Learning Season – Worry and Pride

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Two months, actually. That is for a number of reasons: It’s been a fairly busy time. Wedding season, family life, and church kept us hopping. Also, for 5 weeks I was on undergoing chemo and radiation, which takes a bit of a toll; and lastly, because it’s really been hard to put words to what has been going on in my head and heart.  Numerous times I wanted to sit down and write, but the words just weren’t there.

I don’t know if I have them now, but it is time I at least try.

The next step is surgery – on this Thursday 27 August. I’m a bit nervous about it if I’m being honest.  But I know I am in very good and capable hands.

So a few people have asked me what I’m learning through all of this.  It’s a good question. The next few days I’ll address some of what I’m learning here on the blog.

Firstly, I’ve realized how worry is a plague.  When I worry, I make myself weaker.  Worry makes God smaller, not in reality, but in my own mind. It’s as if He doesn’t know, he can’t help, and it’s all up to us to figure it out.  But the great thing is, we aren’t left to ourselves. We have a Great Help in time of trouble (Psalm 46).  Corrie Ten Boom once said, “worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of it’s strength.”  I think she’s right.

When I found myself faced with a crisis I began instantly worrying about my family and my career and what was going to happen. I found myself doing things my own way before praying about it at all. The worry indicated that God wasn’t as great in me as I thought.  I see what John the Baptist was getting at when he said, “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:11).

There was a reason Jesus told us not to worry (Matt 6:34). Maybe it’s because when we worry we put more stock in what’s happening in the moment than in who God is and what He has done not only in our lives, but throughout history. God has done a lot.  I would do good to remember it more often.

The second thing I’m learning: when I found out I had cancer, I realized I was sick.  I needed help.  But in reality I was sick and needed help all along. I believe all of us do, to a certain extent. Augustine and Aquinas both taught that pride is the root of all sin. And like any weed, it needs to be struck at the root. My prayer is that through all of this I would be purged of the sin that so easily entangles.

Photo Aug 08, 20 49 29

There is nothing more counter-Christian, nothing more contradictory to the message of Jesus, than pride and selfishness.  Because like cancer, if left unattended, it will squeeze any true life and hope right out of you. The Bible constantly warns against the insidious sin of Pride.  In Proverbs it says that God actually hates it (Prov 8), it’s the opposite of love (1 Cor 13), and James states that God is actually against or opposes the proud (James 4:6).  There are so many more passages I could cite, but the point is clear. Pride is the absolute worst, or as CS Lewis says, “the utmost evil.”

That’s why Jesus came so hard against the pharisees.  They lived and walked in pride. They saw themselves as better-than-thou.  Holier-than-thou.  Their pride blinded them to the truth – that they were just as in need of God’s presence and grace as the next person.

The truth is, I’m not better than anyone else.  And I certainly can’t do this on my own.  I am a sinner saved by the surpassing Grace of God and I constantly needs His mercy.

I love this line in Donne’s poem “Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness,”

Christ’s Cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;

Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me;

As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face, 

May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

We are constantly fighting the consequences of the first Adam (sin). But maybe instead of fighting it, we should choose to continually embrace the work of the second Adam (Jesus) – salvation, redemption, the presence of God in our lives.

Tomorrow I’ll share about how I’m learning to pray.

What I’m Listening to Lately

My favorite worship band. Mary had this song playing the other day and it really struck me. “Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender…”

Here is another from the same group…



Angrily Speaking

This Fall I studied the book of Jonah with the young adult group at my church.  It is truly a fascinating story full of sailors, killers, super-plants, destructive insects…oh yeah and a giant, man-swallowing sea creature. It sounds like it should be the next Biblical movie blockbuster, right?

So, there is a verse in Jonah that jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to shake it.

In the last chapter (4) Jonah is angry at God.  He’s angry because God didn’t destroy the city of Nineveh like Jonah wanted him to.  The whole city turned to God and they were saved from destruction for their terrible wickedness (they are called a “city of blood,” known for ruthlessness toward Hebrews).  That they weren’t punished made Jonah pretty upset – upset to the degree that he wanted to die (vs 3).  Jonah just couldn’t deal.

