I finally feel almost completely recovered from a surgery I underwent this past fall (see Waiting Room devotional). The surgery was difficult, and I questioned whether I would survive the procedure. I then questioned whether I would survive the recovery. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. When I awoke from the anesthesia, my husband told me that the surgery had been amazingly successful. The surgeons told Deric that they removed all visible cancer … a miracle, even the doctors admitted as such. God had answered my ultimate prayer … complete removal of the cancer. Yet my response was not what I had planned. I had promised God that if He did grant me healing, I would shout His praises from the rooftops. Instead, I found myself asking God to take me home.
I mentioned in last month’s devotional a Bible study I have been participating in on the Book of Jonah. Priscilla Shirer has touched my heart time and again through her teaching on this short book. As we came to the end of Jonah’s story, I was especially struck by God’s Word and the thoughts of Priscilla. First, Jonah experienced the miracle of the great fish, which God used to save Jonah from drowning and to deliver him back to Joppa. Then, Jonah witnessed the miracle of the Ninevites, who listened to Jonah’s short message and immediately changed their evil ways. Jonah’s response to these momentous miracles? He had a temper tantrum. Angry that the Ninevites might receive the same mercy Jonah had received, Jonah prayed, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Uh-oh. This sounds a lot like my own plea after my surgery.
As I studied this text, Pricilla’s teaching pointed me to 1 Kings 19:4, where Elijah is seen running from Jezebel, who has threatened to take his life. Though he just witnessed the incredible miracle of God creating fire to complete the burnt offering Elijah had prepared on Mount Carmel, the slaughter of 450 prophets of Baal, and the realization of his prophecy that rain would come after a three-year drought, Elijah was unhappy that Jezebel continued her quest to destroy him. Elijah prayed, “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life.”
Despite the incredible miracles these men had not only witnessed, but also in which God had allowed them to play a major role, Jonah and Elijah both responded with a temper tantrum. Why? Because they were angry with God. Jonah was angry because Nineveh might be spared the destruction he felt they deserved, and Elijah was angry because his life was still in danger. I was angry because I was in pain and was scared. God had given me the miracle I had asked for, but I was not willing to trust Him to get me all the way through. I would not have previously described my reaction as anger, but as I read the stories of Jonah and Elijah, it has become clear that is exactly what I felt. I was having my own temper tantrum.
For those living with a life-threatening illness and those who love them, I believe anger is an understandable response to the situation. However, I have felt convicted through these teachings, especially when you consider God’s response to Jonah’s tantrum. In Jonah 4:4, God says to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” Do any of us have good reason to be angry? I have cancer. Does that give me the right to be angry with God? There is something hugely important and yet I so often forget: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). How do I fail to remember this extraordinary gift as I move through daily life? Why do I choose instead to focus on the inconveniences of my life? His sacrifice alone eliminates any good reason we think we might have for being angry. But remember, He gives us so much more. Through our personal relationship with Him, He loves us and He carries us through all our circumstances. Especially when they seem like more than we can bear.
Regardless of our circumstances, when we examine our hearts, I imagine we all have times when we have felt anger towards our God. I love when Priscilla points out how very blessed we are that our God is not like us. Before Jonah, God describes Himself as “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6), and I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for that. Otherwise, He would have given up on me long ago.