Don’t you just love it when your child decides to have a temper tantrum when you’re in the supermarket, a restaurant or anywhere in public? Some of us feel embarrassed and mortified, especially when we get those “why can’t she control her child?” looks. We try to deal with the situation as best as we can. Wouldn’t it be great if we could vacate the premises as fast as the superhero, Flash? Or better yet, beam home? When it comes to dealing with temper tantrums, we have to diffuse the situation and try to remain calm while doing that which isn’t easy at all.
What about us? Do we throw temper tantrums when we don’t get our way with God? Do we get angry and sulky when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want? I can think of two examples of people in the Bible who threw tantrums when things didn’t go their way. The first is Cain.
Cain was the older of two brothers. He was a a “tiller of the ground” while his brother Abel was a “keeper of sheep”. Both brought offerings to God. God respected Abel and his offering but didn’t respect Cain and his offering. Cain became very angry and depressed. Why did God reject his offering? Hebrews 11:4 states, By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. Abel offered the best that he had from among his flock while Cain brought an offering of the fruit. It doesn’t say that the fruit were the first fruits of the ground which were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals but it would explain why God rejected Cain’s offer.
If we don’t give God our best and He rejects it, why should we get angry? Cain’s anger toward God was unreasonable. God spoke to him about it. “Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it.”
God dealt with Cain’s behavior in a calm and loving manner. God knew what was the cause of his anger and told him what to do about it. If you know why your child is acting up, try to help them to see how their behavior will not get them what they want. Cain’s anger was not going to make things right with God. He had to change his attitude and do what is right before God could accept him. Your child needs to know that their unruly behavior is unacceptable and that if they behave themselves, all will be well for them. Some of them may calm down and behave themselves while others continue acting up. Sadly, Cain didn’t get over his anger and it resulted in his brother’s death.
Jonah is the other adult in the Bible who threw a temper tantrum. When God first sent the prophet to the wicked city of Nineveh to cry out against it, “because their wickedness has come up before Me,” Jonah fled in the opposite direction to Tarshish. After surviving three days and nights in the belly of a large fish which vomited him up on dry land and acknowledging that “Salvation is of the Lord!” God again called the prophet to “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
Jonah had no other choice but to go to Nineveh this time. When he entered the city, he cried out, “In forty days’ time, Nineveh will be overthrown!” The people believed God and proclaimed a fast. They all put on sackcloth and when the king heard the news, he left his throne, removed his robes and put on sackcloth. He made a decree that both people and animals would fast and that all shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands, believing that it was possible that God “may relent and change His mind. He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we will not perish.”
When God saw their actions and that they had turned from their evil ways, He relented and didn’t bring disaster on them. However, this act of mercy greatly angered Jonah and he told God why he fled to Tarshish. “This is the reason that I fled before to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in faithfulness, and ready to relent from punishment.” He asked God to take his life because death was better than living to see the people of Nineveh spared.
Do we get upset with God when He shows love and compassion toward people we don’t think are deserving of His mercy? Are any of us deserving of His grace? When Jonah was thrown into the sea as per his request to the men in the ship with him, God showed him mercy by sending a large fish to swallow him, preventing him from drowning. Jonah confessed that salvation was of the Lord and yet, he was angry with Him for saving the people of Nineveh who repented. God will not destroy those who repent but will show them mercy instead. This was the God whom Jonah served and yet, this was the reason why he was angry with Him.
As He did with Cain and with us, God tried to reason with Jonah, showing him how unreasonable he was being. He asked him, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Is it right for us to be angry when God accepts a person whom we considered to be a backslider back into His fold? Was it right for the brother of the prodigal son to be upset with the father for welcoming his wayward son back home? To illustrate His point, God did a little experiment. As Jonah sat down to see what would happen to the city of Nineveh, God had a plant grow and give shade to the prophet. Jonah was thankful for the plant because of its shade from the heat. The next day, though, God had a worm eat the plant until it withered and then raised up a scorching east wind. When the sun beat upon the head of Jonah he became faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant. Jonah replied that his anger was justified even to death. And God’s response was, “You are troubled about the plant for which you did not labor and did not grow. It came up in a night and perished in a night. Should I not, therefore, be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people, who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
Do we, like Jonah, place more importance on things and animals than we do people who are lost and need God’s mercy? The people of Nineveh were living in sin until God sent Jonah to warn them so that they could turn from their wickedness and be saved. There are many people in the world who are living in darkness and God wants bring them into the light. We don’t determine who deserves His mercy and who doesn’t. When it comes to someone’s salvation, there’s no room for temper tantrums but a changed heart and attitude that would allow us to see what God sees and rejoice with Him when that sinner repents.