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As I consider the conflict that seems to be a daily part of life in 2020, I can identify with the Psalm writer who wanted to escape what was going on. He wrote:
And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.” (Psalm 55.6-8)
Since we don’t have wings like a dove, we have to find God’s way to deal with the raging tempest that swirls around us. As we think about conflict, whether it is within our own inner selves, our households, our work places, or in the world, the Book of James has insight for us.
James 4.1-3 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Selfish pleasures that are in conflict within every person are the source of every quarrel and fight. My friends who are working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous frequently tell me that being self-centered is one of the major causes of their addiction. Let’s look at the AA literature for a moment to get some insight into the conflict that comes from the oppressive need to always please ourselves.
Have you ever thought, “if the rest of the world would only behave,” I wouldn’t have to be like the dove and fly away from the tempest of today?
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous asks the above question and gives an answer to it. It says, “Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.” (The Big Book of AA, Page 62)
People who work the program of AA are encouraged to have a daily meditation. All of us would do well to meditate on today’s passage from James and the AA thoughts above. We could ask ourselves these questions.
— How does the oppressive desire to always get my own way cause me to be in conflict with myself and others?
— Which is it – fear, self-delusion, self-seeking or self-pity – that primarily raises the tempest in my inner self, spilling over to my relations with others?
— What decisions have I made in the past that have placed me in a position to be hurt and to hurt others?
People who use a program of Alcoholics Anonymous realize that they must be honest with themselves. That is true of everyone, who wants to gain victory over their own selfish desires. Once again, the Big Book has excellent insight at this point.
“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!
“God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.” (The Big Book of AA, Page 62)
Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8.35). How many of us are losing our lives – our inner peace, family joy, positive work relations, and more – because we are continually attempting to “save” our own selfish-life?
AA learned well from Jesus that the answer is in losing ourselves in something bigger than our own selfish pleasures. The Book of Mark is called a “Gospel,” because it is a “good news” book. The good news is that God is ready to help us gain victory over our self-centered lives.
The writers of the Big Book explain how they accomplished getting free from a lifestyle that is consumed with self-pleasure and self-seeking.
“This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.” (The Big Book of AA, Page 62)
Prayers that God Grants
Are you like me? Are you tired the oppressive need to always get your own way and the inner conflict and trouble with other people that it produces? Please experiment with the following prayer and see what God in your life.
“Dear God, I am tired of being the actor, director and stage manager of my life. I surrender all of those roles and accept you as the Director. Please arrange the setting of my life however you best see fit.
“God, I like to think that I am the ‘boss’ of my life and that I know exactly what I want and need. I surrender my right to be right to you. Please be the ‘Boss,’ of my life. I declare today that I work for you.
“God, I am like a little child, that is self-centered and easily deceived. I surrender to you, loving and powerful Father, because you know what is best for me. Amen.”
I encourage you to pray this prayer or something similar to it. I believe that God will be happy to respond to your prayer. After all, James wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4.2).
The kind of prayer that I have suggested is not the kind of self-seeking and willful prayer that James discourages. God will respond to this prayer and will help you conquer the obsession to always get your own way. A by-product of getting free from a self-centered lifestyle will be less inner conflict and less conflict with the people around you.