The Battles Within
Marybeth Whalen

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" James 4:1 (NIV)

Our verse for today gets to the root of why my husband and I get in arguments: the desires that battle within me. Desires I wish weren't there. Desires that are ugly and selfish and petty. Desires that motivate me to seek my own way. Desires that battle within me, then spill over into my actions.

There is a battle raging within each of us. It is a battle between flesh and Spirit, between reaching out and focusing inward, between living for Christ and living for ourselves. How can we find victory in these battles without claiming more casualties? I have found there are several ways:

Praying: James 4:2 goes on to say, "You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." James is telling us how to avoid fights. Take our unmet needs, desires, expectations and complaints to God. We don't need to expect our husbands, children, neighbors, co-workers or friends to fulfill our every need.

Walking in truth: It's easy to believe the lies of the enemy or our flesh: If you were only married to someone else, you'd have a better life. If he would clean up after himself, you wouldn't have so much work to do. No one around here appreciates you. The lies escalate the battles. We spiral quickly into feelings of self-pity and anger. Instead we can learn to recognize those lies and refocus on Truth—God's Truth. We can go to His Word and read what He has to say about the people we love and the position we are in. Psalm 26:2-3 says, "Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind, for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth."

Taking each thought captive: 2 Corinthians 10:5b tells us that we are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." There are two action verbs in this statement: take and make. These are strong words that indicate effort. It's not something we can sit back and hope will happen. It's something we have to be intentional and insistent about. When our thoughts start wandering down those dangerous "if only" paths, we can instead find a fork in the road and change direction, remembering who Christ is and how He lived His life on earth—as a loving, humble servant.

Being silent: I have often regretted my speech. In the heat of battles, I've found it is almost always better to walk away and pray. If I feel I have been wronged then I need to ask my Father to defend me. If I feel that battle still waging inside me then I know it's time to ask Him to quiet my heart. Being silent is hard work! But I know that my silence is not as likely as my angry words to hurt the people I care about. Proverbs 17:28 says, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."

When the battles rage within us, we can change the results and stop the arguments that ensue. It's up to us to pause and choose a different reaction. I hope these things will help us today as we rise to the challenge!

Dear Lord, please help me to remember to pray, to walk in truth, to take each thought captive and to be silent. Help me honor You when the battles rage inside me. I don't want to fight with the people I love and I need You to help me with that. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue and accompanying Workbook by Deborah Smith Pegues

The Reason We Speak General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth’s blog – Cheaper by the Half Dozen

Application Steps:
In your journal, write down the four things you can do when you feel those battles raging inside you. Spend time praying and thinking about how you will do these things instead of being angry.

Think about the last argument you had. What battle was raging within you when it happened?
What would have changed if you had done the things listed in today's devotion?

Power Verses:
I Peter 2:11, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." (NIV)

Galatians 5:16, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent! Thank you

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank You! I so needed to hear this.

God Bless

Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree with the other two commenters...very timely...

Anonymous Shirl said...

Thank you so very much. It seems I have been going through battles within for a few months now. It has been horrible.

I would love to have you do more articles/devotions on the battles within and battles of the mind.

Again Thank You So Much.
God Bless, Shirl

Anonymous Ann said...

So timely for me also. With a dad with terminal illness and no help from sibling, you can get pretty defensive. I must remember to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Thank you, Marybeth, for reminding me!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect timing as I prepared to respond to an internet battle, I took a moment to read today's devotion. It was just what I needed to stop, pray and think. Now I praise God for loving me enough to help me see myself as I am and how He would have be me. Humbly appreciative.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this devotion.Very wise words and so humbling especially when you think you are right and are not getting what you think you deserve.The battle between the flesh and the Spirit is always raging within us causing a selfishness,a haunty and prideful spirit.But thanks God because in the middle of any and all temptations. He has provided a way of escape.But how much I pray that I would always emerge out of that escape route having conquered the sin instead of coming out stained from head to toe with sin because once again the flesh won and the Spirit of Jesus was grieved.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this devotion. I will need to print this out and ponder over it for sometime. The last argument was moments ago with my husband.

Blogger horseprariechatter said...

I needed this the first time I read it, and I really needed to read it today. Instead spending the time awake last night in prayer, I stewed about all the "forces" that have "worked" against me this past year. My attitude started when my husband set out to pick a fight about something not relative. It was an affront, a seeming attempt to put me down. I kept silent, but kept it, instead of releasing it to my Father . I should have "run to Daddy" instead of internalizing my fight. Oh how I need to learn to seek Him first. He promises to be found.

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