It's the 15th of the month, which means it's the Living Proof Siesta Scripture Memory Team time!
I must confess, I struggled all day with wondering what God would have me commit to memory. This is partly due to the fact that - again, I must confess and repent for - I had not been in scripture much the last few days. I can blame it on feeling poorly or spending time with my fiancee, but the truth is that I was being selfish and was rebelling against God. At least this time I recognized it within 4 days, and not four months!
Anyway, I was really struggling and didn't want to "just pick a verse" to study. I want the 24 verses I commit to memory to have special meaning for me. Numbers 23:19 was a reminder that God can be trusted, absolutely and completely, so everything else I memorize is trustworthy and true. Daniel 3:17-18 was a reminder that I must choose to serve and trust God even if my circumstances change, even if He does not choose to save me from a situation. Isaiah 43:19 was an expression of what God is doing with me this last year and a half - a new thing. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ if we are growing spiritually. I need to be new! And God is taking me down new paths relationally, professionally, and emotionally.
So I wanted this fourth verse to be meaningful. Then, right around 9 o'clock, as usual, my upstairs neighbors began their nightly routine of pounding, banging, screaming, running, and otherwise shredding my nerves. As I fought the urge (and, at times, lost) to yell at the ceiling in protest, I came across Psalm 4:4.
"In your anger do not sin: when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." ~Psalm 4:4
There you have it. Like a little megaphone in my ear: "Listen up, stupid; the best thing you can do is search your own heart and be silent. Trust me, kiddo, you have plenty to repent of in your own heart and plenty to work on. In your anger and frustration, do not sin."
It's not that feeling frustration or anger is, in itself, a sin. We could have lots of debates about whether God thinks it's right to be upset about things, but I think we'd be going in circles most of the time. The point is, God recognizes that we might get angry. We might get frustrated. After all, he created us with complex emotional responses. He's not shocked that we get upset. But feeling emotion and acting on it are two very different things.
In fact, God has a lot to say about how we should act when we are feeling less than pleased:
Numbers 14:18 - "The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion." - God is slow to anger. Believe me, if He were quick, the world would probably not be here!
Psalm 37:8 - "Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil." - This is in the context of fretting over evildoers. You should not worry or get angry when you see the unrighteous prospering. God promises to deal with them. You should not give in to anger, for that leads only to evil.
Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle anger turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." - Kinda speaks for itself, no?
Proverbs 29:11 - "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." - Again, I don't think this means that you will never "feel" angry or upset, but that you should exert self-control in light of those feelings. You can choose not to act on those feelings.
Provers 29:22 - "An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered man commits many sins."
Ephesians 4:26 - "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." - Holding on to anger - even anger that is directed toward legitimate injustices - can give way to bitterness. To self-pity. To arrogance. To the shifting of your focus from feeling anger to acting on bitterness and wrath. Therefore, we should not hold on to that anger and give the devil a way into our heart. We need to let it go and to forgive.
James 1:19-20 - "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."
We all need to be slow to anger, as God is slow to anger. I know that I get frustrated easily, and I struggle in this area. I think, though, that as we continue to practice self-control, forgiveness, and being slow to anger, Christ will transform us. As He transforms us into His likeness, I have the feeling that anger, especially over little things, will be a more rare thing in our lives.
Jesus, help me to be slow to anger like you are. Help me to focus on the areas where I need to repent rather than focus on other people's areas. Help me to exert self-control. And ultimately, help me to remember that you are ultimately in control. You alone will pass judgment, and you alone will punish those who do evil in this world. Transform my mind and my heart. You say that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Overflow my heart with your love, my God, that I might speak love and grace to those around me. Thank you, Jesus!