The War Within over Conflicting Obligations

I have felt torn for a while between two conflicting spiritual obligations. In the last two weeks, this particular conflict has reconciled, and today I am meditating on both the struggle and God’s reconciliation of it. Have you ever felt torn between obedience to two conflicting Biblical obligations? What should we do when Scripture gives two sets of instructions that seem to tug us in opposite directions? The answer for me wasn’t particularly profound or unusual, yet it was counterintuitive to the way my gut was calling me to act.

My gut wanted me to figure it out. The Christian walk shouldn’t be so complicated, I thought. It didn’t feel fair that I was in that situation, and I wanted to take the bull by the horns and wrestle this problem to the ground. But such bulls don’t wrestle to the ground easily, and my attempts in the past to take such bulls by the horns usually just ended up creating new bulls, bigger than the old ones.

Also, I have long since learned it’s not helpful to ask others for advice. Actually, that’s not completely fair. I do have several friends who give me the most needed peer pressure – to endure for the long haul without giving up hope for someone. But more often, when I share such a burden, people just want to fix it, and they pressure me to fix it too. They pressure me toward the obligation THEY think is more important, often not recognizing that BOTH obligations are important. I find that type of pressure about as palpable as fingernails on a chalkboard. Actually, I prefer the fingernails.

I find conflicts between mutually important spiritual obligations to be very frustrating. But I have learned (the hard way) the importance of taking these type of frustrations straight to God in prayer. So I prayed. “God, Your Word instructs me to do THIS. And Your Word instructs me to do THAT. But THIS conflicts with THAT, and I can’t figure out for the life of me how to obey both. So what do you want me to do?!” And then I waited. Then I prayed it again. Then I waited. Then I prayed it again. Then I waited … 

You get the picture. Thinking about it didn’t help. I’d try to forget for a while, but the unresolved conflict kept popping back up in my mind. However, true to His word, God ministered a weird peace to me. I call it weird, because as the verse says, it defies our ability to understand it.

Phil. 4:6-7  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.

His peace guarded my heart and kept me from foolish choices. Foolish choices are those choices I make in an attempt to work things out myself because waiting seems too hard. As God guarded my heart, He whispered in my head reminders that He was sovereign and this was His responsibility to resolve, not mine. He is God. I am not.

After some amount of time, I realized there were no bulls to take by the horns and wrestle to the ground anymore. They just evaporated. I looked up one day and realized that while I had been bracing for months against this perceived problem, it had at some point simply dissolved in the mist. God did that, not me. If I had tried to wrestle the problem to the ground and figure it out on my own, there would have been serious casualties. God said wait, and He worked it out in His good time.

My favorite word used to describe our God in Scripture is inscrutable. He’s mysterious. He’s enigmatic. He can’t be figured out. But He is trustworthy and compassionate. And He’s sovereign. All those traits come together into this one amazing Person. The older I get, the more I realize that at crazy moments of conflict that I can’t figure out on my own, I have an option—to stop, turn to God, and stare in His face, waiting on Him, not me, to move. He welcomes such a stance, and He is trustworthy in those moments. To the praise of His glorious grace.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

8 Responses to The War Within over Conflicting Obligations

  1. Ruth in NZ November 15, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Thank you for this reminder that so many things are not our responsibility but God's. His answers are always so much better than any I come up with. Thanks for testifying to His faithfulness today.

  2. Kristin Conniff November 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Thank you, Wendy, for the peace-giving reminder of Phil 4:6-7. May I remember to simply wait. I like to fix things!! I am praising God for his all-sufficient care.

  3. Anonymous November 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    thank you.

    For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. Isa 64:4

  4. Angela November 15, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    This is an important reminder to me today. Thank you for sharing it. What a great reminder to pray and let God work rather than always trying to work it out ourselves. Why is it that we'd always rather try to handle things ourselves than trust God?? Off to pray now about a specific situation I've been wrestling with.

  5. Anonymous November 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Love, Love, Love…Thank you, Wendy!

  6. Anonymous November 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Thank you for articulating this so well, Wendy. My Life-group is just finishing “By His Wounds We are Healed” and this is what we saw as we did the lesson on prayer as part of the armor! This post was a summarization of that lesson and what we learned. It is truth that is sometimes hard to follow but so good! I have to train my heart to trust God instead of fix problems.
    Thanks again!
    Wanda in Nebraska

  7. Felicia Strange November 19, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Wendy, I am taking this right to heart and prayer regarding my seeming conflicts regarding His Biblical guidance. Thank you for spelling it out so clearly…just the way I like it to get motivated in applying it right away. It worked for you based on the truth of Scripture and I know it will work for me!

  8. Seda November 20, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    This is incredibly helpful, and timely. I am the sort of person who needs to wrestle the bull to the ground — right away. Your illustration is so true, I would just create a bigger bull!
    But your words remind me once again to wait upon the Lord, in repentance and rest, in quietness and trust (Isa 30:15).
    Thank you.