War. Conflict. Frustration. Nations battling nations and individuals full of disappointment and struggle. Next Wednesday night in our Bible study, I will be talking about James 4:1-10, which is one of those passages in Scripture that looks into my heart and reveals the mess that is often there. It is both convicting and hope-giving at the same time. It tells us that the conflict and frustration in our lives come from the desires that battle within us. We want something and when we do not get it, we get angry. We become friends with the world and we want what the world values instead of wanting God and what He has for us. So, we take matters into our own hands and try to get what we want our own way. When it doesn’t work, we become violent or manipulative or we sulk and throw pity parties, which is just a passive-aggressive way of trying to get what we want.
All of this comes from seeing life as our own and from exalting ourselves instead of going to God. C.S. Lewis in, The Screwtape Letters, gives an interesting perspective on what the Devil wants us to do when he portrays the demon Screwtape giving advice to his nephew demon on how to control and tempt humans:
Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that throw him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own.’ Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.
Perhaps our frustration and conflict come from wanting what we want and trying to get our own desires met our own way instead of being open to what God is actually doing and trying to bring into our lives? What if we received from God by faith instead of grasping for the life that we always wanted? What if our moments and our days were led by God’s Spirit instead of our own selfishness?
I am talking to myself right now. If listening in benefits you, then I am glad. But otherwise, I recognize my own selfishness here. Now, to do something about it.