I’ve been thinking about frustration and anger and irritation and a number of other difficult emotions that often seem to crop up in our dealings with other people (and in many cases in our dealings with ourselves!). I started noticing how often I’m feeling those things in the course of a day and in the way that Scripture so often “reads” us, it became clear that there is a real heart issue behind these emotions most of the time. The shortest summary would be that I often get frustrated, irritated or angry because people aren’t doing or saying what I want them to do or say. (Good luck trying to justify that attitude Biblically!)
The verse that popped into my head on this one was this: “Do not trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalms 146:3). It’s a little verse that is heavy with meaning:
- “Do not trust in princes” – probably a reference to the many times the Israelites demanded a king for themselves instead of just following God. To put it in a more modern context, how many times do we expect someone to do something – especially someone who is a leader – and spend no time in prayer for that leader or for what we want to have happen?
- “in a son of man” – this one is especially interesting because of course we see Jesus referred to as the Son of Man over and over again in the New Testament.
- “in whom there is no salvation” – this narrows down what the psalmist is talking about. He (most likely David) is specifying that we should not trust in a son of man in whom there is no salvation – but leaves the door open for trusting a Son of Man in whom there is salvation!
This really blew some things wide open for me. How often am I frustrated because I am putting my trust in a person to do what I think should be done or to make things happen in the way I think I should? I get angry at people (even when, by God’s grace, I have the self-control not to show it!) because I am trusting in them to make something happen or to say or do something. To be blunt, this perspective is godless. And it’s even more godless when I put tremendous pressure on myself to get it right, to fix it, or to make it happen because I think I am the one from whom “salvation” (in whatever form) will come.
I am putting my trust in a person, and sometimes that person is me. It is a crushing weight that no person can bear, and the result is often crushing to relationships and individuals both. If I trust in a person to do what only God can do, I am not only destined for disappointment, but that disappointment can color every interaction with that person – ever been around someone who made you feel like you disappointed them constantly? Ever felt disappointed in yourself constantly?
This mindset also makes it really hard to be loving to others. It creates a scenario in which my love toward others has to do with their performance – and it is nothing like the love God has shown us, which is steadfast and full of grace and mercy. It’s also hard to be loving to others if you are constantly failing in your own estimation!
Being an experimental kind of gal, when this revelation came I wanted to see if and how it would apply to those situations where I was getting frustrated and angry. The next time I felt myself getting wound up about how someone was doing something I reminded myself: “Your trust is not in PEOPLE. Your trust is in God who is sovereign over EVERYTHING and in the end He is the One who orchestrates each and every moment and each and every situation. I have to admit that even I was surprised at the sense of peace that came along with that. And I was even more surprised at how many situations it applied to!
Does it mean we are not supposed to expect anyone to do anything ever? No. But what it does mean is that we trust the outcome and the results to God, and that we trust Him to make things happen in the way the He knows will be best for everyone. Not the way we think will be best for everyone. So the pressure is off other people or ourselves in the moment because no matter what decisions we make God is over all of it and nothing happens that is not filtered through His loving hands.
An interesting and wonderful side effect of this change in perspective is that it has made me someone who prays a LOT more. Think about it: if our trust is in people then we are going to spend our time and energy trying to get people to do what we want and then even more energy responding to what those people are or are not doing. If our trust is in ourselves, we are going to spend our time and energy agonizing over decisions or being deluded that we absolutely know what is best to do in a given situation and then exhausting ourselves in the attempt to do whatever that is. And then chastising ourselves if we don’t get it right. However, if we believe that our trust is in God and that God ultimately decides what will happen and how it will happen, in those moments where we are frustrated or angry we will be more likely to go to Him to tell Him how we feel and to pray for the outcome that will be best for everyone involved. Prayer is essentially an ongoing conversation with God, right? So if we are talking to others about a situation, or talking to ourselves about a situation, we are in a sense praying to other people – and less likely to seek God on those things. The Bible says that man is made from dust, and man is dust over and over and over again, and so we are essentially putting our faith in dust. Can you imagine the prayer that would go with this? “O great and mighty…dust?”
Idolatry is one of those words that we hear a lot in Christianity and it can be a tough one to grasp. All those golden calves that the Israelites turn from God to all over the Old Testament seem ridiculous and it is hard to understand how anyone can worship them. Really? They are worshipping a sculpture made by someone out of their earrings?!?!!? But an idol is anything we take refuge in that is not God, or anything we look to salvation for that is not God. This includes a lot of things that are functionally exactly as ridiculous as a cow made out of earrings, but are more socially acceptable and less overtly bizarre: our jobs, our marriages, our kids, our friends, our stuff, our neighborhoods, our appearance, and our social status are a few examples.
How many marriages are destroyed because one or both spouses are angry at the other for not fulfilling their expectations and doing things the way they think they should be done? Consider how adultery happens. The reasoning behind it often looks something like this: “My spouse doesn’t listen/show affection/respond in the way that I want him/her to. I shouldn’t have to live without that. I deserve that. I need to get that. I am going to find it somewhere because it’s something I have to have, and it is okay for me to get it elsewhere because I should have it and they are not providing it. It’s their fault for not giving me that. It’s their job to do that.” If we are doing that, instead of looking to God as our Provider, we are looking to our spouse, and when they fail (as any human will, at some point) we are looking to someone else to provide instead. We go from “praying” to them to “praying” to someone else and it is totally godless.
I’ve been working on writing a study on Hosea (Old Testament prophet) , which is a great book for exposing idolatry in our hearts and showing us with what astounding love God pursues us, even when we don’t realize it is Him we are really looking for. In it, the prophet Hosea is commanded to marry a promiscuous woman (Gomer) as a representation of how God’s people pimp themselves out to other things. (My paraphrase :-)). She goes to other men over and over and over again while Hosea is called to continue to pursue her over and over and over again – regardless of what she is doing. One of the reasons that it is such an awesome parallel to God’s love for us is that Hosea does not wait until Gomer has cleaned up her act to marry her, and he doesn’t wait until she cleans up her act to welcome her back. He goes after her in a relentless, loving pursuit no matter what – which is really excruciating to watch at times!
That is exactly what God does with us. The Creator of the universe, the one and only sovereign God comes after us in a relentless, loving pursuit which we have done nothing to deserve and in fact have done a lot of things to not deserve! Then, after He has done all this we inevitably fade in our affections for Him and get mad at Him for not doing things the way we think they should be done or giving us what we think we need, and start looking elsewhere. We get caught up in our marriage, our kids, our job, whatever, and start looking to them to fulfill us and give us what we need. We essentially pimp ourselves out to the whatever our golden cow made of earrings is. (I know this is tough language, but it is the way the Bible describes turning away from God.)
Then, in an even more astounding display of love than He shows in calling us to Himself, He pursues us when we have turned from Him and draws us back and loves us exactly the same through the whole thing. Can you imagine doing that? Your husband or wife turns away from you to someone else and your affections never even waver, and then you draw them back to you so that you can continue to love them and forgive them completely and endlessly. ONLY the God of the universe can pull that one off! And does, constantly. How boundless and steadfast His love is!
So, He has brought me to a place where I can see those golden calves made of earrings in my life and has loved me so much that He showed this to me, and showed me the way through and out of it – and back to my One True Love: Him. And He can and will do the same for you if you let Him.