Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.” – Unknown
Have you ever been conflicted? Divided on the inside? When we are conflicted, life can resemble a ride on the Kumba. For all of my non-Floridian friends, the Kumba is a rollercoaster located at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida. It stands 143 feet tall, travels at up to 60 miles per hour and features multiple inversions including a 114-foot-tall vertical loop, a dive loop, a cobra roll, a zero-g roll and two interlocking corkscrews. Ride the Kumba and you will experience upwards of 3.8 times the force of gravity. Okay, it’s not quite the vomit commit (look that one up yourself) but it will leave you a tad conflicted on the inside (if not severely nauseated).
Sometimes, I feel at odds with myself; churning up a mixture of opposing emotions within. It’s difficult enough dealing with the inevitable external conflicts in life. Being conflicted only compounds the daily warfare. In some respects, it’s like being in a personal tug of war. You are on both sides of the mud hole. Any way you look at it YOU still lose. Ponder that for a while.
My Christian faith reminds me that emotions are, more often than not, unreliable. After all, our feelings are based upon perception. And while people may say that perception is reality; that cannot possibly be true. Why? Because perceived reality differs from person to person since we all see and interpret things differently.
I have an absolute faith in an unseen Creator. God is the definitive reality; I look to Him and not to my fleeting emotions. When I tell you that my trust is in the Almighty and Universal Spirit (God) – that trust is unconditional. Therefore, my perception of reality from moment to moment is irrelevant. No matter what appears “real” to my senses, I must look beyond perception and my immediate feelings. By faith, I can pierce the veil between the illusion of time and the “really real” of eternity. Through the eyes of my faith, I can see into the unseen world that controls this projection of reality that we all live in.
I know, some of you think I’m just plain crazy. Poor guy, he contemplates way too much. His religion has twisted his brain. Been in the mushrooms again. That’s fine. They thought Jesus was two fries short of a happy meal too, so who am I to complain about what you think.
When conflicted, we can behave as if we had two “selves” living within us. These “selves” are in a contest for control. It’s classic Jekyll and Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was a reserved, righteous and amenable man, while Mr. Hyde was indulgent, reprobate and hostile. In our case, one “self” may desires to improve by working harder, exercising more or finding a better job, but the other “self” would rather watch TV, hang out at the beach or drink beer while socializing with friends all day. Ah, which “self” will win in this contest?
Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast, and each will wrestle for the mastery there.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Now let’s get spiritual. The Newer Testament writer known as Paul was also conflicted sometimes. He wrote about it in a letter to the Christian community living in ancient Rome:
21-25 “When I come up against the Law I want to do well, but in practice I do evil. My conscious mind whole-heartedly endorses the Law, yet I observe an entirely different principle at work in my nature. This is in continual conflict with my conscious attitude, and makes me an unwilling prisoner to the law of sin and death. In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25 – PHILLIPS)
For Paul, “The Law” was not only reality, it was absolute truth. He wanted to obey the law. His mind knew that it was the right thing to do. But he was engaged in a continual inner “conflict”. On the one hand, Paul had made up his mind to be a willing disciple of the Creator. And yet, his corrupt human nature kept him in bondage to his reprehensible tendencies. Here we have this brilliant, dedicated Jewish scholar turned follower of the liberator Jesus caught in an inner tug of war that he describes as “an agonizing situation”. He asks this question, “…who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature?”
Who indeed. Happily, Paul new the answer to his own question. He said, “I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The universe is exquisitely balanced and every aspect and detail of this beautiful creation, you, me and everything else is perfectly vibrating in its proper and rightful place. For only when we lose faith and trust, and resist the natural flow and unfolding of this magnificent plan, do we experience pain, conflict and suffering.” – David Cunliffe
Perhaps you have read (or at least heard of) the mythological story of Odysseus. In Book 12 of the Odyssey, the goddess Circe warns Odysseus about the power of the Sirens; beguiling female cannibals who would lure unsuspecting mariners to their island of death with a mesmerizing song (temptation). Following Circe’s advice, Odysseus orders his men to plug their ears with beeswax. He himself, curious to hear the Sirens song (temptation), orders the crew to tie him tightly to the mast and leave him bound no matter what. The voice of the Sirens, crying out to him, (temptation) proved stronger than his ability to resist. He became severely conflicted. Even though Odysseus knew how dangerous the Sirens were, he still begged to be released so that he might go to them – but his men did not comply. Restrained by the ropes (of his convictions), he was kept from the certain death that awaited both he and his crew as they approached and safely passed the island of enticement.
Like mythical Ulysses, Paul recognized that he could not resolve a conflicted heart on his own. He knew that our human nature is fatally flawed, and intrinsically given to wickedness. Utopian dreams of nirvana are just the folly of fools. We can only escape the corruption that is in this world through the single door to freedom that has been offered to mankind by the Creator himself. That door is the Liberator Jesus. He alone can free mankind from the clutches of our wicked nature – the conflicted human spirit. Another of the Newer Testament writers, Peter wrote:
3-4 He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one (the Divine Spirit) who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him (the Liberator Jesus) that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 – Phillips)
How cool is that? We can share in the very characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of the one who made us. Divine nature overriding human nature. That is the great mystery of the Christian faith. The spirit of the liberator Jesus dwelling inside of us provides all we need to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of this temporal life, and provides us with hope for our eventual transportation to a new world when this life is over. Plus, that same spirit helps us to resolve every conflict with which we struggle while in exile here on penal colony earth.
Look, I know that life is hard sometimes. But there are also many wonderful moments to be savored in our allotted time here on spaceship earth as well. Joy and happiness are likewise part of the human experience. Nevertheless, we will all find ourselves conflicted every now and then. When you want to laugh but you just have to cry. When everything seems to be going crazy, your world is crumbling and you don’t know why; please remember these words from the inspired pen of the Newer Testament writer Paul,
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow” not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below” indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Conflicted sometimes? You bet I am. Worried? Not on your life. How about you?
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656