The Benefit of Conflict

By Kraig Sorvick

I spent seven years as a Customer Service Supervisor in a grocery store and it provided me with a plethora of memories – customer fits of rage, aisle 5 clean-ups, and awkward conflicts. As a supervisor I routinely interacted with unhappy customers. One conflict still bothers me. A customer had a disappointing visit to our store and irately confronted Stephanie, the cashier. The customer spent several minutes insulting her and yelling at her. Stephanie apologized for the poor shopping experience and asked how she could help. The angry customer refused to listen. I observed this but did not know how to react or respond. I stood there as if I was frozen. After the customer left, Stephanie turned to me with tears in her eyes and exclaimed, “Why didn’t you do anything? Why didn’t you help me? You’re supposed to have my back!” Stephanie was right, and it vexed me. My job was to handle unhappy customers, make their experience better, and protect my employees from tantrums. This conflict taught me a great lesson. It enabled me to see my responsibilities and my need to act rather than hesitate.

What exactly is conflict? Is it a debate with a co-worker, a heated discussion with a spouse, or an argument with friends about politics? One thing is certain, conflict is unsettling, uncomfortable, and arduous. It may cause one to freeze or it may make one fearful. Whatever feeling it elicits, conflict, with the right perspective, can be beneficial. Acts 17 is an excellent example of this.

Paul is on his 2nd missionary journey with Silas and Timothy. A pattern of success emerges in these verses. Paul preaches to the Jews at Thessalonica. Some believe and follow Paul and his companions. This infuriates the Jews and they form a mob and chase Paul, Silas, and Timothy out of the city. As a result, they go to the city of Berea and again experience great success preaching to the Jews. The angry Thessalonian mob hears about Paul’s success in Berea, pursues him there and forces him to depart for Athens. Again, Paul successfully shares the message of the gospel, which results in conflict. He does not let the conflict he faces stop him from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rather, he uses the conflict to propel him to new opportunities and venues.

C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Conflicts bring experience, and experience brings that growth in grace which is not to be attained by any other means.” Because of the conflict with Stephanie and the angry customer, I have experience that enables me to be a better employee and supervisor.  Because of the conflicts Paul faces, he shares the Gospel even more effectively and to a wider audience.

How about you? Are there conflicts in your life? Can God use those conflicts to His benefit and to enable you to share His Gospel?