I follow Tim Keller on Facebook. And recently, he posted a quote that caught my eye.
“We get angry when we feel like God owes us a better life than we have.”
Ooh. That one stings. Have you ever experienced this?
Maybe it was anger over a promotion you didn’t receive at work. Or maybe it happened when you put in a bid on your dream house you wanted to buy—but the deal fell through. Or perhaps it was a slow burn resentment towards the neighbor’s kid who was awarded a full scholarship to college while you were working night and day to meet the tuition bills to put your kids through school. It can pop up almost anywhere. This type of anger can be so insidious.
Those of us who are parents of children with disabilities are particularly, dangerously, prone to the experience of destructive anger. It doesn’t just get directed at God. In fact, much more frequently, it can be directed at others. And even done in God’s name. It can sound a lot like this:
“The body of Christ is supposed to care for each other. Well I have yet to see anyone at MY house. Everybody else is out there, living their best life while I’m still changing diapers, driving to endless doctor’s appointments, and trying to make some headway in an impossible education system. What a joke.”
“Everybody belongs. That’s what our church website says. Ha! Not my kid.”
“Well, yeah, my church does do some stuff for us. But honestly, it’s just not enough. It never is. ‘Love one another.’ I guess that’s just for the other people.”
Anger is sometimes referred to as a “secondary emotion.” In other words: when we feel anger, we need to look to see what emotions might actually be behind it: Disappointment. Despair. Frustration. Loneliness. Fear.
In addition to looking for the “emotions behind the emotion” we also need consider what kind of thinking is precipitating those primary feelings. For example:
- Do we possess tightly held expectations that we need to exchange for open-handed desires?
- Do we possess an entitlement mentality that we need to exchange for vulnerability?
- Are we wallowing in resentment of the life we have when we need to embrace acceptance of the life God has given us?
None of this is easy. Parenting kids (and adults) with developmental disabilities requires navigating along a pathway fraught with spiritual landmines. Rather than blow up our families and the relationships with others around us, however, we can learn to discern the depths of our own sin-prone hearts and to develop a heart of wisdom via the power of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” It takes wisdom to remember that this life isn’t about “your best life now.”
For the believer, it’s always about transforming each of us into the image of Christ, bit by bit. This is true in abundance and in want, in happiness and in sorrow, and in ability or disability. For, when God’s transforming grace is at work in our lives, it changes how we see and experience our daily realities. And it changes what we expect from others, who are also in the midst of their own very incomplete transformations as well.
Martin Luther once said this:
This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness.
Not health, but healing.
Not being, but becoming.
Not rest, but exercise.
We are not what we should be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not gleam in glory, but all is being purified.
No believer lives their best life now. Not one. “This is not the end, but it is the road.”
The Scripture is clear that, for every Christian, the best is yet to come. That said, when we focus on pursuing our own transformation in godliness, we will be freed to care about meeting the needs of others more than having our own needs met. That’s a good place to start.
Remember: “We get angry when we feel like God owes us a better life than we have.”
So this week, listen to your thoughts and your words.
- Honestly. Are you angry?
- What emotions might be behind the anger?
- Can you name them?
- Is there any errant thinking that is driving your underlying feelings?
- Can you redirect those thoughts to healthier ones?
- Are you believing the cultural lie that you should be living “your best life now?”
- Do you need to repent of that?
- Can you seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit to sidestep these landmines and focus on the true aim of this life for the Christian—being conformed to the image of Christ?
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
That’s my prayer for you, and for me today.
Stephanie O. Hubach is a Research Fellow in Disability Ministries in affiliation with Covenant Theological Seminary. From 2007-2016 she served as the Founding Director of Mission to North America’s Special Needs Ministries (Presbyterian Church in America). She is also a founding member of the Lancaster Christian Council on Disability (LCCD). Steph is the author of Parenting & Disabilities: Abiding in God’s Presence (P&R Publishing, 2021), Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability (P&R Publishing, 2006, Revised & Expanded Edition 2020), and All Things Possible: Calling Your Church Leadership to Disability Ministry (Joni and Friends, 2007). She has been published in ByFaith magazine, Focus on the Family magazine, and Breakpoint online magazine and produced a Christian Education DVD series based on Same Lake, Different Boat. Steph and her husband have two deeply loved sons, the younger of whom has Down syndrome.
For further information on her work, go to www.stephaniehubach.com.