A defiant “No!” Banshee-like wails of rebellion. A willful collapse to the floor followed by violently flailing limbs. In short, a hissy fit of epic proportions. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, maybe you’ve seen this display at the grocery store with a red-faced parent standing close by, or maybe you’re the red-faced parent. If you’re that red-faced parent, you’ve probably thrown up your hands dozens of times with thoughts like “How do I parent this child without having to put him in a padded cell?” and “How am I supposed to keep myself from turning into an ogre when he does this?”
For those of us in that boat, there is a reason why you can be thankful for your child’s fury. I know it seems unthinkable, but there is a legitimate reason to praise God for your angry child. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “… out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” This means that what is coming out of your child when he is yelling at you is coming from his heart. Your child, then, is not hiding who he is really is. He’s wearing his heart on his sleeve. When your child throws a fit, the true nature of his heart is not being manipulated or airbrushed so that what you see is the pretty version that’s easy on the eyes. No, you are getting a clear view of his sinful heart.
Some children deal with their unmet desires differently, in ways that are harder to see and interpret. I know parents who find it very difficult to draw out their kids’ hearts and get them to talk about what’s going on inside of them. Parents of angry children, the work of drawing out your child’s heart is not hard work for you. Really, they’re doing it for you every time you deny them something their heart desires more than it ought.
Praise the Lord that there’s not much of a filter on your child’s heart! Because of this, you know what you’re dealing with and you can readily get to work on addressing your child’s root sins with the gospel and the promises of God. So, next time your heart starts running back to the whole “Woe is me, for I have an angry child” routine, remember that your child has made it easy for you make the diagnosis so you can get to the remedy more quickly.
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In his commentary on Psalm 95 in The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon writes on the way in which Israel put God to the test in the wilderness after they had been delivered from slavery: “Friendship only flourishes in the atmosphere of confidence, suspicion is deadly to it: shall the Lord, true and immutable, be day after day suspected by his own people?”
Although Israel had witnessed the power of God in the ten plagues, experienced his glorious way of escape from Pharaoh through the Red Sea, and daily ate of his provision (manna), they remained suspicious of God. They continued to grumble and complain against him in the wilderness because they were not convinced of his goodness and love. Israel did not believe God was looking out for their best interest, so they wanted to see more signs, experience more blessing. Needless to say, this did not bode well for the health of their relationship with him. As Spurgeon says, “…suspicion is deadly to [a friendship]”.
Are we any different? When our circumstances squeeze us, so often we wonder if God is really “for us”, and we put him to the test in our prayers with a mentality that says, “If God is good, then surely he will ____________ for me.” God has told us that he is unchanging (James 1:17) and he has told us that “in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), so we can trust that he will always do what he says he’s going to do for us. We, on the other hand, are the ones with hearts that are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Consequently, we should be suspicious of ourselves, not God. I know I’ve said this before, but we need to be a people who are asking open-ended questions of our hearts: “Why did I say that? What did I want when I did that? What does that kind of thinking reveal about where my priorities are? Is what I am telling myself reflective of God’s truth, or is it a lie?” Certainly we can go nuts with this and become morbidly introspective, but the point is not to know your heart with scary-specific precision. Rather, it is to expose your heart for what it is and then redirect it with God’s truth, pleading with him to help you break free from our world’s popular “just follow your heart” philosophy. I believe it is one of the enemy’s great ploys to keep us suspicious of the One on whom suspicion is wasted so that our spiritual eyes don’t see all the incriminating evidence that lies within. Church, let us pray for God to help us trust him and distrust ourselves.
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