March 23, 2021

Hissy Fits and Other Spiritual Disciplines

The failures and dead ends of the last year festered within me. Months ago, I prided myself on my ability to “smile and pivot”—my fresh take on “grin and bear it.” Yet now, if one more person dared to praise my ability to go with the flow, I would surely lose my thin veneer of cool.

When the inevitable frustration eruption occurred, I secretly hoped for a pat on the back and a free pass to continue feeling miserable. After airing all my grievances in a terrible hissy fit, all I wanted was to hear that I had earned the right to stew in my dissatisfaction. 

Instead, my confidant responded, “When you say you need to let go of the frustration of being where you are, who is your anger directed toward? Do you resent God?”

This made me pause.  

Do I resent God?

Excuse me, I have a degree in missions and have served as a missionary in three different countries. I most certainly do not resent God! What a miserable accusation!

Do I resent God?

Of course not! I know God is love. I know God is working all things together for good. Although I certainly thought good would look better than this . . .

Do I resent God?

OK, you know what, why continue the charade? Yes, Lord, You know all things; You know that I resent you.

Confession and Contrition

These words of confession and contrition reminded me of Peter’s response to Jesus at the end of John’s Gospel. Perhaps partially to escape my pitiful state, I opened my Bible to read the story again.

In John 18, I read about Peter disowning Jesus. Peter had crumbled under the pressure of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The same man who was the first to proudly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah now denied ever knowing Him.  

It is so tempting to judge Peter at this point in the story. He had seen Jesus’ miracles firsthand. He was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! He knew God’s great power. He believed that Jesus was God’s Son. Why, in this pivotal moment, did he turn from faith to fear?

I always assumed Peter denied Jesus because he was scared of being arrested along with his friend. Yet, as I return to this story amid my own struggle, I wonder if a different dynamic is at play: Does Peter look at his terrible circumstances and begin to doubt the wonderful things he believed in? Perhaps Peter sees his all-powerful Friend in a powerless position and wants to yell: “Rise up, Jesus! What are You doing just sitting there? You can change this! Why aren’t You doing what I think You should do?”

Or maybe that’s just me.

I resent God. Even writing that makes me cringe. Somehow the prosperity gospel my mind dismissed as false doctrine has worked its way into my heart. I thought I deserved better. I was angry that the God of the universe was not meeting my puny expectations. How ridiculous!

As my anger threatened to turn inward, God gently reminded me that I had been here before. I had stood at the crossroads where what I believed contradicted what I could see. Many years ago, when a dear friend took his own life, I was plunged into deep despair. My faith felt so flimsy, and I didn’t know how to talk to God about my sorrow. I remember sitting on my dorm room floor wondering if I would ever have the strength to get up and keep going. A friend slipped a note under my door. It said, “It’s OK to be angry at God.”  

That was the beginning of my healing back then, and it holds the key to my healing now. I have to lay everything before God. It’s exhausting (not to mention pointless!) to present a false self before God. Jesus saw Peter’s denials. God sees my resentment. And He loves both of us too much to let us stay in our painful places.

Thankfully, the story of Peter’s denials has an uplifting conclusion. In John 21, Jesus welcomes Peter back into a right relationship with Him. In a poetic mirroring of the three denials, Jesus repeatedly asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” Twice, Peter says that he loves Jesus. After being questioned a third time, Peter answers, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17, NKJV).*

Yes, the Lord knows all things. Jesus knew Peter loved Him even when Peter was in the very act of denying Him. Jesus had full knowledge of Peter’s many weaknesses.  

God knows my human limitations and secret shames, and He still proudly calls me His beloved child. Jesus’ unconditional love brought Peter healing and reconciliation. He offers the same to me today. I’m so grateful that the God who makes beauty from ashes also turns hissy fits into healing.

Alyson Rockhold’s medical mission work has taken her to Tanzania, Haiti, and Zambia.

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.