Response to Emotions

jesus-weptJesus wept. (John 11:35)

His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus wasn’t caught off guard. His emotions weren’t out of control. He simply wept. He felt. He expressed those feelings.

And so did the people around him after he wept. They certainly had a variety of responses:

  • The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36)
  • Some of them said, “Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37)
  • Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.” (John 11:39, following Jesus commanding the stone of the tomb be removed)

We respond differently to situations, as well as to the way others respond to those same situations. We declare people are too sensitive or justified. We’re surprised by how well or poorly we think they’re handling something. We have our own emotions to sift through, and our emotions affect our response to others’ emotions.

Be careful. Emotions are great companions but terrible leaders. They enhance life, but they don’t run life. Don’t give them the power and control they don’t deserve, either in your own life or your assessment of others.

The Attraction of Faith

indexGod’s presence in people’s lives often attracts testing and difficult questions:

The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon’s fame connected with the name of Yahweh and came to test him with difficult questions…She came to Solomon and spoke to him about everything that was on her mind. (1 Kings 10:1,2b)

How we respond matters. Sometimes we can respond like Solomon, who was able to face the difficulties with wisdom and grace but only because God gave him the wisdom and grace he needed. We can’t do it on our own. The attraction of faith isn’t an attraction to us but to God who is working through us. We must continue to let Him work through us in our interactions and responses, or our faith suddenly loses its attraction. The more we point to ourselves instead of God, the less attractive we are.

Your Life Impacts Others

tumblr_nv9itujozM1sbyjvso1_1280I leaned over my dad’s hospital bed and whispered, “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to tell me you love me. You told me with how you lived your life. You loved me well. Thank you.”

Just because we can’t say something doesn’t mean we haven’t said what needs to be said and done what needs to be done.

We need to live well, love well, and choose well. None of those things are one time actions or responses. We can be overwhelmed by needing to say or hear the right words at the right time, but there is so much more to our lives. There are patterns. We build as we make choices. We build as we interact with each other. We build as we live.

Or we can tear down.

We don’t have to put a weight of pressure on ourselves but we need to take our choices serious enough that there is intentionality behind them. What we do has an impact. We’re not just biding time here on earth. We impact others–for good or not.

Consider friends, family, coworkers, neighrbors, and so on. How will you invest in their lives today?

Think It Over

imagesHis brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:11)

Jacob “kept the matter in mind.” The matter at hand concerned Jacob’s sons. His favored son, Joseph, just shared dreams with his brothers. The dreams seemed to indicate Joseph’s authority over his brothers, who weren’t happy about it. Jacob chastised Joseph but then “kept the matter in mind.” The New Century Version says Jacob “thought about what all these things could mean.” He verbally dismissed what Joseph said but continued to think about it.

What matters do you keep in mind? It’s often important for us to respond to a situation immediately. We do our best to respond in truthfulness and faithfulness. The more intimate we are with God, the more readily we hear and respond to His voice, keeping us in His will when we’re obedient. However, we’re human. We err. Sometimes we respond but then question the accuracy of our response. We re-evaluate our decisions and responses at a deeper level.

Keeping a matter in mind isn’t about being consumed with a situation to the point of being paralyzed. When God highlights something for our attention, He has no intention on us becoming stuck in a situation. God is always for growth, and growth requires motion. Keeping a matter in mind involves moving forward, continuing to respond in the best way possible given the facts we have. We continue to look at the facts we’ve already gathered as well as those we’re in the process of gathering. When God compels us to keep the matter in mind, we can be assured He has something to reveal to us along the way, and it will likely change the way we respond in the future.

What are the top three things consuming your mind today? Are they the top things God wants to be consuming your mind?

Ask God to replace your thoughts with His. As you yield to Him, expect Him to renew your heart and mind.

What Do We Do With What People Say?

Can you believe she said that?

How dare he say that to me!

She didn’t have to say it; I know what she meant.

screen doorEvery time we communicate with someone, there’s a lot of processing, and a lot of opportunity for misunderstanding, assumption, and frustration. It’s as if we each carry around a screen door right in front of us. None of us have completely clean screen doors. Our experiences, preferences, and assumptions clog some of the holes. When we stand face-to-face with someone, we speak, and our words have to go through our screen door, which means not everything makes it through. Then, our words have to go through the other person’s screen, which is also not pristine. They speak back to us, and their words have to go through both screens, too. Add in the nonverbal communication we’re sending every moment, and the opportunities for disaster exponentially escalate.

