Talking of managing anger, there was once a time when Ruth and I were going through a stressful situation, but we were confident that it would all work out because we had Boris on our side. Boris (not his real name) had said that he’d make sure that everything was sorted out. There was a problem though – namely that Boris wasn’t following up on this, and he wasn’t delivering on what had been promised. I was feeling let down, anxious and quite angry about it all. Then one morning, as I was waking up and before I’d had the chance to erect my defences for the day, a thought sneaked into my head, like the last sentence of a dream. “You’re putting your trust in Boris rather than in Me”. I tell you, it’s really something to start your day with a divine slap across the wrist.
It’s easy to talk of ‘trusting God’ when the bank account is full, no-one is sick and England haven’t yet been knocked out of the tournament, but the reality is that, when these unconscious supports erode, many of us find our ‘trust in God’ evaporating in the face of panic. It turns out that our trust wasn’t really in God in the first place, but rather in our own resources, in our savings, in our clever plans or in Boris.
Larry Crabb, in his excellent book Connecting, calls this ‘Fire Lighting’.
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.
Crabb suggests that the only cure for this malady is a period of intense darkness where we have no choice but to reach out into the black and take God’s hand. Then we come to learn that He is the only one worth putting our trust in. Painful lessons are best learnt once.