Temper tantrums and the safety of trust

  There’s something I love about kids’ temper tantrums.


I know that sounds sick and wrong. And trust me, I don’t always feel this way. Especially when I am the one who has to parent through it.


But, if I step outside myself and watch a tantrum transpire, I can’t help but respect the unabashed honest burst of emotions.


As adults, we demonstrate our feelings, but often with reins of control held tight. We show others our brokenness, but not to the point of being truly vulnerable.


We have a sort of measured authenticity.


In some ways, a bit control is healthy. A high level of vulnerability can bring along with it a high level of unnecessary hurt. Though, as I have written about before, it is beneficial to open up our emotional suitcases, I don’t think that means we have to share all of ourselves and all of our feelings with everyone all the time.


But, I think there is one place we should feel safe to let go of control: in the presence of our loving Father.


The thing about temper tantrums is that as much as they are rooted in kids’ battles with their wills, they are also rooted in trust. My child does not need to rope in his emotions around me, however ugly those feelings may be. He knows I love him no matter what.


In our faith, laments can feel scary. Sometimes, just like a child pounding her fists against the floor, we feel that God never loved us, and that he is unfair to us all the time. We don’t know what to do with those feelings.


We wonder how God or others might react if we let out that kind of honest burst of emotions.


I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence— not even speaking of good things— the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us. Each of us is but a breath. - Psalm 39:1-5, 10-11


In Psalm 39, David tries to hold in his words, but he can’t. Eventually, the lament bursts free.


His life feels pointless. His suffering has brought him to a place of hopelessness about what it was all for and when it will all be over. Life sucks and life is brief. So what the hell should he do?


This honesty about pain is uncomfortable. I want this Psalm to end with resolution.


But that doesn’t happen. Psalm 39 ends with David saying to God


Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more. – Psalm 39:13


That is some serious frustration.


Yet, in the middle of this lament, David shows what allows him to express it: trust.


And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. – Psalm 39:7


An honest outburst of frustrated emotion towards God does not signal that our faith is weak. In fact, it may signal the opposite.


A lament says, “Lord, I trust you enough to not hold tight to the reins of my emotions. I am confident that though I feel that you are ignoring me, You are actually sticking by me, even when I rant at You. Running away to find comfort in other things will not help. My only hope is You.”


It is safe to let our emotions burst free in the presence of our loving God.


Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.