Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Anger and fretting

I was reading Psalm 37 this morning. This is a wonderful Psalm (but then again, which one isn't?). When I was installed as pastor of St. Paul's, Troy, Pres. Mueller used Ps. 37:4-6 as the basis for the sermon. As usual, he did a great job preaching that day. I know I listened. I hope that everyone there listened for he gave excellent guidance for how the ministry is to be from God, how a pastor is to trust not in himself but in the Lord and how the congregation is to focus on the work the Lord has placed before them.

Anyway, as I was reading Psalm 37, several verses jumped out at me and I couldn't help but comment on them. Psalm 47:8, "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil." (ESV) This is one of the verses that caught me. "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!" How often do we let anger guide our thoughts and our lives? We get upset over this or that, things that we do not or cannot control. We rant and rave. We let the anger build inside of us until we are worked into a frothy, unthinking sense of wrath. We get to the point where we cannot stand the person or thing that we are angry at. We say things that are unkind and unjust. Yes, we feel justified in our words and thoughts. We think it is "righteous" anger because "we" are the ones that have been wronged. But is that really true? Are we really as "innocent" as we think? More times than not, we find that we are letting our emotions rule our thoughts and letting them guide our anger. We are filled with wrath. And we cannot think straight.

After we are finished with our ranting and raving, do we ever think to go back to that person and apologize? Generally not. Because once again, we have done no wrong. "They" are wrong. "They" should be the one to come to us to apologize. "They" are the ones that we want God to strike down because "they" are so wicked. But is that really the case? When the dust has cleared, when we look at the situation, did our anger, our wrath, help the situation? Or did it make more smoke so that the solution couldn't be seen? Has it caused more hard feelings than it solved? Has that anger/wrath truly been worth the time and the effort, worth the hurt that it caused?

The Lord is guiding us here. Are we open to that guidance? If more of us listened to His Word and refrained from anger and forsook wrath, would it not make it possible to work through the issues at hand? Anger destroys relationships. Wrath hurts hearts and lives. The love of Christ, the peace of God, and the power of the Spirit does just the opposite. It heals. It lifts. It guides. It fills. It is the balm on the wound that sin cuts deep.

The other half of the verse is true as well - "Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil." To sit and fret over a situation is deadly. How many times have you escalated a situation to the point of anger because you sat and fretted over it for hours, perhaps days, instead of talking about it with the person, dealing with it at work, etc.? Fretting solves nothing. It only tends to evil. It leads the heart to think the worst. It lets the heart think the worst of every situation. Have you ever fretted over a situation and had that fretting make it better? It almost always makes it worse. (I say "almost always" because if I don't, someone will come up with a time when their fretting didn't make it worse but finally, in some way, made it better. They will think that their "fretting" is what made it better. Instead, it is the Lord that works out the good in the situation for those who are still sinful. See Romans 8:28.)

Fret not - words to take to heart in every situation. God will guide you through the situation and work it out in the best way possible - maybe not at that exact moment, but in His time and in His way. And that is what is so hard. That is what leads to fretting. We want it to be in our time and in our way. We tell God how we want things. And when they aren't that way, we begin to fret. And soon it leads us to evil - even evil thoughts against God. "Why...?" we will often ask. We challenge God at every corner. Read Habakkuk. That is how he starts out - challenging God. He thought God was unjust by letting the Babylonians come to take away the chosen people. But God tells him to chill, to fret not. God has a plan that is unfolding. It is a good plan. It is a right plan.

"NO!" we cry out. We don't want God's plan. We want our plan...wait, isn't that a problem? Isn't that what fretting does? It only brings evil. When we cannot trust God's will, when we cannot accept it, is not that evil? Has not fretting taken us there?

Look not to the self. Look to the Lord. Look to the cross. Look to Jesus Christ! There we begin to see how to follow the will of the Father - in faith. And that faith is not in ourselves but is in the One who has given Himself for us in our lives. We trust that He will lead us through this valley of the shadow of death, this vale of tears. We trust that He is indeed the One who is control. Fret not, for it tends only to evil. Good words to listen to. May the Holy Spirit help each of us to not only listen but to follow them.

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