I think one of my most frustrating behaviors is my classic knee-jerk. You know, when you open your mouth before you think? When you act before you evaluate your next move? I’m not talking about emergencies that need quick thinking. Nope. This is when I have a choice, when I have time to think, reflect, wait. But, oh, no! Not Suzanne! I plunge in. I speak out before I seriously think about the results of my words. I jump to conclusions, and sometimes act before I realize the consequences of what I am doing. Say you have done that, and I’m not the only one! There is another way. Thank goodness I am learning I have a choice.
We are prime targets for deception. Deception from our Enemy. And we are exceptionally vulnerable when we face trials and suffering. Our Enemy so wants us to react with a knee-jerk response. To act out of terror, anger, or fear. To make stupid or harmful mistakes. To turn to the wrong person. To listen to bad advice. To do something with dire consequences. He so wants us to not know what to do, to not know to whom we should turn. His plan is for us to make a huge choice that makes our suffering worse and our future changed forever. In truth, he wants to immobilize us completely. To create panic attacks. To render us as a deer-in-headlights! We freeze and get hit.
Take the woman who is incredibly lonely because her husband ignores her. She is in a storm that shouts “you are rejected”. She listens to lies that enter her mind: I am unloved, ugly, too fat, too old, not clever enough. She encounters kind words from another man that tell her she is amazing, beautiful, and sexy. She responds by sleeping with him. She gets pregnant. How will she explain that? She chooses to kill her unborn child. Her knee-jerk choices to her loneliness created terrible mistakes and a life with remorse and guilt. She became hostage to the King of Deception. Her windstorm of loneliness has become a tsunami.
Or what about the dad who loves his teenage son, but doesn’t appreciate that his son has a mind of his own. The son sees his dad as a very busy man who likes to run the show. “Before, he used to hang out with me and play ball. Once upon a time he noticed me.” They no longer talk like they used to about relationships, or God, or what really counts. His son breaks curfew and is an hour late. The dad is convinced his son has chosen to defy the rules. His knee-jerk choice is to lash out, yell at his son, and punish him. The son listens to the angry tirade and chooses silence rather than tell the truth of why he was late, the truth that would have easily explained everything. The son has reacted with his own knee-jerk decision: ‘All he cares about his his stupid car…and his holier-than-thou rules. Forget him.‘ The Enemy is thrilled that the Wall of Miscommunication has become the Wall of No Communication. The drizzle of their disconnect is now a thunderstorm of resentment, self-righteousness, and anger. Lightning rips and scars the landscape of their relationship.
The lonely woman, the angry dad, and the misunderstood son had a choice.
“God stands ready to comfort His broken-hearted child. He longs to wrap His arms of love around us and bring the peace and comfort only He can give. In every trial, God is with us and for us…What we call “dis-appointment” is really “His-appointment.” Faith is always tested for a reason…Trouble strengthens our faith and builds endurance, the ability to stay under the load. We have a loving Father who is committed to building the character of His Son in us. Shallow love rescues easily and quickly. Real love walks with us through the trial…God wants us to trust Him in the trials of life, even when we do not understand, even when it makes no sense, even when there seems to be no explanation.” (Mary Southerland)
When I choose to act immediately without a second thought, a prayer for wisdom, or without considering the consequences, I selfishly say to God, “I don’t need You.” But when I admit I can’t handle a storm alone, God is always ready.
We always have a choice.
Will we choose a knee-jerk? Or will we call out and choose help? God longs for us to choose Him; to seek wise, loving advice. Choose prayer. Choose loving counsel. Choose God’s Word. God’s answers can come through faithful friends, a wise counselor, a clear, unemotional decision that comes through heartfelt prayer and crying out to God.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:1-2
God is truly what He says He is – A Refuge, A Rock. He is there for us—especially when storm warnings come. You can choose to go through suffering with or without God’s power and wisdom. Ask Him to join you in your storm.
A crisis is a dangerous situation presenting an opportunity. When you focus on just the danger, you become paralyzed by fear. Focusing on the opportunity, however, enables you to fly with wings of faith. It is we, ourselves, who choose on which of the two we will focus…until you go through the hurts and difficulties and trials of life, you never really understand what the truth is. It takes suffering to get a clear vision of what God is saying to us. (Ray Stedman)
“God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves.” 2 Timothy 1:7
You know what is so amazing about our faithful God? He forgives. He restores. He uses our mistakes and our knee-jerk reactions to mold us and change us. To point us in the right direction. To open our eyes to His gifts. To build us into the temple designed for His work and His kingdom here on earth.
It is in this crucible of pain that God prunes the trivial, the superficial, and the urgent but unimportant from our lives. It is in the furnace of suffering that our arrogance and self-dependency, as well as our consumer Christianity, is purged from our souls. The Giver becomes more important than the gifts. The Blesser more precious than the blessings. People soon matter more than things, and love bursts forth in us and through us in ways that we could never imagine. (Chip Ingram)
Thank You God, I have a choice! You are the tipping point. Yes, You are the turning place. Even after we knee-jerk our way through life. You can turn it all around.