When You Can’t Force Conflict Resolution

16 Mar

When You Can't Force Conflict ResolutionWhen there is relational conflict, is waiting a copout?

I would say that sometimes it can be, but there comes a point where we have to realize that even if we’re ready to move forward and heal with someone, we can’t force healing and readiness in others.


I sat across from her pleading with my heart and eyes to offer me a different answer. She could not. She confirmed what I had been hearing from God in my prayer time:


Me: “I want to, but I can’t offer peace in this situation.”

Person offering me counsel: “Why do you think that is?”

Me: “Because I didn’t take it away in the first place. My actions did not cause any of it. They need to seek peace through and with Christ. Until they surrender that, I cannot offer what they seek, and I don’t want to go ahead of what God wants to do in each person’s heart. Besides, I would only screw it up since I do not have His peace to act on this right now.”

Person offering me counsel: “Then that’s your answer. You’ve prayed. You’ve sought godly counsel. You’ve daily surrendered this. You are so right to not go ahead of the LORD. He cannot be rushed.”

And that settled it in my heart—what, in many ways, I already knew:

While the reassurance came from another Christian, I needed to check myself with God. God would not give me peace about something that went against His will. He has led me in peace through some difficult situations when other people jumped off the island, emotionally and sometimes physically.

There is nothing like His peace, truly.

Not every situation can fit inside the exact shape of my particular scenario. I’ve had other relational snafus that played out differently because God guided them another way.

The overall point is:

Sometimes it’s not our move, and when we force movement, it does not end well because we go ahead of God.

Ever have that tension when you just want to intervene and end the disagreement? In some cases, that is the way to go, for sure. If you’ve prayed and God’s peace is on your decision to move forward, then He will be faithful to honor that.

In other cases, like one I am experiencing that has many layers and years behind it, jumping in to something so complex with a “sure, this is over, let’s pretend it didn’t happen” approach doesn’t help any of the characters in the play. It just perpetuates continued patterns of unhealthy interaction and legitimizes ongoing hurtful behavior. It is ultimately unsafe.

In simple terms, conflict that is skated over usually comes back to roar like a beast when it simmers at a low boil for a long time. If that is the case, then how do we know it’s okay to wait a personal/relational conflict out?

We have to be careful. Through the Apostle Paul, God says in His Holy Word:

Ephesians 4:25-27, ESV

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil [emphasis mine].

Clearly, the truth is important, so we are not to pretend there is no conflict, but we are also not to sin against God or the people involved in our anger. The connection between our “simmering” and “giving opportunity to the devil” is crystal clear. The issue here is our posture. We are not to “let the sun go down on our anger,” meaning we are to exercise self-control. If our anger is a problem, we need to get it right with God first.

What beautiful protection God has in place so that we enter conflict resolution from a posture of having submitted our emotions to our Savior!

In some cases, this is a process. On occasions when my cycles of anger return to me, I have to submit them to Christ afresh. But the provision and the promise are there! We are not alone in our emotion!

King David understood this so well! Look where David took his honest anger! He pleaded his case first before the LORD:

Psalm 109:1-5, ESV

Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.

So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

David continued to articulate how the conflict had rattled him. He confessed how it consumed him.

Do you ever feel this way when misunderstandings, assumptions, accusations, and disagreement appear on your radar?

Yeah, me too.

Psalm 109:21-26

But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me, O L
ORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!

And later, as David released His fears, anxiety, hurt, anger, and all extreme emotion to His safe, holy, loving Father and LORD, He simmered down and ended with this:

Psalm 109:30-31

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

What causes us anger may not always be of the magnitude of David’s woes in this Psalm, but he is a fantastic model as to what to do with these hurts.

Going back to Ephesians 4, surely conflicts are not always going to tidy up by nightfall—but our hearts need to get right with God by then. We need to meet with Him before our heads hit pillows. That is the wisdom of Ephesians 4. Otherwise, woe to us going ahead of Him when we haven’t checked our emotions in at the door.

I choose not to simmer in the waiting place. I choose to live my life in positive ways until such time He brings the players back into alignment—if He does. I want to wait on God until peace, healing, and mutual understanding are the goals in every heart involved.

That’s my approach to most conflict, now that I’m “growing up” and learning from my Father in heaven. The truth is: sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes the characters in the conflict simply don’t end up on the same page at all.

What matters is that we submit the healing needed to Christ and let Him take the lead.

Waiting or no waiting, I wouldn’t want to face conflict from any other posture but one under His LORDship.

I pray you find peace giving Him your conflicts, too.


*This blog was first a featured column at Your Tewksbury Today. 

**It has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Worshipful Wednesdays, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Breakthrough Link-UpSaturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).


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5 responses to “When You Can’t Force Conflict Resolution

  1. Alice

    March 18, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing so openly. It can be so hard to heal from conflicts. I think that as Christians we often quickly want a resolution and to find peace, we are often naturally fixers. But sometimes we can’t fix everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      March 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Thanks so much, Ally! Your comments are so encouraging. I agree! Blessings!


  2. Lauren C. Moye

    March 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    I think that a lot of Christians struggle with conflict resolution because they attempt to follow God, but then discover that other person is choosing NOT to follow God in the situation. What should a Christian do then? I think you provided a great answer: you wait. In the meantime, you don’t let bitterness take root in your own heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 4, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Oh, Lauren…thank you so much for this. I just saw it, but it is a soothing balm on my heart. Blessings!


  3. Lindsey | Loving the Wounded Child

    February 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    There is so much wisdom in this post! Thank-you for sharing… It’s exactly what I needed to read today as I wade through a couple of sticky situations. I’ve been hearing “wait” for a while, and this confirmed that I can remain peaceful in the waiting!

    Liked by 1 person


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