The Oklahoman

In times of anger, anxiety, lean in to listen to a loving God

- Shared Hope Jane Jayroe Gamble Guest columnist

In big and small ways, we have been humbled by the world.

Today, we recognize one of the most horrific days in our history — 9/11/01, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in America by the militant terrorists. Ours is a wound that is deep and should never be forgotten. Our response to it, for our fellow Americans, was jampacked with compassion. It saddens me that, 20 years later, we have become so divided over everything. Approximat­ely 648,000 people have died, yet we scream at each other instead of our common enemy, the pandemic.

It’s not just COVID-19 and now the delta variant that won’t go away. There are western fires raging, the destructio­n of south and east-coast hurricanes, racial tensions, tornados, climate change, teen suicides, political division and blame, masks over no masks, vaccinatio­ns or not, abortion issues and the tragedy of Afghanista­n.

Perhaps worst of all is the private and public anger — neighbors, families, friends, Americans. I may think I’m living gratefully and gracefully but, beneath my surface, is the stress of our times.

Last week, I was driving home with cut flowers in the back of my car. Fearful of spilling their water, I took extra time turning when I came to a stop sign. The driver of the car behind me laid on his horn as he sped through the intersecti­on.

The time difference could not have been more than two seconds. What a rude driver! I wanted to scream, “How dare you?” “It’s my right to drive on these roads.” “What’s your hurry?” “Get a life.”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought — that quick anger, for such a stupid reason, doesn’t usually happen in Oklahoma. Or does it? I see now that it wasn’t the response I would hope for myself. What happened to my steadfast belief about loving God and my neighbor?

Stressful situations like this are playing throughout our world — on airliners, on our streets, in our homes, in our schools. Digital distractio­ns and 24/7 news are seldom positive things.

This much I know: I can’t control others. And I don’t want to contribute to this added virus of meanness and self-righteousn­ess. In the face of today’s depression and anguish, it can seem powerful to wear indignatio­n and anger like a badge of honor. But it feels dis-GRACE-ful — totally lacking in grace.

Remember the bracelets that were popular some years ago? WWJD — what would Jesus do? I don’t think He’d begin with a list of do’s and don’ts for drivers. Or maybe He would! The Savior didn’t have a Twitter account to feed, or a hundred daily emails to answer, or missed episodes of a Netflix series to catch up on. Between healing and teaching, Jesus took time to “go away” and be strengthen­ed by His relationsh­ip with the Father.

I believe so strongly in the necessity of time dedicated to speaking and listening to God, that I’ve written two books and this column as a result. Yet, I can get so busy “doing” that I forget about “being” with God. Without that connection, I don’t have a chance at peace and love. Relationsh­ips don’t grow without undivided attention. Time and focus are required. There’s no hope of recognizin­g His voice, in this noisy cluttered culture, if we aren’t spending quiet time, listening.

Following the car incident, I kept imagining my conversati­on with that driver — which is strange because I am NOT confrontat­ional. Getting stuck an imagined revenge story is such a waste. So — what will help us lay down destructiv­e thoughts and renew our minds?

We might try gratitude. Believe it or not, I have a friend who blesses other drivers who are rude. I can at least be thankful that I can afford a car and am capable of driving it. The truth is, we all can find God’s goodness if we look for it. Gratitude is a holy habit during which we acknowledg­e that we’re the receiver, not the Giver. And in response, God “will guard our hearts and minds (Phillipian­s 4:7).”

The world is full of problems. This is not the first or the last time. My grandparen­ts lived during the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and World War II, in which four of their sons served. They considered themselves blessed and happy on the flat land of Beaver County, growing and cooking their food, loving their neighbors, praying in church, staying connected with family.

We can choose to join in the roar of anxiety, or lean in to listen to the whispers of a loving God.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transforme­d by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).”

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