by Deborah Galyen
I feel deeply at peace and in awe of God’s majesty, here in Spain, when we escape our dusty city to walk in the mountains or stroll through orange groves in a remote village. In contrast, being mired in relational conflict makes me feel tense, vaguely guilty, and sick to my stomach; therefore, it was the last place I ever expected to encounter God’s presence. Yet, during a recent difficult situation, God’s voice was startling clear.
As a missionary, conflict makes me feel a particular kind of failure, because it usually means that I am not meeting the expectations of people who are important to me: my co-workers, the national church, my own team, people we are serving, etc. In the recent case, new developments in our ministry had been met with negative reactions from national colleagues in our city. I knew what we were doing was the fruit of prayer and had the blessing of our leaders; still, it hurt my heart that not everyone was happy about it. It hurt me further to know that these colleagues were speaking badly of us to others, potentially damaging our reputations. In short, I struggled with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and anger.
However, my regular reading brought me to II Corinthians 6, and I felt like the verses were in capital letters. Paul spoke of being treated with honor and dishonor, slander and praise, even being called “imposters,” yet staying true. He considered this, along with all sorts of ups and downs, as what “commended” his ministry and validated it (II Cor 6:4.) Paul pointed to those situations as the very things that proved he and his friends were authentic Christians and God’s fellow-workers. Due to problems, they had the chance to exercise “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love.” Because not everyone was happy with their work, they developed a deeper resilience and fear of God. In short, as I read these words, God’s bigger purposes swallowed up my dread of relational conflict. He was teaching me to obey Him when opposed, to stay kind when I’m tempted to be bitter, and to hold my reputation lightly, because it’s all for His glory, not my own. And in particular, our ministry itself was validated by how we conducted ourselves through it all.
I enjoy the walks in the mountains and the orange groves, but I know that God’s presence is just as real, His voice as strong, here in the dusty streets of my life.