Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

I had planned to spend all day with my mom last Friday. It had been on the schedule for two weeks, but I was having one of those mornings when it seems impossible to get out of the house. I had to go back upstairs several times because I kept forgetting things, then I had to go downstairs in the basement to gather supplies I needed. I was planning to eat my breakfast of toast and tea on the road, but couldn’t find my car tea cup. So after boiling the water for tea, I just threw it away and looked for an alternative beverage. Diet Coke was my second choice, but we didn’t have any cold. So I put ice in a plastic glass and took the can with me. I was also taking lots of other things for various projects we’d be working on – scrapbooking supplies for making some cards, my laptop so I could make some notes about mom’s life for a book we’re working on, a puzzle I bought to put together during some visit, and various other things I’d collected that needed to be taken to mom’s.

In retrospect, I recognize that this morning really wasn’t atypical. The problem was my attitude. It just seemed that each additional trip upstairs or downstairs or each thing that didn’t go exactly as I wanted it to go increased my frustration. Never during those 45 minutes of getting ready did I stop, take a breath and remind myself that life is good. I was letting little things that shouldn’t even rate being considered annoyances get to me.

Finally, after three trips to the car loading various supplies, I grabbed my purse, my glass of ice and my can of pop and headed to the car with my keys in my hand. I was ready to be off for the day (finally! – sigh). I put the glass of ice in the cup holder, then reached over it to put my purse on the passenger’s seat. That’s when my shirt caught on the straw and knocked the glass of ice onto the floor. One would think that I’d have celebrated that there was only ice in the glass, right? Wrong. My “celebration” more like a loud growl-groan – “Aarrrghhhhhhh!”

God’s Interruption
It was in the midst of that aarghh that God spoke to me. Not in an audible voice, but in a distinct thought in my mind that was inconsistent with the emotions I was experiencing. “Sandy, you’re making it harder,” was what I heard, “Sandy, you’re making it harder.” I knew instantly what He meant. My loud growl-groan didn’t do a thing to alleviate my frustration. In fact, it fed it and made it stronger. It was increasing my annoyance with the day in general and moving me closer to throwing in the towel – having my own personal hissy fit, slamming the car doors, throwing the keys in the key-basket and plopping in my chair and saying, “I quit. I can’t go to Mom’s today. I can’t deal with this!” Or maybe my reaction wouldn’t have been quite that bad – maybe I was just being set up for an hour-long drive during which I would rehearse all the miserable things about my life, arriving at Mom’s with a fake smile pasted on my face, and being frustrated at everything that didn’t go right for the next eight hours.

In His grace, God stopped what was happening by whispering into my mind, “Sandy, you’re making it worse.” I immediately realized the truth in the words. I could/should have been considering myself blessed that there was no pop in the glass. I could/should have been spending the morning in anticipation of the blessings of being with Mom all day. I could/should have been using each trip upstairs or downstairs to do any of a number of things other than complain about them. If I hadn’t been expending mental and emotional energy complaining, I probably would have remembered everything I needed on the first trip upstairs…or at least the second one.

There are blessings all around us and we miss them because we get too caught up in the minor things that go wrong (or in some cases, the things that might go wrong – but that’s a different blog).

Blogging about this experience has been on my list for the past week, but when I read the verse in Ecclesiastes this morning, it was moved to the top of the list. “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit.” I was much too quickly provoked last Friday. And all along the way I had a choice to not be provoked. At any point I could have re-directed my thoughts to the good that God has put around me and in my life. Perhaps this sounds to you much like brainwashing or self-delusion. Not so. The truth is that we constantly have a voice inside us that speaks into our minds – either good or bad. That morning, I had chosen to listen to the bad.

My Freight Train of Thought
If I had taken the time to really listen to that bad voice, I know that I would have been hearing things like this: “You’re never going to get out of here on time. You’re always late when you go to your Mom’s. If you don’t get there by 9am you won’t really have time to do much of anything before lunch. Why is it that your Mom always gets the short end of the stick?” Another line of self-talk might have been more like this: “Why is it that you can’t remember three simple things in one trip? If you had laid this stuff out last night you’d be having a better morning today. If you forget something you won’t be able to finish making the cards you want to do with Mom.” And here’s the third track the voices would have taken: “You know it’s going to take you three trips to get all this stuff to the car. And then three more trips to get it all from the car into the nursing home. Not to mention three more trips to get it all back home. What are you going to do with your laptop while you’re working on cards in the lounge? You know you’ll have to leave it in your Mom’s room because you can’t carry your laptop and your scrapbook supplies all at once. Maybe you should leave your laptop in the car and just work on cards, then go out to the car and exchange the scrapbooking supplies for the laptop. Of course, that limits what you can do…”

I debated about including that last paragraph in this blog for many reasons. It’s very revealing of my personal thought life. Yes, I think these kinds of thoughts, more often than I’d like to admit. This is the kind of self-talk that creeps into my head, trying to suck the life out of me and get me to take the easier path of just giving up and doing nothing. Can you relate to that? It’s not just a “train of thought” – it’s more like a freight train of thought, because it hits you with such impact and it’s full of the baggage of life. But it’s baggage that we’re not called to carry. These thoughts reside just under the surface of my life waiting to pop up at the least provocation. Who can sustain a positive attitude with that flood of negative thoughts vying for attention?

God’s Better Plan
Part of the wonderful package of becoming a follower and disciple of Christ, though, is learning to replace those thoughts with His thoughts. What were God’s thoughts during this time? If I could have silenced the darts the enemy was throwing, I would have been able to recognize how blessed I am to be able to take a day off to spend with Mom. How wonderful it is to have a house with three floors, and the health to be able to climb all those stairs, and the finances to buy scrapbooking supplies and a puzzle and a laptop computer! Was I angsting over what to wear this morning? (Yes!) What a blessing to have such choices in clothing! Was I complaining about tromping upstairs so many times? (Yes!) What good exercise on a day when I would spend most of it sitting! Beyond those blessings that relate directly to what was frustrating me, I have the overriding blessings of a God who is just wild about me, a husband who loves me just about as much as God does, and other family and friends who help make life precious. I also have the physical and mental ability to work and play in the beautiful and abundantly varied world that God has created for me. And I have a warm, dry, and comfortable bed to sleep in each night as I thank God for His goodness.

Being easily provoked last week was all a matter of focusing on the wrong things, and dealing with them in a fleshly way. As God said, my reaction to each incident was just making it worse. The greatest blessing? That God mercifully spoke to me to remind me that I have a choice about letting these little things provoke me to frustration and anger. What a great God we serve!

Lord, as we face the coming week, will you help each reader hear Your voice and not be easily provoked by the darts the enemy throws their way.

2 Responses to “Make it Easier on Yourself – Think Rightly!”
  1. Maggie says:

    Now you are sounding more like me!!! Thanks for the reminder to concentrate more on the POSITIVE than the negative that is so easy to get bogged down in!

  2. Sandy says:

    Thanks! for commenting. We all get bogged down in it sometimes and all need to be reminded to keep looking up. Be blessed!

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