Ambushed. I didn’t even see it coming. I walked into the meeting excited to discuss some new ideas and walked out feeling like some bully had pushed me over one of his cronies kneeling behind me – and this was a church meeting! As I hopped into my car, I was ticked and wanted everyone else on the road to know it. I was mad, hurt, and wanted to wallow in my self-pity.
A couple miles down the road I sensed the conviction of the Holy Spirit – I knew my heart was going the wrong direction. So I just started spewing, “God, I was just ambushed in that meeting. I’m so angry I want drive over to those people’s house, tell them off, and take out their mailbox on the way out.”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I could see how dumb they were, but I needed to say them none-the-less. Then I followed up my rant with a desperate question, “Holy Spirit, I know I’m not feeling right about all this, how am I supposed to feel and react towards all of this?”
Like a thunderbolt the words of James 1:2-3 came to mind, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
As a young pastor I’d been praying God would help me to mature and grow in my capacity to lead and shepherd. He answered – and I was not ready for it. I actually started laughing out loud in my car as I put all the pieces together (any bystander watching my transformation would have thought I was crazy).
Ever since that experience I’ve tried modeling this method of confession and dependence in times of frustration and temptation. Almost always the Holy Spirit directs my heart to respond in a way that honors him, usually embracing one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23).
In moments of tension we’re all prone to anger, gossip, lust, or discontentment. But by the help of the Spirit we can begin to see our temptation more clearly and respond in a way that reflects Christ’s life in us.
Today, begin to incorporate this simple method of prayer into your life. As you bump into frustrations or temptation tell God exactly what you’re feeling and what you’d like to do. It might not be pretty, but he already knows. And by confessing those things out loud to God we tend to see our temptation more clearly. Then, submit yourself to the Holy Spirit by simply asking, “How should I be feeling about this situation and how would you like me to respond?”
Don’t be surprised when he answers! Allow the Spirit to bring Scripture to mind. And when he does, thank him and yield to the direction he is leading you.
~ Ben Vaught