March 5, 2021
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.
These three verses sum up how we are to engage with God in times of trial and sorrow. What continually comforts me is the assertion that grief and anger will be a part of our human experience. We aren’t told to avoid anger or sorrow. We aren’t told that anger and sadness are sinful. Instead, we are charged, in the midst of these very real emotions, to avoid sin.
I have to stop and think about that, honestly, because my anger very quickly turns to sin. I feel vengeful, malicious, and judgemental when I’m angry. I want others to hurt the way I am hurting. I want to see people pay for the wrong they’ve done to me or to those I love. So it takes a little bit of creativity to imagine being angry and not tumbling head over tail into sinful thoughts and actions.
Thankfully, these verses give us 4 ways we are tempted to sin in sorrow and anger, and how to avoid it.
- Job shows us that it is a sin to assume we know better than God. If we look around and accuse God of making a mistake that results in our grief or pain, we are tipping over the edge into sinful thoughts.
- Ephesians tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger, thereby giving the devil a foothold. It’s sinful to hold onto your anger – to nurse a grudge – and thereby give the devil the opportunity to feed and grow your malicious thoughts.
- Psalms tells us to search our hearts and be silent in anger. In other words, it’s sinful to let our anger spill out onto others in hurtful words. It’s especially damaging to speak in a moment of anger where words aren’t measured or chosen carefully.
- Psalms also tells us to trust in the Lord in those moments. Closely aligned with the verse from Job, we can see that our grief or hurt can drive us to abandon our trust in God. To assume he’s either made a mistake or doesn’t care about us. Abandoning trust in God in difficult times is a sin.
To nuance those points, there are many examples of people asking God “why.” So it’s safe to assume there are ways to ask why without abandoning a foundation of faith and trust. Just like it’s possible to be angry without nursing a grudge or lashing out at others. So don’t assume we can’t ask “why” in times of trial.
Look back at the list of 4 potential sins given to us in scripture. Does one of them seem familiar? Or, like me, are you batting 1000? Here are some simple (not easy) remedies to work through this week.
1. If you tend to accuse God of wrongdoing, remind yourself of the full scope of his foresight and power. Read Isaiah 55:8-9.
- If you hold a grudge, practice forgiveness. One way is to ask God to help you see the other person as He sees them. Not as an enemy, but a cherished (potentially wayward) child. Read 2 Peter 3:8-9 and remember that you too require God’s forgiveness and patience.
- If you tend to lash out at others in sadness or anger, learn to pause and reflect first. Read Ephesians 4:29-32.
- If you feel your trust in God eroding – if you feel your foundation of faith crumbling, remind yourself of God’s promises, and the promises he has kept. Read Psalm 103.