be something that has arisen from mental health issues. It may be the result of parents splitting up and children having to take sides or being poisoned against the absent parent. Whatever the cause of such conflict, the result is New Zealand families are suffering.
When conflict occurs in families we should not let this catch us by surprise as though it was unusual. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Once sin entered into the world we see in Genesis alone all kinds of family conflicts. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and Canaan, Abram and Sarai (implied when Abram told Pharaoh she was his sister in Genesis 12), Abram and Lot, Lot and his daughters, Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Joseph and his brothers to name the main examples.
All kinds of reasons brought about the conflicts – pride, jealousy, drunkenness, lack of faith in God, greed and fear to name a few.
Family is important to God so it would seem that this entity would be a natural place for the devil to attack.
Again in 1 Peter, we see a strategy for dealing with family strife. 1 Peter 5:6-8 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith.”
I see this strategy unfolding in the following way:
1. Be humble. Have I caused offence? Am I the reason? Take a good look at yourself and try and get the log out of your own eye.
2. If you don’t understand why you are the subject of the conflict and this is causing you grief then cast your anxiety on God.
3. Be self controlled. Resist the urge to up the ante and wind the conflict up a few notches.
4. Resist the devil. Pray and stand firm.
I am encouraged greatly by the story of Joseph. He did not know why he got into so much trouble – sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, false imprisonment – yet only at the end did God reveal his purpose. In Genesis 50:19 he says, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Family conflict is unpleasant and often undeserved. Trust God and stand firm in your faith.
• Neil Evans is CEO of Resolve, a Christian service for disputes resolution. See www.resolve.org.nz.