Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Anger (01/24/05)
- TITLE: Our refuge in stressful times - God or dead leaves?
By Suzanne R
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“I am angry enough to die”, said Jonah, and I knew EXACTLY what he meant. Jonah had struggled, had endured incredible hardship, and after finally resolutely doing the right thing, God had relented and made Jonah look like a fool. Could it get any worse? It was already blazing hot, Jonah’s skin was still sensitive from the fishy stomach acid exposure, and then a worm ate the vine under which Jonah was sheltering during his lonely pity party. What’s more, we read that God even sent the worm AND a scorching wind to add to Jonah’s discomfort! Such betrayal. Such lack of appreciation. Where was Jonah’s divine support team? As for me, my anger was simply due to an abrasive personality. Like Jonah, fatigue, prolonged stress, and perceived lack of supportive leadership didn’t help.
To Jonah, God said, “Do you have any right to be angry about that vine? Think of all those people … each one a life. Shouldn’t I be concerned about them?” True, but didn’t God understand Jonah’s hurt? Had He forgotten all that Jonah had done, under great duress? What about some divine empathy?
It isn’t as if God doesn’t know about anger. His anger has been known to flare up on occasion with terrifying results. Armies are drowned, people are left to die in the wilderness, the earth opens and devours people, and all this just a taste of what is to come on Judgement Day. As for Jonah and me, our petty outbursts pale into insignificance.
Jonah was exhausted, disappointed, sore, hot, hungry, and on top of all that, felt betrayed and unsupported. Surely he was justified in becoming angry? As for me, my blood boils when people I love are hurt by others. Witnessing or experiencing blatant injustice, betrayal and hypocrisy is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Add a little fatigue and general stress and it isn’t a pretty picture.
God’s anger ignites when He sees His chosen people refusing to follow Him wholeheartedly and taking advantage of one another. Jesus responded in anger as He saw access to God hindered by others, such as the sellers in the Temple, or the hypocritical leaders accused of being white washed tombs full of decaying bones. It is written to the nations, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” (Ps. 2:12 NIV).
I wonder what became of Jonah? We’re never told, but I hope he saw reason. We would have … wouldn’t we? When life throws its challenges at us and the stress levels rise, what is our response? There is a time and place for anger, and there are God-ordained processes for confrontation, forgiveness and moving on. Perhaps Jonah’s response wasn’t terribly mature, although I identify only too well. Jonah needed to focus on God, taking refuge in Him rather than under his pathetic little vine. How much more do you and I need to take refuge in the Lord when life is hard? We need to live in holy fear of His anger, yet knowing that we have ‘kissed the Son’ and will escape destruction. We need to see life from His perspective.
Next time our fists clench, faces turns red, hearts race and we feel the temperature rising, will we keep our focus on God? Will we respond even in the midst of stress as one who takes refuge in Him? Will our perspective be a godly one? Or will we be like Jonah, with the sun beating mercilessly on our heads, a scorching wind causing our skin to dry and split, seeking refuge under a few worm-chewed dead leaves?
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