Lorraine Johnson was taking her usual hike after work in the Santa Monica Mountains when all of a sudden she felt a stabbing pain in her ankle. It took a few seconds to register, but once she realized what had actually happened, it was too late. She had been bitten by a rattlesnake. Unfortunately, the path on which she habitually walked was a rattlesnake breeding ground and on this warm night, they snakes were basking in the sun.
Lorraine recounts, “‘Within seconds, I started feeling the effects: blurred vision, jelly-like legs, and a horrifying sense of panic.”
Lorraine says her bite was more severe than most. ‘The snake that bit me injected a standard-issue hemotoxin along with a rare and more powerful neurotoxin that quickly interfered with my brain’s signals to my respiratory system,’ she says. “’I didn’t know it at the time, but I had to get help fast if I was going to survive.’
Fortunately, other hikers were nearby who were able to rush her to a local hospital where she received the first of 116 vials of antivenin. Lorraine credits the close proximity of the other hikers and of the hospital for her survival.
I also credit a loving God who was watching out for her that day.
In our lives, we also run the risk of a lethal snake bite. But this bite is not going to be remedied with vials of antivenin. This bite is in the heart and the snake has been around for eons.
The Problem: The lethal injection of venom into our hearts is called Pride which leads to ingratitude. Just as Lorraine stated that the effects of the bite began to multiply on each other, paralyzing her and preventing her from getting help for herself, pride poisons our hearts and then begins its work of paralysis. Before we know it, we have spiritual and emotional blurred vision and a lack of ability to walk in God’s purpose.
Pride tells us that that we deserve more than we are getting, that we have been treated unjustly, and that God is holding out on us. Pride tells us that what we have in our lives is not sufficient and illuminates every loss. Pride blurs our sight and causes every blessing to fade into obscurity, while causing every deficiency to come into razor-sharp focus.
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you struggle with any of these poisonous thought processes? Do you feel in bondage to negative thoughts that seem to drag you back into dark and sad places?
I have been bitten by this poison at times and I am here as a survivor to tell you that there is an antivenin. But if we don’t access the antidote, our lives become dark and hopeless, filled with striving and anger. The mind abandoned to this poison will self-destruct. All of the kind and loving parts of us shut down in paralysis when Pride goes unchecked. Before we know it, we have become a walking snake ourselves; spreading jealousy, envy, bitterness, slander, anger and depression everywhere we go. For out of our hearts will flow the poison that fills us.
In the reptile Kingdom there are many kinds of poisonous snakes and many types of snake venom. Therefore, each hospital needs to have the types of antivenin on hand for the snakes that are indigenous to their area. The same is true in our lives.
There are many varying ways that pride can infect our hearts with debilitating poison. Disappointment is one of the most deadly. When we are severely disappointed and do not apply antivenin to our hearts, we will begin to become ungrateful. Our ability to see the blessings in our lives and experience joy will become blurred and paralyzed.
The Antidote: But there good news for those of us who have unwittingly walked among snakes and been bitten with the poison of Disappointment. Jesus came with the antivenin called humility and thankfulness. Humility highlights our dependence on the mercy and goodness of our God, while thankfulness highlights the ways in which that mercy and goodness are being seen in our lives.
When we read accounts of the life of Jesus, we see a pattern. In every place of lack, we find Jesus giving thanks to the Father for what He has in his hands. And lo and behold, in that place of humility – dependence on the goodness of the Father – Jesus walks into supernatural provision.
Luke 9:16 – Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.
How it works: Rather than talk about what He does not have or what He urgently needs at that moment, Jesus lifts up His hands to the Father and gives thanks for what He does have. This is a key to being set free from the poisonous pattern that disappointment sets up in our minds. But this kind of thanksgiving must be activated on purpose and with force. The powerful venom of disappointment is unmerciful in its activity in the brain and will shut down our ability to feel joy and contentment if we do not violently work against it with humility and thanksgiving.
David also demonstrates humility and thankfulness as he pours out his heart in the Psalms. When everything is falling apart, we find David rehearsing all of God’s benefits toward him as a way of keeping the blurred vision of disappointment at bay.
Psalm 100:4 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 103:2 – Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
I love the way David commands his soul to be thankful. This goes back to my point that we must take charge of our souls when disappointment wants to poison us. We cannot be passive and hope that our thoughts will change on their own. Believe it or not, we can change what we think about – and we better do it fast or the negative, depressed, feeling-sorry-for-ourselves thinking will take over like rattlesnake venom.
Practical Application: Ingratitude, entitlement and complaining are the evil side-effects of the snake bite of Pride. And they can be healed by the antivenin of thankfulness. My pastor says that we can’t think two thoughts at one time. So if we fill our minds with gratitude, we will starve the thoughts of hopelessness, anger, jealousy, and disappointment.
Here’s how I apply the imagery of Psalm 103 to my own thought life. In prayer and meditation, I visualize myself sitting down at the long banquet table that David describes and then I begin to take in the good things that God has set before me. I rehearse every blessing that I have received, starting with salvation and redemption, which I certainly don’t deserve, moving on to gratitude for my health, my marriage and the peace of the city in which I live. Then I get specific about things that I could take for granted. My healthy children. My house. My car. My job. I recall times when one or more of those things was lacking and how that felt. It stirs up gratitude and puts a refined focus on the blessings in my life.
I’ll be honest, there have been times when my soul has been so under attack that I have gone from room to room in my house and thanked God for everything that I can touch. I look at family photos and thank God that all of our children are alive and healthy. This is the kind of violent and urgent activation of thanksgiving that you have to take when your brain is experiencing the poison of disappointment.
This antivenin WORKS, people! It brings life back into your soul. It creates an awareness that God is working and He is on your side. It is a seed that you plant that God can use to multiply blessings in your life.
So during this holiday season, when many of us are bitten by the snake of disappointment and sadness for what we don’t have in our lives, let us take the time and effort to locate in our heart all of the areas where we have allowed the venom of the snake to paralyze our joy. Bring the thoughts of envy, striving and ingratitude to the Lord and let Him forgive you so that you may be cleansed and healed. Bring your disappointment to God, Who calms and restores us with His everlasting love. And then begin to apply the healing balm of thankfulness as you meditate on all of your blessings and the benefits of God.
1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
43Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
- Do you struggle with disappointment? Can you rehearse in great detail all of the things that have been lost or stolen in your life?
- Do you feel like a pauper in this world or do you feel like a child of the King?
- Do you see losses as ‘confirmation’ that you are not loved by your Heavenly Father or do you see losses as opportunities to experience God’s care of you in the midst of your trials?
Today you can start to see God the right way by reading the book of Psalms. You will find that the Psalmists who wrote these spiritual songs struggled with the same emotions that you do. They had set backs and loss and often struggled to feel God’s goodness in the midst of their pain. But as they kept pursuing the LORD, they found Him. His peace and love calmed them and removed the poisonous thoughts of pride and ingratitude. Trust the LORD today and reach out to Him. You will not be disappointed.
Dear Jesus, You know my heart better than I know myself. I am as transparent as glass before you, yet You never give up on me. You see me with your eyes of love that cannot be comprehended by human logic. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your grace that keeps bringing me home to You. Thank you for your mercy that heals my heart when I have walked among snakes and been bitten by pride and ingratitude. Thank you for Your sanctifying Word that heals my thoughts and sharpens my focus on eternity and on You. You alone are God and beside You there is no other. Amen.
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