Do you ever find yourself in a stressful situation and feel your blood begin to boil? That happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Perhaps it happens at home with an irritating family member or at work with a frustrating colleague. Maybe its a loud and obnoxious neighbor or an annoying relative who really puts us over the edge. How about the fear and dread that can seem overwhelming if a boss comes down hard on the quality of our performance at work?
We all know the feeling of seemingly uncontrollable emotions in response to highly charged and stressful life circumstances. If you’re like me, you don’t always figure out how to quell the rising tide of anger and frustration that these situations bring. Unfortunately, all too often I have responded like “Anger” the volatile character from the animated Pixar movie Inside Out.
Okay… so maybe I don’t quite respond like that! However our immediate reaction in stressful situations, establishes the foundation for how successfully we will navigate the circumstance, and also how we will be perceived by those involved. A blow up or a meltdown often seem like the inevitable and natural reaction, and yet these responses never produce positive results. As Aristotle warned us over two millennia ago, “moderation in all things” is a crucial temperament for dealing with the trials of life.
In Daniel Chapter 2 we encounter Daniel as a young and emerging leader. He was a rising star in the imperial court of king Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful ruler in the entire world. He had distinguished himself as an erudite young man with a lot of potential, but had not yet proven himself.
He arrived in the royal courts at a seemingly inopportune time, as almost immediately the king throws a deadly challenge at the feet of the advisors, of whom Daniel was a newly initiated member. The king had a nightmare and demanded that the advisors tell him what his dream was, as well as interpret its meant. The advisors naturally balked at the outrageous demand, sheepishly responding, “Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation” (2:4).
The king, in a furious rage responded by declaring “if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation you shall be torn limb from limb and your hoses shall be laid to ruins” (2:5). Naturally, the advisors could not tell the king what he was demanding, and the text goes on to say, “the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed” (2:12). Welcome to your new job Daniel, you are about to be killed!
If ever someone had the right to be terrified, it was Daniel. An unreasonable request was about to result in his death by decree of the king. In the face of certain doom, Daniel’s response was remarkable. He didn’t blow up in anger, or melt down in fear… he checked his reaction. We read that “Daniel replied with prudence and discretion… and Daniel went in and request the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king” (2:14,16).
Daniel chose to place his trust and faith in God, in the face of dire circumstances. He determined to control his first reaction and responded in a manner that positioned him to navigate the stormy waters of his predicament well. Most importantly, he allowed God to work in and through him, by gaining control over his emotions. In short, he checked his reaction.
As the story unfolds throughout the rest of the chapter, we discover that Daniel’s reaction afforded him the time to regroup with his Band of Brothers for counsel and input. We read that they prayed together, seeking God for mercy and a miracle. In the end God revealed the dream and the interpretation to Daniel. The lives of Daniel, his friends and countless others were saved that day because Daniel checked his reaction. Daniel was promoted as a result of his actions from advisor to the ruler over the entire province of Babylon, the home to the capital city of the entire empire.
As we face trials and difficulties in life that cause our emotions to rise up within us, we would do well to consider the reaction of Daniel. Imagine would could happen, as stress levels rise, if we were to consistently respond with prudence and discretion to those who causes us anxiety, fear or frustration. Practicing these reactions daily, in the face of the little irritants and annoyances will strengthen our resolve to check our reaction when the truly challenging circumstances arise.
The next time you feel your emotions begin to surge in a negative way, like Daniel, check your reaction!