We can’t hear what people say to us with a undeniable purity. Many times, our reaction isn’t just about what they say but how they say it, or even, what they intend by it. We certainly seem to be confident in our ability to know a lot of things about another person’s communication.

Are we as vigilant, discerning, and confident in the way we respond?

It’s not so much about what people say as what we do with what they say. After all, we have absolutely no control over what someone says or how she says it. We choose how to respond. Many times, we waste that choice, because we aren’t intentional about our respond. We give a knee-jerk response, either to the person’s face or behind her back, either right away or after we’ve fumed or pouted about it for awhile. Instead, we can use that same time to take a deep breath and ask God how He wants us to respond. What would honor and reflect Him to other people? What would draw us closer to Him as we trust Him, even in situations and relationships we don’t understand?

We don’t have to take offense. We don’t have to get angry. We don’t have to retaliate. We don’t have to coddle. We don’t have to enable. But we do have to take responsibility…for our response, whether it’s our attitude, words, or actions.

What are you doing with what people say?

Are you listening to what God says above all other words?

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.(James 1:19-20)

Be Still

TrustLeaving the crowd behind, they took him in the boat just as he was. There were also other boats with them. A very strong wind came up on the lake. The waves came over the sides and into the boat so that it was already full of water. Jesus was at the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a cushion. His followers woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning!”

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm. Mark 4:36-39

God cares about our responses even when he knows they’re unwarranted. We can be frightened when there is no reason to be frightened, and God can calm us. We can be angry when there is no reason to be angry, and God can give us peace. We can be frustrated, anxious, or sad, and God can either reveal the truth of a situation to us or reveal himself to us by changing the situation. He does both.

Jesus could have tried to explain to his followers why they didn’t need to be fearful. He could have said, “Have you not noticed I am not afraid? As my followers, you can follow my lead. If I am at peace, you can be at peace as well. I will not lead you astray. I will not deceive you.” Or, he could have explained why the wind and waves would not harm them. He chose neither approach. He chose to simply respond with action.

God responds in different ways in different situations. He is unchanging. He is reliable. However, he is beyond our comprehension and prediction. He will respond in a way that is consistent with his character but not always consistent with our expectations.

When have you expected God to respond in a certain way and was surprised or disappointed when he didn’t? When has God pleasantly surprised you in an unexpected response or provision?

God knows when we need to wait. He knows when we need to immediately experience him in a big way. He doesn’t make us respond in a certain way, but he helps create a situation that is best for our growth. He wants to draw us close to him, and that means knowing us well enough to provide specifically for our growth needs. He knows when to water, wait and prune. We might want things faster, slower, smaller or bigger, but he knows “just right.”

Live It. Accept a situation as “just right” today. It might not match your expectations but ask and trust God to give you his peace through it. Be sure to thank him for knowing and loving you.

The Blinker

blinkerI followed a car the other day that had its blinker on but drove for miles without turning. I wondered how often we go through life with a spiritual blinker on, intending to turn but finding it easier to stay on the path we’re following.

There’s a difference between intentions and obedience.

Here’s what God’s Word says about intentions:

People may make plans in their minds, but only the Lord can make them come true. You may believe you are doing right, but the Lord will judge your reasons. Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:1-3)

My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. (1 John 3:18)

Most of all, you must understand this: No prophecy in the Scriptures ever comes from the prophet’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever came from what a person wanted to say, but people led by the Holy Spirit spoke words from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

Here’s what God’s Word says about obedience:

If you love me, you will obey my commands. (John 14:15)

Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. (James 1:22)

Those who know my commands and obey them are the ones who love me, and my Father will love those who love me. I will love them and will show myself to them…If people love me, they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:21,23)

You are God’s children whom he loves, so try to be like him. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Thinking about doing something in God’s name but not doing it isn’t obedience. Doing something because you think it’s good isn’t the same as doing something in God’s name and isn’t obedience. Obedience isn’t about legalism; it’s about a responsive relationship with God.

How responsive is your relationship with God?

“Even the best of intentions hold little value without their fulfillment in obedience to God’s directive, paying no heed of any personal inconvenience.” (Anonymous)