I was in a small group setting this week, and we were talking about life’s hard circumstances. Things you can’t control. When things don’t go your way. When things seem impossible. When things are frightening. When things look like they are never going to change. When you face the unfair consequences of someone else’s choices. And our natural human response is anger.
Yes, we get mad. Yes, God knows we’re going to get mad. Yes, God understands our mad.
Jesus overturned the tables in the temple in anger (John 2:15) at the greed in God’s house. So Jesus understands and can sympathize with us in those moments of anger. But Hebrews 4:15-16 is a great reminder to us that we need to bring our mad to God – “15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
What help do we need? God wants us to bring our mad to Him and submit our raging emotions to His grace.
Why? Because anger is unproductive. It isn’t an emotion that drives us to change, to repent, to think differently, or to forgive. When we eat, sleep, and breathe our anger, fear, and doubt, we have shut the door on God being able to reach us and help us. It keeps us prisoner in whatever chains are currently binding us, and there is no key to freedom as long as we are its willing prisoner. Yes, we are a willing participant in our anger when we refuse to see beyond it, diffuse it, and let it go. OUCH!
Yes, bad things happen. God says in Psalm 23:4 that we walk through the valley. We will go through the valley (trials, hard circumstances, unjust accusations). Notice God does not say “if”, which would indicate the valley is a maybe possibility. He says it will happen, and we can’t stop it or control it. But how we respond to it is the difference.
God says we need to walk through and be honest about the experience. Are you mad? Say you’re mad. Are you sad? Say you’re sad. Are you ticked off? Say you’re ticked off. Do you want to shake your fists and scream? Do it. This doesn’t surprise God, and it doesn’t hurt His feelings.
The problem comes when we linger in the valley. When we pull up a chair at the pity-party table and constantly complain about what is happening to us. When we choose to let go of our hope of redemption and salvation through Him. When we only look at the negative instead of at least trying to see God’s hand at work (and I admit here that sometimes we can’t see God working for us until we’re completely through). When we refuse to pray and praise and instead take up a strike against God. When we stubbornly refuse to cling to hope and instead defiantly sit down and pout. When we refuse to think positively, act lovingly, or behave differently.
OUCH again! But we’ve all been there and done that.
I think what God was saying in Psalm 23 is that you will go through, but you don’t have to stay. You are supposed to go through without stopping (but for a moment) to doubt, to question, to wonder, to blame, and to yell. You aren’t supposed to take up residence in the valley, where it’s all about you and your lying emotions. You’re supposed to keep walking, with eyes focused on God and His promises of hope instead of the storms raging around you.
When Peter was looking at Jesus in Matthew 14:29, what happened? He overcame the storm, and he walked on water. But when Peter stopped looking at Jesus in Matthew 14:30, what happened? The storm overcame him, and he began to sink. Did Jesus turn His back because Peter allowed himself to get distracted? No! Jesus heard Peter’s distressed call and reached out “immediately” to help Peter get back on track (Matthew 14:31).
And that’s what He’s waiting to do for you. He’s waiting for you to stop looking at the storm and look to Him for strength, wisdom, grace, strength, endurance, hope, encouragement, and faith. He’s waiting for you to decide that He is bigger than the storm – whatever your circumstance is – and trust Him. He is waiting to walk WITH you and help you carry your burdens to the foot of the cross, where He has already redeemed everything for your good and His glory. He is waiting patiently for you to say, “God, I am furious about this. But I want to let it go because I know You are bigger than my circumstance and have a better plan for my life.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are changed “from glory to glory”. I believe that “glory” is revelation, but it is so much bigger that God just directly speaking to us. We are changed by each experience – each hardship, each harsh word, each compliment, each victory, each defeat, each smile, each frown, each silent moment, each doubt, each moment of faith, each fear, each moment of trust, each step of belief, each thought of positivity or negativity. Everything impacts us and our walk with God. Each moment is a moment where we allow the “glory” of God to shine in us and through us – or not. Each day is filled with moments of new opportunity to think right, act right, talk right, believe right, respond right, and love right.
And when we choose to linger in the valley, it’s hard to get anything right. Because it’s all about me – how I feel, what I want, why I’m right. And God reminds us over and over again that it’s never all about us. In fact, I think it’s rarely just about us. Just as Abram’s belief wasn’t just about him – it was about all the generations of faith that would be birthed because he believed – so it isn’t just about us. It’s about us reaching out to people and helping them where they are, in their hurt and pain and shame and guilt. It’s about us helping them walk through the valley to the victory on the other side. It’s about helping people know God’s love and find a new level of His glory in their lives.
And even when we get it wrong, there is His promise that He is still faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 says – “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself“. So when we don’t get it right, when we linger in the valley, when we refuse to let go – He is still God. He is still good. He is still faithful. He is still waiting for us.
So are you staying in the valley?
What’s the cost to you?
What’s the benefit to others?
How about picking up your mat (John 5:8) and walking through to the other side?
He’s waiting with open arms, redeeming grace, and unconditional love. For you. Get up and go meet Him. And allow Him to walk with you, to make the valley less frightful, lonely, and dark.
— Marie Fremin, 9/25 and 9/27/15