“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be
quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become
angry, for man’s anger does not bring about
the righteous life that God desires.”
Soul Snacks: One of the basic skills we must acquire to meet life’s challenges successfully is in learning how to respond in God-honoring ways to hurtful people, devastating circumstances and crushing disappointments. How we handle the hurt we experience in our lives will lead either to bitterness or it will open the door to blessing.
I find it interesting that this is one of the first lessons God teaches us in Genesis through the example of Cain and Able. In Genesis 4, these two brothers, Cain and Able, offer their sacrifices to God. However, for some reason unknown to us, God finds Able’s sacrifice acceptable, but not Cain’s. Cain is so thoroughly upset over this, that he sinks into depression, seethes with anger and begins to plot violence against his brother.
God knows the wrestling match going on inside of Cain and comes to him with this challenge:
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
It is important to note that God didn’t explain His reasons for not accepting Cain’s sacrifice, He didn’t address the fairness or unfairness of it, He focused in on Cain’s heart, and challenged him to offer a right response: “Cain, do what is right, then you’ll get rewarded—the choice is yours, But know this, how you choose to respond will either lead to blessing or bitterness.
The lesson is clear: We cannot always control or even change our circumstance, but we can choose how we are going to respond to them. And how we respond is of utmost importance to God. What happens inside of us is so much more important to God than what happens to us.
Now fast forward to the ending chapters in Genesis to the story of stories. The mistreatment of his brothers and the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife lands Joseph in jail. When, after years of enduring this hardship, he is elevated to the highest position in the land and now has a chance for revenge, how does he respond?
With bitterness? Anger? Retribution? No. His response is one of grace of the highest order. Why? Because Joseph was convinced that God had ordered his life and therefore could bring good out of his circumstances—if he remained faithful and patient:
“Am I God to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me into this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
Are you tempted to complain about your circumstance today? Is there someone who has hurt you deeply? Are you enduring unfair treatment or false accusations? This could be your finest hour…or worst. It all depends on your response. How you handle this will either lead to blessing, or bitterness.
Put your life and circumstances in God’s hands. Be faithful and patience. Offer Him your trust and let Him work the details out to your advantage.—He knows what He is doing. Psalm 139:16 says, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
I think we can trust Him, don’t you?
P.S. “If a man meets with injustice, it is not required that he shall not be roused to meet it; but if he is angry after he has had time to think upon it, that is sinful. The flame is not wrong, but the coals are.” ~Henry Ward Beecher