July 2: Conflict and Certainty

1 Samuel 2:22–4:22; James 1:9–18; Psalm 119:17–32

Conflict drives fiction and riveting movies, but if we had it our way, we’d live stable, stress-free lives. We might crave the excitement or change of a vacation, but we rarely welcome an unexpected complication. So when James says to “count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2), we are tempted to dismiss his perspective as something that works on paper but should not disrupt our real lives.

James shows us how to internalize a faithful response to unwelcome conflict. He starts by describing a negative reaction: When difficult times come, we might be like the person who prays and then doubts that God will provide him with wisdom for the situation. This person complicates the conflict by internalizing it with uncertainty and doubt. He is “like the surf of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about” (Jas 1:6).

The irony is that, although we only create more conflict when we doubt, we like to think we can trust ourselves. As long as we remain in control (we tell ourselves), we can avoid the storms of life. It’s tempting to manufacture an attitude of stubborn self-sufficiency—of inner strength.

That’s the opposite of how we should respond. God wants us to meet the chaos by trusting in Him. We might feel tossed about by life’s events, but God provides us with wisdom for the chaos we encounter. When we ask Him and trust that He’ll provide us with wisdom, He gives generously and without reproach (Jas 1:5).

Stability isn’t an inner strength, but certainty in God’s provision is. We can meet the uncertain with the certain when we trust God to help us work through the chaos. We can also remember that, at the end of the novel, the protagonist who endures conflict is changed by the experience. In the same way, God is working through the conflict in our lives to make us more wholly devoted to Him, since “testing produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:3). And there will be an end: We’ll “receive the crown of life that he has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).

How are you turning to Christ in the midst of difficult circumstances?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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