April 24, 2020

Turning Your Confinement into Refinement, Part 2

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.” James 1:2-5 (Ph)

God has a purpose in every problem. I don’t know all the purposes He has behind this pandemic, but I’ve discovered at least two that could turn our confinement into refinement. The first is getting real in our relationship with God and the second is getting real with the people closest to us. Rather than viewing our seclusion at home as our greatest obstacle, what if we saw it as our greatest opportunity to grow deeper in our closest relationships. There’s nothing quite like being with people 24/7 that can challenge your patience. One report I just read stated that since the shelter in home orders, domestic violence has increased 25%.  In China, the divorce rate spiked following their shelter at home period.

James offers some very practical counsel for processing our frustrations when all kinds of trials crowd into our lives that could easily cause us to lose our temper. Here are three tips from James that help us manage our anger so we can use it constructively to build stronger relationships instead of destructively to tear them down.

First, I must understand the power of my words.  Words can get you hired or get you fired. My words have the power to direct my life. Like a magnet, we are drawn to what we declare. That’s why it is so important to speak words of faith. James tells us in James 3:3-4, “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.  And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.”

Our words have the power to build up or burn down our relationships. In verses 5-6, James adds, “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire …”

Second, I must commit to wise fighting words when I’m in conflict. In verses 17-18, James gives us seven rules for using our words in a constructive way to build up our relationships even when we’re angry.  Anger is not the problem. We are all going to get angry. If you never get angry, it just means you don’t care. The problem is how we process our anger.  We need to learn how to use wise fighting words when we express our anger and James offers us seven rules for a fair fight in these verses: But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18 (NLT) Let’s break them down like this:

  1. Always check my motives. James says “… wisdom from above is first of all pure …”  Is your motive for the benefit of the relationship to grow or just to win the argument?
  2. Never attack the person; attack the issue. James tell us “… wisdom from above is … also peace loving …”  To keep from attacking each other when you’re angry, see if you can identify the real issue behind it.  There are really three root causes for anger – hurt, fear or frustration. Begin with the issue that you feel most. I feel hurt when … I get frustrated by … It makes me afraid when … Never attack the person. When you’re confined together 24/7 hidden issues are going to come to the surface. This is the greatest opportunity to grow and identify those issues to strengthen your relationship. You can come out of this shelter at home with a deeper relationship than you ever imagined.
  3. Never raise my voice. James says, “… wisdom from above is … gentle at all times.” When you scream and yell, you fail.
  4. Never interrupt. James tells us, “… wisdom from above is … wiling to yield to others.” This may be one of the most challenging if you’re anything like me. Rather than trying to figure out what you’re going to say next in rebuttal, practice active listening and try to restate what you heard them say to you. Give them your full attention. One practical way to do this is by holding a piece of tile and agreeing that whoever has the piece of tile has the floor to speak while the other listens. 
  5. Never keep score. James says, “… wisdom from above is … full of mercy …” Great relationships are built on forgiveness and trust.  We are all going to fail at times. We will annoy one another and the longer we shelter at home together the more we will find faults in each other. The greatest love chapter in the Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) The Message puts it like this, “Love doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always ‘me first,’ Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.”
  6. Always follow the talk with action. James says, “… wisdom from above is … full of good deeds.” Wise words turn into meaningless words if they’re not followed by action.
  7. Always speak from my heart. James concludes with “… wisdom from above is … always sincere.” If you want to emerge from this crisis with a deeper and more meaningful relationship with those closest to you then open your heart to them and share your real hurts, fears and feelings.  It will make you vulnerable, but it will take you to a deeper level than you may ever thought possible.

Finally, I must ask for help. The truth is none of us asked to be put in the position we are in. Confinement at home confronts us with all kinds of challenges that tests the fabric of our relationships. Fortunately, there’s help. God give us this promise in James 1:5, “And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.” James 1:5 (Ph) Help is available to navigate our relationships to a deeper level when we’re in conflict if we’ll just ask. Practice these wise fighting words and use your anger constructively to build a stronger relationship.