I entered the Colony of Mercy on April 2nd of 2019. It was a Tuesday morning. I was more than ready for a change. During the two weeks prior to that date, my time was spent searching for help. Help, specifically, in overcoming a five-year addiction to heroin. This drug, and any other opiate for that matter, met a need for me. Prior to my counseling experiences at Keswick and my introduction to living life on God’s terms, I thought that need was simply “to get high” or at most to free me of my social anxieties. I was not aware that these addictive behaviors were really covering up deeper-rooted issues. I was also blind to the fact that my decisions to use were, in fact, preventing me from experiencing the blessing of life’s trials. Yes, I said blessing.
James chapter 1 verse 2-4 says, “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Verse twelve of the same chapter states, “12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
These verses in the Bible are difficult for me to read. The connection between trials and joy is not easily made in my head. Trials sound painful. They sound uncomfortable. And they are. That’s why they are called trials and not “fun-als.” So, does that mean that the Holy Spirit speaking through James is telling us that we should consider it joy when we are in pain, uncomfortable, or struggling? Yes. That’s what He is saying.
Consider it all joy when that person at work is annoying you. Consider it all joy when it’s raining outside. Consider it all joy when your cat throws up on the rug. Consider it all joy when you don’t get things “your way.” Why? “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Consider it all joy when your faith is tested. Why? Because how else would you know where your faith lies? If I am only faithful when things are going the way I want them, that reveals that my faith lies in me. If, when the cards are down, I am somehow counting it all joy, that is a good indicator that my faith lies in the Holy, Sovereign, Lord of all.
At this point, you might be saying, “The title of this article has the word ‘conflict’ in it. What does any of this have to do with conflict?” Good question. Well, what is conflict? Conflict is a disagreement. Disagreements most often occur within the realm of personal relationships but conflict can certainly be singular and personal as well. Let me explain.
If one day you go to get into your car and the windshield is cracked, that is a pretty serious conflict. You expected your windshield to be intact without any damage. Your expectation was conflicted when you saw its cracked condition. Some common reactions might be anger, confusion, and frustration but certainly, being joyful doesn’t quickly come to mind. How do we deal with a broken windshield with faith that leads to joy? The same way we deal with any life situation. As Christians, we are advised to run to the Lord in prayer. Prayer helps to center our thoughts and moves our trust from ourselves to God. Next, we weigh the options. Lord, what do I do next? Where do I turn? Who should I call? What is the posture of my heart relative to my windshield? After these questions are answered and the problem is dealt with, the learning that comes from dealing with this conflict is priceless. Really, the process is priceless.
The same can be said for relational disputes. When two or more people work through a disagreement, the reward is, at the very least, twofold. When we truly take the time to consider the people around us, especially those we have a conflict with, the differences in belief, behavior, ideology, just to name a few, cease to be the focus. This gives way to understanding and compassion. The opportunity for depth of relationship arises and walls are torn down.
I began by telling you about how the Colony helped me out of my addiction to heroin. If the benefit of the program ended there it would have been more than enough. I had no idea that my Colony experience would be so much more than that. Being sober and dealing with life on life’s terms is not easy but it is worth it. I don’t always handle conflict well and at times I still avoid it altogether but today I recognize the benefit of addressing conflict in a faithful manner. My prayer is that we can, as one church body, work through our differences, trusting God while looking at Jesus’ conflict-filled, Holy Spirit-led life as our example, inspiration, and entryway into more genuine, deeper, and real relationships.
Written by James Serpico: James is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and the Director of Programming Ministries at America’s Keswick. He is a son, a brother and an uncle but, above all, James is a child of the Most High God. He is prayerful that his life will speak of the adoption and eternal inheritance that is found in Christ Jesus.
Think About This: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” – Garth Brooks