“I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE PERSON WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE!!!” Envision a red face, popping neck veins, fists clenched, perhaps even a few expletives added… and then imagine that this loud bundle of negative energy is heading directly towards you. Have you ever been in the presence of someone who was obviously upset about something, and they storm in shouting something about speaking to the person in charge, or getting to the bottom of this? Perhaps their statement was directed at you, or maybe it was directed at some other unsuspecting victim. I have had times when such a question was aimed at me, and I’ve been in a store or a restaurant when an innocent sales clerk or waitress was the victim of an angry, boisterous and demanding client who was bent on releasing their fury on the first available person. Just the thought gives me goose bumps. I am not crazy about anger, but I am definitely not immune to it either.
As I think about this, I realize that at one time or another most of us have had angry feelings that we have vented on the first available person, even though they may or may not have been the cause of our anger. Ok maybe you haven’t, but I have. Anger in and of itself is not necessarily an inappropriate reaction to the wrong things in life, even Jesus was recorded to have gotten angry (Mark 3:4-6). But any way you cut it, misdirected and out of control anger is not a pretty thing, and it usually doesn’t bring the desired resolution to the problem at hand.
So why am I bringing all of this ugly anger stuff up? Two things started this thought process going in my head. First, is an ongoing series of Facebook entries made by a very dear woman whose life is being consumed by anger over a loved one’s life-altering illness. In spite of prayers and repeated medical treatments, her loved one is facing a long life of pain and suffering. It’s breaking this dear woman’s heart to watch her loved one suffer in such hopelessness, and honestly it’s breaking my heart to see her go through this. Her pain is understandable, it’s real and palpable. But instead of coming out in constructive ways, it’s consuming her. Her written words land of the page like venom dripping from the tongue of a snake waiting to attack anyone or anything who dares to cross her path. She’s circling the wagons and coming closer and closer to blaming God. Keep that thought for a few minutes.
The second thing that brings all of this to my mind is a recent bothersome, and potentially difficult issue that has come in to my life. I’m not overly anxious about this, but admittedly there has been some mild anxiety. However, as I was reading Chuck Swindoll’s daily devotional last week, a wee little smile crept onto my face. In his devotional Chuck was talking about the subject of God’s sovereignty. As I read Chuck’s words I was reminded of my own journey to grasp the meaning and reality of God’s sovereignty. In the past my reaction would have been similar to this dear woman on Facebook. My attitude would have been, “Here we go again, I just can’t seem to get a break!” I would have been like the person charging into the store wanting to speak to the person in charge. I would be pointing out how unfair this is, and the fact that really I think that I have had more than my share difficulties. I might even have tried to convince God of the rightness of my claims, but not now. So what’s the big change? Why am I not running around screaming like a banshee?
To understand this we need to take a quick look back to an earlier time in my life, back to my teenage years. I would describe my young adolescence as a time of great turmoil. I had a deep seated anger that I didn’t understand. I didn’t have a clue about who I was or how I was to fit in this world, or even if I would ever feel like I really fit. All I knew was that I felt hopeless to be anything but the “me” that woke up inside of my head every morning. My unresolved anger and inner turmoil followed me into the early years of my marriage and parenting. But then, at the age of 33 God made His presence known in my life. Just as God’s Word promises, I became a new creation. The old was gone and the new had come (2 Cor 5:17). I made a 180 degree turn, there was not one area of my life that didn’t somehow change. It wasn’t until I was quite a bit older that I would start to understand some of the reasons for my anger, but for a period of approximately 5 years the majority of my underlying anger had miraculously melted away. Or so it seemed…
Anger made an unwelcome entrance back into my life when my husband and I adopted 2 ½ year old twins, a boy and a girl from Ethiopia. We had put a lot of prayer into our decision to adopt and we personally witnessed several miracles as we saw God provide every dollar that was needed, exactly when it was needed. We were, and still are convinced that God called us to open our hearts and our lives to welcome these two children into our family. The children were absolutely precious. However, shortly after the children arrived I found that I was way, way overwhelmed by the reality of what we had taken on. A few days after their arrival my husband went right back to work as if nothing had happened, leaving me with two sick children who didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. Complicating matters, they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak their native language Amharic. And then there were my four other children who had needs of their own. To say the least I felt ill-equipped and understaffed to deal with the multitude of demands upon my time and my heart. I felt like I was letting God, my husband, and all six of our children down. Anger started brewing in my heart.
