Some of the greatest joys you will ever experience during your time on this planet will be in a relationship. Yet some of the greatest sorrows and the greatest pain you will ever experience in your life will also be in a relationship.
Ever wonder why it is so difficult to have – and keep – loving relationships? Why do we fight so often with those we love?
James, Jesus’ half-brother, addresses this issue in his very first letter to the early church. During that time, there were lots of quarrels and fights and wars going on within the church.
In chapter 4, he writes: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (James 4:1-2)
The reason that we have dysfunctional conflict in our relationships is penetratingly simple and very painful: The root cause is self-gratification – the “desires that battle within” us.
On some level, we all have the tendency to say in our hearts, “I want my way!” When it comes down to it, getting what we want becomes the most important thing. At times, we will try to achieve pleasure, fun and sensual fulfillment at all costs.
I’ve seen this time and time again. I’ve seen brothers and sisters arguing over menial, miniscule, and crazy issues to the point that even if they live in the same city, they don’t talk or visit. I have watched people who seem to really love God and really love each other attack one another in ways that have astounded me.
There is something in our human hearts that wants our own way. It’s the problem in our marriages. It’s the problem with our boyfriends or girlfriends. It’s the problem with our kids. It’s the problem with our co-workers, and it’s the problem with fellow Christians. We can mask it a dozen different ways, but at the end of the day, it’s my selfishness and your selfishness that is at the core of every relational conflict.
Our problem isn’t that we have desires. It’s that we’re trying to fulfill them apart from God.
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (v. 2-3)
Deep down, we believe: I don’t need God … I need a great education. I don’t need God … I need money. I don’t need God … I need a great body. I don’t need God … I need great sex. I don’t need God … I need a big house. In fact, I need another house … I need a remodeled house.
In response, James writes: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (v.4)
When we try to fulfill our inner longing for fulfillment, significance, and happiness by pursuing sensual pleasures, we unknowingly and naïvely shift positions in our relationship with God.
Instead of being a son or daughter who is dependent on our Father who wants to bless and help us and give us the deepest joy, we actually become an “enemy of God.”
So what’s the solution?
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (v.7-8, 10)
God promises that when we humble ourselves, He will heal our relationships.
It’s always God’s desire to heal the relationship with a brother or sister, with an ex-mate, with a mom or a dad, with a spouse, with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or with a supervisor at work.
So what about you? Where are you at with your relationships? Where are the conflicts in your life? Where is the frustration within? Where is the lack of satisfaction?
What are you trusting to deliver – the world or God?
Remember, God is not down on you. He wants to lift you up. He wants to bring peace to your heart. He wants to connect you with the most important relationships in your life. But He wants you to be walking in love with Him, first and foremost. And then all these other things, He will add to you.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip