I’ve come a long way from the slightly obsessive, “need-to-feel-in-control” person I used to be. Years ago, the Lord put an older woman in my life that was a walking scalpel to my character. Despite the tears she brought to my prayer closet, the Lord knew exactly where my flesh needed to die, where sensitivities needed toughening, and I had no doubt…He let her know.
One day we were going somewhere together and while she was telling me a story, she let go of the steering wheel to talk with her hands (Italians do that). I jumped and grabbed the wheel with a panicked death grip. Totally thoughtless reflex, but the look of disapproval made me let go immediately. I don’t remember the exact conversation that followed, but I do remember the words, “Shannon, don’t be such a control freak. The Lord’s in control. You’ve never been.”
It was a good “ouch,” no matter how it sounded. Sometimes, the most nutritional food seems like it’s delivered on a garbage can lid, so I want to throw it out. But the Holy Spirit washed over her words and fed it to my spirit every day for weeks. I saw how this “desire to control” infiltrated nearly every area of my life; it seeped into the ministry, permeated my work and sometimes caused friction in my relationships with other people. I was so blind, but when I saw, I understood. And such was the beginning of the Lord’s deeper work in teaching me how to trust Him, letting go of fears, releasing self-preservation habits, helping me see Him as reigning over all, and then finding the joy in releasing others to be free and encourage them in the grace of God.
But…we are a project of the Lord’s sanctification until heaven.
Have you ever prayed for something with such a depth of desire in your heart, that you felt you’d nearly have a stroke or heart attack if something wasn’t done immediately? That crisis prayer of urgency that God MUST intervene or catastrophe is a surety? There was a day not long ago, that out of the abundance of my heart the mouth did speak, and out of the carnality of my flesh the emotions did boil, and I started pulling out a host of scriptures like a sword and wielded it at the Lord. “Father, You said in Your word…” and then I’d speak a promise not yet fulfilled.
Then…I paused…and heard a reverberation of the tone of my voice and the pride that infused my attitude. I felt my hands immediately jerk off God’s steering wheel as I realized what I was doing. I was trying to control…Him. My sorrow, frustration, and heartache, over seeming unanswered prayers lept over my wall of faith right into Satan’s arena of doubt and I found myself trying to manipulate the Lord and “make” Him DO SOMETHING. Do something to relieve pain. Do something to change circumstances and convert them into what I desired. Do something to take vengeance, reveal truth, bring justice and stop allowing storms to rage, lies to prosper, and tears to fall. “Just make it stop!” I cried out.
Why I wasn’t a pillar of salt or pile of ashes is only because of His mercy. Jonah 4 came back to me as a tender rebuke. A completely reprobate city of people received the goodness, grace, and kindness of the Lord, instead of their deserved wrath and judgment. These people had committed mountains of sin against God and His people and Jonah wanted Him to deal with them. But when the Lord didn’t do what Jonah wanted, (because the people repented), and didn’t respond to his indignation and passionate desire to see retribution, Jonah became angry to the point of suicidal thoughts.
Jonah 4:4 “Then the Lord said, Is it right for you to be angry?
Job 40:2 Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it.
As I walked beneath a shelf of fragile tea cups in my kitchen, I remembered my own frailty before a very powerful God. The chastening to my heart brought me to my face and I heard the words to my thoughts, “Shannon, are you more righteous than I?”
I can become so myopic in my perspective of life. So self-righteous in my indignation. So frustrated when I feel helpless. So limited in my level of trust in a God that never leaves the throne, always reigns in righteousness and truth with a scepter of mercy and grace. I so easily forget His long-suffering towards me, His love that’s covered the multitude of my own sin, the plain reality that He is God and I am not and His ways are always best.
So when you find His promises not yet fulfilled, and your heart is overwhelmed with a desire to see the Lord bring them to pass, pray them with a heart of trust and dependency on a God Who WILL bring them to pass…but in His timing and in His way. And remember…we’re clay. Just like the tea cups.
Psalm 145:8 “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”