We all know at least one person in our life who carry a loudness about them. Not an enthusiastic loudness, but a critical and angry loudness. The kind of presence in which you feel your shoulders crunch up to your ears in stress and all you want is a quiet space to process everything or simply get away. It feels like you’re being overstimulated in a way you never want to feel again. For some of us, it is a parent or a child. For most of us, it is probably a list of people. It might even be you. I know I have struggled with intense spouts of anger and bitterness, consuming a conversation and leaving others overwhelmed or discouraged. I have grown, but I also still struggle to remain calm.
When life is racing and you are thrown constant curve balls, it is hard to respond with peace. It is hard to be calm. We feel the desire to eliminate the irritation and move back into comfort. It can be a few weeks of seemingly constant sicknesses appearing out of thin air. It can be family crisis or financial surprises. Whatever the case, our bodies react to our stress to rid ourselves of the problem. Most of the time, we can’t change the situation around us.
Clams know how to respond to every threat or discomfort. Either they close tight and hang on, or they coat the irritant in a brilliant formula so smooth it no longer bothers them. But we, sadly, do not have such simple problems. They are more complicated. We are more complicated. We battle concepts like security, self-worth, and loneliness. How does a person coat an irritant like that? My initial thought is the metaphorical coating of thankfulness. To implement a habit of thankfulness into our schedules as a source of life.
Americans really like to complain about everything, but we don’t see the damage it does to our personal contentment and self-worth. So much so, we begin to ignore cries for help as a simple complaint. We ignore the call to action as our fellow image-bearing humans are in deep distress. The worst part is the spiral of bitterness and frustration they find themselves in without a hand reaching in to help them out. Our complaints dissipate the truth our friends and family are trying to share. We are so exhausted of “crying with them” (Romans 12:15) over every complaint, we miss the true problems our brothers and sisters are facing.
The Still, Small Voice
Scripture describes God’s voice in an interaction He has with Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-18. The Lord is clearly speaking to Elijah during a difficult time in his life, and Elijah is looking for God to move miraculously to remove the trial he is facing. Elijah was fleeing for his life for doing what God asked, and he had no control over the response of the people. Yet, God prepares Elijah for something surprising: His peace.
God was not in the wind, earthquake, or fire. God was in the gentle whisper. Elijah reaches new depth in his relationship with God as he finds deliverance through God’s peace. We learn of God’s true heart towards His people. He wants to replace our worry, not our circumstances. To speak quietly and gently, instead of booming anger and miracles to destroy the enemy. He gives us peace and grace to find thankfulness in the little moments where He provides His gentleness.
Comfort and Understanding
After God speaks calmly and patiently with Elijah, He then gives His instruction. It is a change in authority and a friend and successor to help Elijah through the future trials. The intent is to bring up a new prophet after Elijah moves on, but it also provides a friend. Perhaps God knew Elisha would bring deep comfort to Elijah. Perhaps God brings people into our life to both comfort and learn from, or to be comforted and teach. We need both mentors and students to stay strong in our faith. God will move in miraculous ways, but it is often through a change in heart instead of circumstance.
As we enter the Christmas season, our trials do not go away. In fact, they may get worse. But our response is key in our ability to encourage others and learn along the way. Will we dilute the truth of pain and need for help with complaints to be ignored anyway? Or maybe we will seek Christ through peace, patience, and the comfort in listening for the soft and calm whisper of our savior.