Then God asks Jonah a question (the first of 3 questions God asks Jonah in this chapter), “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Most of us get angry from time to time.  Sometimes anger comes and leaves quickly, other times anger moves in our hearts and sets up a permanent camp. Either way, we all experience it for one reason or another. In these days, with all that’s happening in the world such as Ferguson, the NYC grand jury verdict, the political landscape, the economic landscape, ISIS, Ukraine, and so much more, there is plenty of anger to go around.

The question God asks Jonah is a good question for all of us: “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

Um…maybe not

Often times we really don’t have a good reason to be angry if we are honest with ourselves [See: cut off in traffic, long line at the store, Starbucks is out of pumpkin spice latte, spouse doesn’t load the dishwasher the right way, etc].

In those times we are just more concerned about our own agendas, our own preferences, our own lives than anything else.  Sometimes we simply need to get over ourselves.  After all, Paul writes how Christians should look to other people’s interests over our own (Phil 2:4).  Think, if only we did that more how great that would make the world in which we live?

Um…maybe so

On the other hand, often times we do have a good reason to be angry.  Anger is often a result of deep hurt (see: being abandoned, lied about, cheated on, abused, betrayed, etc). It’s natural to be angry when we have been hurt or seen others hurt. And God understands this hurt.  He knows it well. Jesus suffered all of those same hurts and much much more. The author of Hebrews writes that we have a High Priest who knows and understands our weaknesses (4:15). God empathizes with our hurt.

It’s not wrong to be angry.  Anger is a natural emotion. Jesus himself was angry (a great study for another day).  But living and dwelling in anger is unhealthy.  It keeps us from experiencing the full joy of life God wants for us. Living in anger keeps us weighed down, burdened, blinded, and not able to reach our full potential for joy & happiness.


Image © Gabe Lawson

The problem with Jonah was that he couldn’t see past his own hurt.  It was like a giant wall blocking him from any perspective.  That’s what anger does to us – it blocks us from really seeing anything except what’s directly in front of us.

Jonah forgot that before God spared the Ninevites from punishment, God spared him too. When God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran from God and boarded a ship to the end of the world. He was subsequently thrown overboard to die in the sea, but God sent a fish to rescue him.  Jonah didn’t deserve to be rescued. After all, he deliberately and intentionally disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God saved him anyway.  And in the belly of the fish Jonah sings God’s praises saying, “In my distress you listened to my cry,” and “Salvation comes from the Lord (ch 2).”

How soon Jonah forgot these praises when God extended salvation to people he didn’t think deserved it.  Anger blinded him.  Anger caused him to forget that God saved him too when he didn’t deserve it. Jonah wasn’t living in the joy of his own salvation. He was living in the bondage of past hurt, causing him to forget the very salvific nature of the God he served.

Let’s not make the same mistake Jonah made.  Sure we may have good reason to be angry. But instead of living in anger, let’s view it in relation to the character of God and what he has done for us. It’s all about what we decide to focus on.

Have we been hurt and mistreated? Yes, and it’s certainly unfair. God knows this.

But we have also been saved from death by Jesus taking the punishment of death in our stead (Galatians 3). Like Jonah, we were saved from death even though we didn’t deserve to be saved at all.

When life is viewed from the perspective of Christ and the Cross, it makes it a little easer to let go of that hurt, anger & bitterness.

Letting go of hurt and anger is not easy.  It is most certainly a process. It takes courage to let the anger go. It takes the grace of God, to be sure. But once we do, we will experience a fresh feeling of liberty, hope, and joy.

Let us not be weighed down and blinded by hurt that we didn’t deserve.  Instead let us live in the joy of knowing we too have been, or can be, given life that we don’t deserve.

Scripture on anger:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.  – Psalm 37:8-9

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. – Proverbs 29:11

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20