In my then immature state of faith, I thought that just because I was being obedient to God’s call, God would (or should) intervene and make me into a patient and wonderful saint of a woman who would be able to handle everything with all of the grace and gentleness of Mother Teresa. And I thought of course that love would be enough to win these children over and heal all of the hurts in their little hearts. But this wasn’t the way it happened, not at all. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I regret to say that my unhappiness was probably obvious to most of the people around me. But then one day my dear friend, who happened to be the wife of my then pastor, said in her sweet little southern drawl, “Well Shiela, you’re mad at God!” I hope that I didn’t show her how crazy those particular words made me, but even the suggestion that I was mad at God made me mad! But her courageously well spoken words were exactly what I needed to hear. I knew that I was mad at someone, maybe my husband, maybe myself, maybe the children, maybe the world… anyone but God! But was it even ok to be mad at God? If I admitted that horrible truth would I suddenly be struck by lightening? What do you do when you are mad at God? Would it do any good to shake my fist at Him? I was pretty confident that I would be the loser if I dared to take God on. I knew how to fight with people (or so I thought), but how does one fight with God and come out of it alive?
At about that time I had started reading the book of Job. If you are familiar at all with the story of Job you know that he was a good man who had done no wrong, yet God allowed Satan to devastate his life. Satan successfully destroyed almost everything that Job had other than his next breath. And adding insult to injury Job’s three friends tried their best to convince him that all of this happened because of some unconfessed sin in his life. In spite of Satan’s insistence that Job would curse God if He removed his hedge of protection, Job never cursed God. Job made a classic statement when he said to his friends, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face (Job 13:15).” But Job’s attempts at self justification were futile. His friends weren’t convinced of his innocence and God wasn’t impressed. In a series of two extremely powerful discourses God pierced Job’s heart by pouring out a series of rhetorical questions that Job could only plead ignorance to (Job 38-42).
- “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation (Job 38:4)?”
- “Have you ever given order to the morning, or shown the dawn its place (Job 38:12)?
- “Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? (Job 38:35)”
- “Who then is able to stand up against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me. (Job 41:10b-11)”
There are so many important life lessons in the book of Job, but the one that pierced my heart was the fact that Job had been worshiping and speaking about a God that he really didn’t know or understand. But through these two powerful discourses, God revealed Himself to Job. God has absolute power and authority over all. God is sovereign. God is unmatchable. Even so, God tenderly cares for all that He has created. Job came to realize that God is good and just even when He allows suffering in our lives; suffering that we don’t understand and suffering that we think we don’t deserve.
When God didn’t answer my prayers the way that I thought He should, I felt abandoned by Him. My husband and I adopted the children because we were convinced that God wanted us to. But why didn’t God stop the adoption if He knew that I would be so overwhelmed and feel so utterly defeated? Why didn’t God stop the adoption if He knew that I would turn back into the angry person that I used to be? Yes, my pastor’s wife hit the nail on the head when she said I was mad at God. After reading the book of Job I was able to admit that God was the true target of my anger. Amazingly I was not struck by a bolt of lightening! I came face to face with God’s sovereignty in and over my life, but I also came face to face with His absolute goodness. God did not desire to bring harm to me or my family. He desired our good. In my immaturity I had not been worshiping God in truth. Oh I never would have admitted it, but deep inside of me I was under the mistaken assumption that if I did something good like obeying God, then somehow God kind of owed me. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God does not need my good deeds. But instead He allows me the incredible privilege of joining Him in the working out of His plan. This very important life lesson was the reason that a wee little smile crept upon my face when I read Chuck Swindoll’s devotional about God’s sovereignty. I am so grateful to be on the other side of this particular lesson. Now when the next difficult thing comes into my life I no longer ask the question why. The why has been settled in my heart. I may not know why, but I know that God knows why and that’s good enough for me. Now my question is “how?’ How Lord can I cooperate with you in the midst of this trial? Show me how to lean into your plan for my life Lord? Show me how you desire to use my life to bring you glory?
Now to my dear Facebook friend… I don’t know if you read the blog and I don’t know if you will recognize yourself in the words. If you do recognize yourself in these words, please know that I do not condemn you. I ache for you. Your pain and struggle are very real. All I know is that God does not mean you or your precious loved one harm. He loves you both more than you can begin to comprehend. I can only begin to imagine how difficult this is day in and day out. But God longs to hold you both in His arms and walk you through this horrible valley. He can bring good out of this if you will let Him. His plan may not look the way that you think that it should, but His plan is perfect. He can see things that none of us can see. Call to Him in truth and He will be there. I welcome you to call me or e-mail me if you need help doing this.
Now to the rest of you… if you struggle in this area, I challenge you to read the book of Job. Dig deep into the words, especially in the two discourses found in Job 38-42. Call out to God for insight and understanding. In Chuck Swindoll’s devotional he pointed out that a very special word is contained in the word sovereign: The word “reign.” It might sound like you have to give up something of value if you allow God to reign on the throne of your life. But the throne in each of our lives was never meant for you or me. Stepping down from the throne has been liberating for me. Oh I still get angry from time to time, but not at all like I used to. I don’t have to storm in asking who is in charge. I know who is in charge. I am relieved to know that God is in control and He is capable of managing all of the details of this life, things that I cannot begin to comprehend. Stuff happens with or without God. As for me, I choose to let God do what He does best.
Until we meet again, be blessed!