Have you ever felt like punching someone in the throat?
Sometimes, pain fills us up to the top of our tolerance. The excess has to go somewhere, right? This scene from the movie Steel Magnolias captures one of those ugly moments.
We can’t take it out on Weezer, friends. As good as punching someone may feel at the moment, it’s not a good idea. So how do we control our inner cage fighter?
The whole “count to 10″ thing has science behind it. Research indicates the brain’s anger response lasts less than two seconds. Think of all the regrets we could avoid if we determined in advance to pause our verbal and physical responses for just a minute or two.
- Pause to breathe. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Slow, deep breaths bring the heart rate back to normal and give that boiling blood time to cool down.
- Pause to be. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). If we command our raging emotions to sit down and be still, we give the Holy Spirit time to remind us that His very “God-ness” trumps our rumpled circumstances every, single time.
- Pause to boss our hearts around. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5 NIV). Emotions aren’t always trustworthy. It’s important to pause and to make sure they line up with truth.
When pain clouds our vision, it’s hard to see straight. Present circumstances have a sneaky way of crowding out God’s track record of faithfulness. A crucial step toward keeping that cage fighter caged up is to reframe our reality with His perspective.
- Picture the previous. While dwelling on the past is unhealthy, remembering the ways God has been faithful is not only healthy but healing. When we think of all the dark valleys he led us through, it’s easier to picture Him leading us through our current challenges that have us fit-to-be-tied. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11 NIV).
- Picture the present. Sometimes, painful moments are as distracting as a stubbed toe. A small circumstance suddenly becomes our whole focus. Anything good gets drowned out by the rushing waves of pain. The best way to keep our tender spots in perspective is to steady our gaze on the solid-rock right stuff. The people who love us, always. The provision straight from God’s grace grip. The presence of God right in the middle of our deepest need. “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6 NIV).
- Picture the promises. What does God have to say about suffering? “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 NIV). “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22 NIV). Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7 NIV).
When faced with unfair treatment, it’s second nature to gather reinforcements. When friends sympathize with our plight, our raw emotions feel validated and justified. While God made us to need the human touch in good times and bad, the first shoulder we need to lean on is God’s. He may use people to administer comfort and guidance, but He’s the source and He’s enough.
The hymnal speaks truth. “I must tell Jesus all of my trials; I cannot bear these burdens alone; In my distress He kindly will help me; He ever loves and cares for His own. I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
- Pray honestly. Why do we try to hide our raw feelings from God? He knows everything already! Pouring out our pain will not take Him by surprise, but the healing properties of prayer will shock and soothe us every time.
- Pray with ears open. Listen for God’s quiet voice of reason, reconciliation and redemption. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice” (Psalm 95:6-8 NIV).
- Pray often. One quick morning prayer doesn’t cut it. In order to really live, we need constant communication with our Creator Confidante. He wants to lead us through every leg of the race, even the ugly ones. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
This hurt is sucking the life out of me. My inner cage fighter really wants to come out kicking and swinging, but I hear Your voice calling me out of the cage and into Your lap. Please, Lord, soothe my frayed nerves and settle my soul. Show me how to bloom in the middle of this thorny patch. Keep my heart tender and open, ready to receive Your comfort, Your commands and even Your correction. I want my life defined by the fruit of the Spirit, not by my impulses. I need You, Lord, and I trust You. Amen