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I had tried every remedy I could think of.
From melatonin to other sleep aids, from sleep masks to ear plugs, all of these so-called “solutions” for sleeping trouble resulted for me in more wakeful evenings. For the girl who had never had much trouble with sleep, I was struggling.
And struggling is probably not the most accurate word I could use to describe my sleep-deprived state. The better word is angry.
Yes, I admit it. Angry. Angry that, no matter what I tried, no matter how tired I was, I would lay awake for hours on end, unable to fall asleep. Angry knowing that the next day at work was going to be difficult. Angry that my dear husband was fast asleep next to me.
Angry at the Lord for ordaining a trial that seemed so torturous in the moment, one that made no sense to me at all.
Our bodies run on sleep. Doesn’t God know that?
Doesn’t God see that I have some big projects to complete this week at work and that I simply cannot be a walking zombie to finish them?
Doesn’t he hear my cries for help?
Doesn’t he care?
I had reached my breaking point after about two weeks of interrupted sleep. The tears continued to come, my mind spinning from not understanding why I had to endure such a ridiculous trial. But one thing was certain: I knew that, deep down, my anger was directed toward the Lord. I knew simultaneously that this attitude did not honor him and that it was revealing a deeper condition of my heart.
But what? What was making me so angry over something so small? What was at the root of my anger towards the Lord?
Take a look with me at James 4:13-17:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James’ point is this: We all make plans – and there is nothing innately wrong with planning – but what is the attitude of our heart towards the Lord behind our planning? The author zeroes in on two major points in these verses which expound upon this important issue.
Understand your Lord. Before we can begin to make sense of our own lives, we must start with knowing the Lord. James teaches that the most upright, blameless, and wise way to make our plans is to consider them in light of the sovereign will of the Lord. In other words, we value our own plans less than we value the Lordship of Christ supremely ruling every area of our lives. Our plans submit to his purpose.
And why is this so? The Lord is the Creator of heaven and earth. In him, every human being lives, moves, and has their being (Acts 17:28). In him, every human being is held accountable for sin because he is the standard of righteousness and light and truth. The Potter has every right to rule over his clay (Romans 9:20-21).
Understand your life. James then teaches us about ourselves, in light of who God is. If God is the only holy, righteous, perfect Ruler, then clearly we are not “rulers.” James asks, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (v14). The human life is brief, fleeting, a mist. In scope of God’s infinite greatness and eternal presence, our lives are but a breath!
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Here’s the irony: Though we are the clay, we plan as if we are potters! (v13). This is precisely why James instructs us to make our plans in submission to God’s will. “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (v15).
By God’s grace appearing through his Word, I began to understand that I had specific, unspoken “plans” for my life that most certainly did not include sleeplessness, as well as all the effects of it. I realized I was gripping tightly to a future of comfort, success, and effectiveness in all areas of life. In essence, I was taking control of my own life, leaning upon my own strengths and gifts, and rebelling against any unwelcome interruption to these plans.
And the result was anger towards the Lord. Anger towards the Potter, the one who fashioned and formed me. The one who graciously gave me life and breath – and not only that, but also eternal life in his Son, despite how undeserving I was to receive such an inheritance. What a humbling admission!
As I consider the grace of God in ordaining this trial and teaching me through his Word, I wonder if the following questions might be of value to you. I found that they helped me to understand the attitude of my heart toward God’s sovereign rule. Read through them, and consider your responses:
1. When something doesn’t go your way, how do you react?
2. When someone has something you want, how do you respond?
3. What in your life do you avoid thinking about?
4. Where do your thoughts go when your mind wanders?
5. When hard times come, do you draw nearer to God, or do you drift away from him?
6. Do you/will you praise God and thank him for troubles when they occur?
7. Do you/will you pray “Your will be done” during difficult times?
8. What is the attitude of your heart while you wait for some outcome?
9. If God were to strip away what’s of value to you, would you still be at peace?
10. If your gifts or strengths were gone tomorrow, would you feel worthless?
In meditating on your responses, perhaps you resonate with the anger I described earlier. But if you have seen in yourself rebellious tendencies to control your own life, take heart. Christ came precisely to save and free rebels! Cast yourself wholly on the wisdom and life of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of everything. Tell him you lay down your own plans and desires in submission to his. Ask him to fulfill his purpose for you, no matter the cost.
Only when your life is submitted to Christ are you truly free to let go of every plan, every dream, every pursuit you once held so tightly. This freedom comes from trusting that he is sovereignly in control of your life, purposing his plans for you and working all things for good.
Kristen Wetherell is a writer, speaker and the Content Manager of Unlocking the Bible. She's married to Brad, loves exploring new places, enjoys cooking, and writes music in her spare time. Her desire is to glorify Jesus Christ and edify believers through the written word. Connect with Kristen at her website or on Twitter @KLWetherell.