How do you respond to setbacks or blocked goals? For me, it depends on the situation. But if my project meets resistance, or a successful ministry appears to be in decline, I start to hear a little voice. It nags me about personal inadequacy or failure. It makes me mad.
I understand anger as a secondary emotion; it follows other emotions: If we are threatened, hurt, or feel wronged then we might become angry. The grief cycle that follows a loss includes anger. Blockages and disappointments can trigger a similar response. Blocked goals threaten our self-esteem, so we tend to get angry at the obstacle, pushing against it with varying measures of fussing and fuming.
Some people turn the anger inwards or sabotage things connected to their job, as if demolition will remove the pain. Anger can even be self-destructive; a way to eliminate feelings of disappointment and hurt by deadening the feeler. Sometimes I withdraw because I do not know what to do or I feel powerless in a situation.
Most often, anger is either part of an active attempt to bulldoze an obstacle or it is a vengeful lashing out to damage whatever causes the frustration.
Jesus had a goal blocked one day. He was travelling to Jerusalem through Samaria. He sent His logistical team ahead to arrange for his visit to a certain village. They failed. Instead of holding a welcome party the Samaritans lowered blinds and bolted doors. Jews on their way to Jerusalem should just keep right on walking. Jesus was unfazed. James and John were furious.
“They said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:54-56)
How did Jesus manage to stay so calm? I think the answer lies in the threefold perspective that Jesus had:
- He knew that we can never force anyone to accept the King and His kingdom. If He had insisted on Samaria’s hospitality their hearts would have been secretly bitter towards Him. Anger does not accomplish the work of God; it is inconsistent with the ways of the Son of Man.1 Often I need to accept my own powerlessness in a situation and hand it to God trusting in His power to change it in His time. The resistance of others is no reflection of our abilities.
- Jesus understood timing. In this case, Samaria could wait. Jesus was about to die and rise from the dead. Then He would ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit. In just a few short months, disciples would return to Samaria in the power of the Spirit and breakthrough would come.2 Ministry reversals and blocked goals should drive us to God. As we wait on Him He will show us more about His timing and how He wants to accomplish His goals.
- Jerusalem was Jesus’ priority. What seemed like a mountainous offense to the disciples was a tiny bump in the road to Jesus. Yes, He would keep right on walking. Samaria was not His goal; Jerusalem was. Let us stay focused on the highest calling that God has given us, rather than being distracted by lesser ones. Let’s be prepared for God to clarify our vision when it is a blurred version of His own.
Please make these reflections on a few Bible verses part of your devotions. Sign up and then respond to the confirmation message (we will not spam, or share your e-mail address).