Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

What Causes Conflicts? (It’s Not What We Think)

A conflict erupts

You’ve packed the car and are ready to head to the beach.

But — your wife is still in the house getting ready.

And there you sit.  Waiting.  Fuming.

And so — when she finally comes out — there’s a conflict.

What causes conflict?

You think the answer is obvious — the cause is your wife — she’s taking too long.

But James — writing Holy Scripture — disagrees.

He says the cause is not your wife.  The cause is you

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”  (James 4:1)

The cause is you — your passions that are warring within you.

What are warring passions?

When James talks about warring passions he’s talking about frustration over unfulfilled desires.

You can see that in the next verse —

“You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”  (James 4:2)

Desiring and not having — coveting and not obtaining — that’s frustration over unfulfilled desires.

So the cause of the quarrel is not your wife.  It’s your frustration over your unfulfilled desire to leave for the beach.

But James doesn’t stop there

He probes deeper — and explains why you feel frustrated over your unfulfilled desire.

“You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Why do you not have peace?  Why the frustration?

It’s because you have not brought that desire to God in prayer.

If you had brought that desire to God in prayer — trusting God for His timing, asking God to satisfy you in Himself — He would have —

  • changed your heart;
  • satisfied you in Himself;
  • removed the frustration.

“I prayed — and I’m still frustrated!”

But James knows that sometimes we pray and are still frustrated.

So in the next verse he explains why —

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

Asking wrongly means focusing prayer only on my passions — on my unfulfilled desires.

Something like “God, have my wife hurry!”  or “Please get her out here so we can leave!”

If that’s the focus of our prayer — our hearts will stay frustrated.

God-centered prayer

So what should I pray for?

James says there’s something God can give that will satisfy you far more than being able to leave for the beach —

“But he gives more grace … God gives grace to the humble … Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:6,8)

When you make God Himself the focus of your prayer — when you humble yourself before Him and draw near to Him — He will give you the grace of His nearness.

And His nearness will fully satisfy you — even while you sit in the driveway waiting for your wife.

But that will only happen if our prayer is centered on God.

But James is not finished

He’s helped us see that conflicts are caused by our frustration over unfulfilled desires.

And — that frustration over unfulfilled desires is caused by our lack of God-centered prayer — we’re not bringing our desires to God so He can satisfy us in Himself.

But he also wants us to see why we lack God-centered prayer —

“You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4)

If I am frustrated over an unfulfilled desire — and am not bringing it to God with prayer centered on Him — that shows I am relying on something else to satisfy me more than God.

Which makes me adulterous.  And — unless something changes — I will become God’s enemy.

Why?  Because God’s burning passion is to satisfy me in Himself —

“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?'” (James 4:5)

If God’s burning passion is to satisfy me fully in Himself — and I turn my back on Him to pursue another — then I am opposing God’s burning passion.

Which — unless something changes — makes me His enemy.

So what can I do?

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”  (James 4:8-10)

Turn to Jesus as you are.

Confess that you have been seeking your heart-satisfaction in something other than God.

Ask Him to forgive you through His death on the Cross.

Ask Him to change your heart.

And draw near to God — by setting your heart on the truth of God’s Word — by beholding Jesus Christ in His glory — by resting in His promises.

When you do that — He will draw near to you.

You will feel His all-satisfying presence.

Your frustrations will disappear.  Your heart will be full.

Even while you continue to wait for your wife.

Comments?  Feedback?  Pushback?

I’d love to hear — leave a comment below.  Thanks!

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And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —


(Picture is from everystockphoto by kevin marsh.)

Category: Anger, Love, and Forgiveness, Miscellaneous


3 Responses

  1. karen says:

    This was a very good devotional. I have read it before, and now I needed to read it again. I applied it to a situation I am going through. It is hard to honestly pray for God’s will sometimes when you are hurting, but I did anyway and I pray I will keep praying for his will. His way is best.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Karen,

      You are so right, that his way is best. And it’s best, because it will bring us more of the joy of knowing him, which is infinitely greater than any other joy.

      I will pray right now that the Lord Jesus powerfully meets you, strengthens you, and helps you.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Valerie says:

    Just found you while I was searching for what it means to delight myself in God and soon wound up looking at the articles on anger, which I have struggled with greatly.I’m finding them to be very helpful. It’s just starting to sink in that Jesus is the only One who can satisfy me, and that much of my anger comes from the frustration of looking to other people or things or circumstances to satisfy me. Continuing to fight this good fight is my act of worship. Don’t give up, all you brothers and sisters, He is for you in this battle!

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