Break Free from a Cycle of Mother-Daughter Conflict
- Thursday, January 19, 2006
Let’s begin by reading James 4:1-2: "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."
Dad points out three truths:
1. Conflict is worse than we think.
2. Conflict is simpler than we think.
3. Conflict is easier to resolve than we think.
Let’s start with the bad news: Conflict is worse than we think. I doubt that many of us consider our mother-daughter conflict to be as serious as it really is. For example, have you ever employed one of the following phrases to describe your relationship?
• We just don’t get along.
• We have issues.
• We’re wired differently.
• Our personalities clash.
• We have different preferences.
• We don’t see things the same way.
If we’re honest, I’m sure we’d all have to admit to using phrases such as these to brush aside our disagreements. But God uses stronger terms than "personality clash" or "differing preferences" to depict our conflict. He uses words such as "coveting" and "war" and "murder." Our anger and quarrelling and nasty words are to God as serious as if we were at war with each other. He even compares them to murder. How sobering.
The situation appears even more grim when we realize that our conflict isn’t simply a disagreement between mother and daughter. When we quarrel and fight, we are disobeying God. We are rebelling against His great command to love one another. We are despising His Word that says, "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires" (James 1:20). Only when we agree with God, that our sin against each other is also sin against Him, can we make progress toward resolving our conflicts. And that's key - our goal shouldn't be to avoid conflict altogether, but to resolve it when it occurs.
But though serious, our conflicts are also simpler than we think. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Conflicts can seem complicated. For example, have you ever been smack in the middle of a fight, only to forget what you were mad about in the first place? I certainly have. And sometimes conflict hits you out of nowhere. One minute you’re chatting amicably, and the next thing you know, you’re in a heated argument. What just happened? Then there is the recurring conflict, the one you could set your clock by. You know it’s coming, but you can’t seem to get out of its way. And so it happens over and over and over again.
Scripture exposes conflicts for the simpletons they really are. In answer to the question: "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?" God responds with a rhetorical question of His own: "Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have" (James 4:1-2). Inside the freight train of every conflict is one powerful engine: a sinful desire for something that we want but don’t get. Another word for this sinful desire is a craving. Counselor David Powlison remarks, "Cravings underlie conflicts."3
Conflicts don’t create the problem. They reveal the problem. They expose the sinful cravings lurking in our hearts. When we don’t get what we crave, we quarrel and fight. It’s that simple. And this truth — that cravings underlie conflicts — is the key to resolving even the most complicated mother-daughter disagreements.
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