What is More Miserable Than Conflict?

By | May 23, 2013

miserableRelational conflict… I think of tempers flaring, an argument brewing, and the peace disturbed.  What on earth can be worse than conflict?

My Answer: The miseries of sin are worse than relational conflict.  In other words, sin is my enemy, not conflict.  The old but precise language in the Westminster Confession of Faith puts the miseries of sin this way:

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.

Allow me to explain.  Expecting to be rid of conflict in this life is not a reasonable or achievable goal.  Conflicts are to be an expected part of life in a fallen and broken world.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake.”  If you call yourself a Christian, trials and persecutions will come.  And we should count it all joy when they do!  By implication then, we don’t live our lives seeking to be rid of all conflict.  (Otherwise, friendships and marriage would be too risky and messy to enter into!)

On the other hand, sin is something we should desire to be rid of for our own good and more importantly, to glorify God.  As John Owen put it, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  You see, sin is what destroys lives and relationships.  It is what separates us from God and alienates us from each other.  We may see it when a man’s lust for pornography destroys his marriage, but do we really understand that much of our own suffering is from our own sin?

Another way to understand the interplay of misery in conflict and the misery of sin, is to understand that “[a]ll misery, including most pain, is the result of sin, but not all pain is the result of our own sin.”  (Quote from Lou Priolo.)  While we can’t escape the impact of other people’s sin in this world, God does hold us responsible for our own sin.  We can escape the misery of our own sin to some degree through repentance and turning from our sin.

In , David declares that when he had unconfessed sin in his life, his bones wasted away and he groaned all day long.  Day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him and his strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

In contrast, when David acknowledged his sin to God and did not cover his iniquity, God forgave the iniquity of his sin and David was blessed.  This blessedness is something we can enjoy even in conflicted situations.  Having experienced God’s forgiveness, David calls all of us to repentance.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. …..

Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah (, ESV)

In other words, we should rather be rid of sin, than be rid of conflict.  David experienced the peace of God in the midst of conflict.  God was his hiding place and preserved and delivered him from trouble.  While God can’t tolerate the presence of sin, you can be in relational conflict and know God’s presence and peace.  In fact, God often uses trials and conflicts to show us that he is near.  In times of conflict, we rejoice in the Lord, not in our situation.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – (, ESV)

We rejoice because the Lord is faithful and near to us.  In Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin.  We are freed from the penalty and power of sin.  We are being freed from the presence of sin.  We rejoice because we recognize the opportunity before us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (.)  The next time we face conflict, let us remember that sin is our great enemy and that conflict can be endured with joy and patience because we serve a forgiving and faithful God.

photo credit: purplemattfish via photopin cc


32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (ESV)


32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:6-7

32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:6-7

Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah (ESV)


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)


14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (ESV)