Have you ever gotten mad at God? Has something unexpected or unforetold happened and your emotions caused you to lash out? And the one you found yourself lashing to is the very one who lives inside you!
It is like a teenager who complains to their parents. They would never speak to a stranger that way, but they have no problem telling their parents exactly what they think. Some will even finish their rant with an, “I hate you!”
A good parent will realize it’s an emotional outburst and take no offense from it. They will attribute their child’s actions to immaturity and not take it personally. They will not punish the child for their feelings nor for expressing them, unless of course there is unacceptable behavior accompanying their feelings.
Which reminds me of the one rule I had in my house while raising girls: No slamming doors. With four daughters, all with birthdays about two years apart (yes, there was a time when they were two, four, six, and eight, and I remember asking my wife, “What were we thinking?”), I knew their lives would be an emotional roller coaster.
I remember telling them, “You might not be able to control how you feel, but you can control how you act. Slamming doors is a spanking offense.”
In case you’re wondering, I am a firm believer in the adage, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” or as the Bible puts it, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV]).
During their teenage years, there were many times my daughters would have “emotional meltdowns,” as I called them, arguing, fussing, or complaining with either their mom or me. I would allow them to vent, realizing that anything said in anger should be ignored. But if they decided to march off to their room in frustration, I would always remind them not to slam their door.
A couple of times they tried me; a couple of times they got spanked.
Before I continue comparing one’s spiritual development to that of a petulant teenager, let me clarify what I learned about spanking: Every child is different and, as they get older, discipline has to be individualized and finessed.
One daughter I could threaten with a spanking and it seemed to have little impact.
I could spank her and she was unfazed, looking at me as if to say, “Is that all you got?”
I had to change my tactics with her. She loved video games and could play them for hours. If I removed her gaming console from her room as punishment, she broke down and cried. She couldn’t handle the isolation from her games. I never spanked her again, because a threat of taking away her Nintendo Cube was all it took to get her to behave.
One of my daughters could not stand the thought of disappointing us and would cry and apologize when threatened with a spanking. I don’t recall ever spanking that one. I always thought of her as obedient. In retrospect, I wonder if I was getting played. Regardless, they all turned out to be well-adjusted, happy members of society, making their own way in the world.
When it comes to spiritual development, do you know anyone acting like a teenager?
I find it interesting that both Proverbs and Hebrews record similar passages about correction: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11, 12 (NKJV]).
And again, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5, 6 (NKJV]).
The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain more about the Lord’s discipline: “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11 (NKJV]).
How many of us endure the chastening of the Lord?
Have you ever attended a church where the preacher “stepped on your toes”? Did the truth of the message offend you? Did you repent and adjust your own behavior? Or did you insult the preacher and leave the church?
Pride will keep us from admitting when we’re wrong when, in reality, we were probably the one in error all along.
The writer James and the Apostle Peter both quote from Proverbs, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (reference James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, and Proverbs 3:4).
If you want to learn from God, if you want to know what He’s saying, you have to let go of the pride (e.g., always being right) and accept the correction that comes through the Word of God, knowing that sometimes it comes through those in spiritual authority over you.
Tim Hughes is a lay minister and elder at Ascension Life Church in Athens. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org