I was angry at God. Angry that my oldest son wasn't here. Angry that my husband, middle son, and daughter were all in daily pain. I was angry at all the injustice in the world, and I was angry that my friend was lying in the hospital fighting COVID-19.
A month ago, there was nothing I could do to sugarcoat the built-up layers of my emotions I discovered God was peeling back. It was as if I was a sailor buffeted in a sea of anger, the lifeboat within reach, and yet choosing to drown.
As I shared in a previous post, I wrestled with the fact that my children were having to go through major surgery. I concluded that God's intent was to bring health and wholeness to the kids. Knowing recovery would be grueling, I didn't expect surgery to stir up other problems in the kids' bodies.
Post-surgery, my son in particular, struggled to recover. He fought an infection as his underlying condition was triggered, and he was overwhelmed by constant spells of dizziness, nausea, and hives for almost a full month.
The litany of challenges didn't stop there. Both children struggled with constant pain and exhaustion as they returned to school. My husband's vertigo and headaches piled on. Close friends were experiencing intense trials. The number of young people, on the verge of suicide, seemed to be reaching out for help at an increasing rate.
While I gave all I had to each, ultimately I could not relieve any of their burdens, let alone my own.
By the end of the summer, my emotional reservoir was empty. I stopped spending time in scripture and turned back to questioning. Why God? How does allowing my family or the world to suffer accomplish your best for us? Isn't all of this supposed to be your job? Why am I working so hard for what you claim to have under control? This doesn't feel like you have it under control.
The pushback started with a little moodiness here and there. Most could be explained away by the preparation, surgery, and recovery for my kids. As long as nothing triggered my temper, the undercurrent remained hidden.
Still, by the end of the summer, my family was noticing my withdrawal, emotional distance, and impatience at the smallest obstacles. I was mad at everyone and everything.
The final straw came on a Sunday. I don't even remember why I was mad at my husband, but every fiber in my being was stewing over and nursing old wounds. Previewing the sermon schedule at church, I grew excited that the upcoming message might teach my husband a lesson.
Yet I was surprised as I sat down and glanced at the bulletin. I felt the Holy Spirit stirring... speaking to my heart..."Hold onto your seat, baby. This sermon is for you."
The sermon was about Jonah, a prophet of God. Delivering messages was nothing new—he had given messages to Israel for years. But when God called him to go speak of repentance to Ninevah, an enemy of Israel, something snapped in him. He went the opposite direction, far away from Ninevah. (see the Book of Jonah Chap.1).
Like Jonah, I knew of the character of God, but I wanted to write my story differently. It started with ceasing the reading of scripture. Using our health issues as an excuse to avoid worshiping at church, I neglected the things that fed my soul.
For all intents and purposes, I stopped delivering the message of hope God designed me to share. All because I didn't like how he was operating in my personal life or in the world.
Jonah may have revealed the root of my anger, but Jesus showed me the way to return to the right path. He boiled down my anger to its core—trust. Like the disciples who trusted Jesus to keep them safe while out to sea, I cried out, "Don't you care about us?"
Jesus wasn't worried one bit about what worried the disciples. 'And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”' (Mark 4:39-40 NASB).
These past few weeks, I have returned to the habits that God has constantly used to shape me. Prayer for my friend has become easier. Rather than rail against the fact that she was sick, I praised God for her, for the doctors and nurses caring for her around the clock, and I got the opportunity to encourage and support her. Now she is home recovering, praise God.
Instead of constantly questioning why, I am able to serve my family with joy. My emotions are once again pointing towards Christ rather than away from him. When others reach out, it is Jesus' wisdom I seek to support them, not my own ideas.
God has infinite ways to teach me to trust him. I will seek to embrace his will for my life and the lives of others. It isn't all about what I think is best for those that I love. God's will is that not one single person perishes without knowing him. And there is no greater love I can show others than the love he has taught me.
God shows great tenderness towards Jonah. He asks, "Is it right for you to be angry?" Though we don't get to witness Jonah's repentance, I bet anything it happened, because it did for me.
He gently asked me in my self-righteous state, "Is it right for you to be angry?" The answer has been a resounding no!
I am learning that faith, trust, and obedience are to be a part of my daily spiritual workout routine. Use it or lose it.
I can choose to:
Become lax in worship, prayer, and serving others OR raise my hands to glorify God and look for his promises fulfilled in my life and the love of others.
Rely on my own solutions OR trust that God's will is best, even when I don't always understand his ways.
I will likely be tossed to and fro by circumstances for the rest of my life. Yet by fixing my eyes on Jesus, I will one day walk on water. Fearless! This also means anger is not required because the final outcome glorifies God and works for my good no matter the path God takes me.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
Maybe for you, it's not the first strike or even the big things that reveal anger towards God. Anger often emerges in the little things because we feel we should be able to handle the minutia. God, who sees the bigger picture, has a perfect plan for our lives. He knows how each of us fits together, where our paths cross, and the storms we may be enduring.
We are not alone. God is with us, even in the storms of our own making (See Jonah 1). The storm Jonah endured was the result of disobedience. Mine is not. I am trying to obey God. I will not drown.
Are you currently in the storm of job uncertainty? Or unsettled relationships? What is God revealing about the emotions of your heart? Is anger driving you away from God and the good things he wants to give to you and do through you?
Lean into spending time with Jesus. Allow scripture to reveal the trustworthiness of God's character. And remember, he has the ability to calm all the storms in our lives.
Heavenly Father, I am exhausted from trying to run the world my own way. Help me to trust you with my whole heart and not lean on my own understanding. Amen
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