Strife—An Epidemic that Can Kill US
By Sandra Godfrey
…conflict, friction, discord, disagreement, dissension, dispute, argument, quarreling, wrangling, bickering, controversy…*
I love football. Every fall my husband and I cheer our favorite teams to victory. So, we felt dismayed over the NFL protests and the resulting boycotts. The situation reminded me that the most painful years of my life came in my twenties when my friends and I became entangled in strife.
A young mother, I had dived in to help my husband minister to our small congregation. After a brief honeymoon period with our parishioners, however, we noticed that some people found fault with just about everything we did—the bulletin, the music, the youth, the choir….
Pastors call such churches clergy killers: rather than helping the sick, the lost, and the lonely, pastors spend much of their time dealing with fault finders and arsonists. Some pastors grow so weary of the heat, they leave the ministry.
But, thinking myself wiser than my age, foolishly I got entangled in the controversy. I gave my two cents worth on sensitive issues, people disagreed (I should have gone to seminary) and I lost my way.
Like a wrestling match where wrestlers stir emotions and pump adrenalin, for a while I reveled in the rivalry. Believing myself a superhero, leading others to higher ground, I allowed my phone to ring constantly, giving advice.
During those few years, I had a miscarriage, grieved the death of a 21 day-old preemie, the death of my brother in a vehicular accident. My husband had a freak accident, lost control of his car, hit a tree and fractured his back. It was the most pain-filled short span of my whole life.
Then one day I found a golden key in scripture. I halted at James 3:16, a verse that said, “Where there is envy and strife, there is every evil work.” Shaking this deadly spiritual snake from my hands, I wondered if strife might be contributing to my pain and loss? I was ready to give it up.
Many things bring disaster in life without explanation. Bad things happen to good people. But, I was discovering, that people who constantly argue, bicker, grumble, gossip and complain need to beware. Strife kicks holes in their hedge of protection.
The story of Job gives us a clue. God had put a hedge of protection around Job, his family and everything Job had. In Job’s culture, the hedge was a wall of thorn bushes planted around one’s property. The hedge was high enough and thick enough to keep the sheep safe inside. It was also dense and strong enough to keep bears, wolves, lions, and hyenas out. Satan could not touch Job while God hedged him in. https://www.gotquestions.org/hedge-of-protection.html
Sometimes I hear people question if God is sending judgement on our country with all our recent disasters. It could be. God allowed Satan to severely wound Job to prove his loyalty to God. Scripture also suggests, however, that strife “…opens the doors to every evil work.” Sometimes we bring calamity on ourselves.
What Does Strife Look Like?
Paul painted a picture of strife in Romans 1:29 by describing people “….filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice…They are gossips.”
Paul further wrote “…if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Galatians 5:15.
Solomon, an expert on the subject, explained in Proverbs 13:9-10 “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”
Music for the Soul
One of my favorite hymns is “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” Henry J. van Dyke set his famous words to Beethoven’s Hymn of Joy in 1907. The last verse admonishes us to be victor’s in the midst of strife:
Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.
We can win against strife by
- Occupying our minds with wholesome thoughts and our bodies with meaningful work.
- We can intentionally absorb God’s word, memorize scriptures, and be faithful in worship.
- We can quietly sing the great songs of the church–cliff notes of scripture.
- Most of all we can control our tongues and take the high road, preferring paths that lead to peace.
Should we never champion a cause?
Of course we should. But when we speak for righteousness sake, first, we must seek God for guidance. Then, if so led, we must speak His truths with kindness and love.
We’ve tried the rhetoric, the marching, the badmouthing. Why don’t we try boycotting strife, turn the other cheek, work to live in peace with one another, and see what happens?