Do you feel fearful, anxious, stressed or panicked when you’re not in control or when things in life seem out of control? Are you stressed or irritable when you don’t know the plan, the details and the outcome? You may be dealing with a fear of losing control. How does this fear often manifest itself in our lives?
- Overprotective parenting
- Demanding spirit
- Completing, taking over or redoing tasks done by others
- Obsessing over details
- Inability to delegate
- Wanting it done “my way”
- Always want to be the one to drive?
For those of us who want to be in control, those situations where we find ourselves vulnerable and helpless can be terrifying. —Elyse Fitzpatrick
(Photo Credit: funnyand.com)
In this series, we are considering how our choice in the “Gap Moment” can affect how we deal with fear:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl
As a reminder from last week, when we react instead of respond we allow our emotions and perception of the situation to have full reign and control. This often leaves us frantic, panicked, stressed, anxious and worried. But when we respond, in that “gap moment” we have the opportunity to turn to Jesus. We have the opportunity to stop the worry/fear cycle. We have the opportunity to rehearse who God is and what He has done. We have the opportunity to renew our minds in the Truth of God’s Word. Responding is about placing our trust in God instead of giving full vent to our fears and imaginings.
This week we are looking at Jonah’s Gap Moments and how he handles the fear of losing control. Jonah has three Gap Moments. Does he RESPOND or REACT?
Jonah’s Gap Moment #1
Take a moment and read Jonah 1:1-17. What is the instruction Jonah receives from the Lord? Does he respond or react?
Jonah Runs — we read in Jonah 1: 3 that he flees from presence of the Lord. Jonah runs in the opposite direction! God is omnipresent and omniscient, so how is this possible? Can we really run from God’s presence? Let’s take a look at a few cross-references for greater insight. Take a moment to read through these passages and note anything you learn about the presence of God; being in His presence, things that keep us from His presence and benefits of His presence:
In the passages in Genesis we learn that sin separated Adam, Eve and Cain from God’s presence. God is holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. In Exodus 33 we read of Moses’ plea for God’s presence to go with him. And as he seeks God and obeys his instructions, God’s presence is with him and we learn that he finds rest. Psalm 16 reminds us that in God’s presence we find counsel, instruction, fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. We see that He is always with us and in His presence we are never shaken.
Is there any application in this for us? For me, it’s a great reminder that when I choose my own way instead of seeking God, I usually end up in trouble. Sin is always crouching at the door waiting to seize an opportunity to get me to doubt God’s goodness and deceive me with the lie that my way is better than God’s plan. But I also know that when I seek the Lord and confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me! (1 John 1:9).
Psalm 139 assures me that God knows me completely. He is my Creator! He knows my thoughts before I think them. I cannot hide from His presence. He hems me in behind, before and all around. He is with me. He is sovereign over all things. He is in control and His plan is always best, even when my circumstances seem to contradict. I don’t know the big picture. He does! And again I am reminded of Hebrews 2:
Jonah Reaps the consequences of his actions and ends up in the belly of the fish. But is this a bad thing? How will God use it for Jonah’s good? Stay tuned! We see in Jonah’s first Gap Moment that he definitely reacts instead of responds.
Let’s move on to Jonah’s second Gap Moment.
Jonah’s Gap Moment #2
Read Jonah 2:1-10.
We find Jonah in the belly of the fish. Another fearful situation to be sure! Dark, smelly, slimy, claustrophobic and all orchestrated by God. He did save him from the raging seas, but probably not in the way Jonah would have preferred. What does Jonah do with this Gap Moment? Does he react or respond?
Jonah Recognized he was in a desperate situation, out of his control (v.1-2, 4-5). Jonah calls upon the Lord and cries out to Him in prayer. Let’s take a moment to read some cross-reference verses on what happens when we cry out to God. Read through these verses and note anything you learn.
God hears! He saves, rescues, supports, delights in, preserves and delivers when we call upon Him. He is near to all who call upon Him! He fulfills our desires. He bends down to hear our heart’s cry. And we learn in Romans that because of who we are in Christ Jesus, we can cry out Abba Father! and we are His so we have no need to live in a spirit of fear and bondage to the way of life that keeps us in fearful bondage. We have been set free in Christ!
Have you ever cried out to God and it seems as if He is not answering you? Why would this happen? Is there anything we can do to change this?
But we all have those moments when we cry out and don’t feel God hears or perhaps like Jonah we don’t get the answer we had hoped for in the situation. Sometimes when we feel we are not hearing an answer from God, it’s because He’s calling us to just wait, to rest in His presence, to trust Him, to “be still and know” that He is God. Remind yourself of Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. —Romans 8:28-29
And that Jesus is always waiting for us to come to Him:
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. —Hebrews 7:25 (NASB)
But there are times when God doesn’t respond and there is a reason. Read the following cross-references and note what you learn about why God might not respond:
Sin separates us from God’s presence and when we cherish sin in our hearts, when we willingly disobey, He does not listen or answer. BUT when we confess our sins, He is always faithful and just to forgive and cleanse and restore (1 John 1:9). Then we can ask in confidence knowing He hears and responds!
Jonah Remembered who God was. (v. 3, 6-7)
Jonah Realized he was clinging to the worthless idol of trying to be in control. (v. 8)
Jonah Resolved to trust God. He gives thanks and praises Him in the midst of the trial. (v. 9)
So in this Gap Moment does Jonah respond or react? I believe he responds. He cries out to God. He acknowledges his sin and his need for God. He rehearses who God is and resolves to trust God. What great examples for us to follow in our Gap Moments of fear.
Jonah’s Gap Moment #3
Read Jonah 3-4. What do we see happening in this gap moment? Does Jonah respond or react?
Jonah Resents God’s decision (4:1-3)
Jonah Retreats and has a “pity-party” because things aren’t going according to his plan and desires. (4:6-8)
Jonah Rebels against God’s Sovereignty. (4:9-11)
Jonah reacts instead of responds when he doesn’t get the outcome he desires. We see in Jonah’s story that ultimately he did not want God to save the Ninevites. His experience just served to expose his independent nature, his desire to control and have things his way. I’m sure he was fearful of the warrior-fierce Ninevites, they were scary! But we also see the selfishness of his heart revealed. This prompts me to examine what lies at the heart of my fears.
“Situations don’t create our fears and desires, but rather serve to reveal the desires in our hearts already.” —Elyse Fitzpatrick
But there is something else we need to note about Jonah’s story. We see Jonah react, respond and then react again. It’s just a great reminder that just because we choose to respond once, doesn’t mean we will every time. Our choice to respond or react when dealing with our fears is always about relationship. It’s about a daily acknowledgement that we need God! It’s spending time in His presence on a continual basis — time in His Word, time in conversation with Him through prayer and surrendering to His Spirit at work within us. It’s seeking to deal with the desires in our hearts that don’t line up with God’s Word and Jesus’ example. It’s acknowledging that God is sovereign and in control of all things and resolving to trust Him in all our moments.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.
—1 Chronicles 29:11 (TLB)