Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Sin of Fretting

           People make me angry.  This is not some new revelation or some new realization on my part, and probably not on yours either. Let's face it, people are people and we all have our undeniable stupid moments in life. Unfortunately for me, this anger towards others has caused me to sin and I have been officially convicted of the effect this anger has had on my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Raleigh Traffic 
           Let me take you back to a few days ago when the Lord brought my outbursts of anger to the forefront of my heart and openly showed me my sin. It all started while I was in the midst of morning traffic on I-440 in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was on my way back from finishing an early morning visit with some pups when I found myself smack dab in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic. If you know me at all, you will know that I am an aggressive driver. I like to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This, however, causes me to speed more than I should, and it causes me to get very frustrated at the other people on the road in front of me. Many of my family and friends have told me how I need to slow down and calm down when I drive, but yet, there I am riding the bumper of the guy in front of me and switching lanes while honking my horn at him because he failed to move over when I came up behind him. Whenever someone tells me that I drive too aggressively, my reply has been, "I wouldn't have to if people would just get out of my way."
         All this came to the surface a few days ago when the Lord showed me my sin with one simple question. As I sighed loudly at the onslaught of traffic I heard Him ask me, "Why are you fretting?"
         I was taken aback by this question. I was not fretting, was I? Then it hit me, I was working myself up for no reason. My heart was racing and I was angry. My thoughts had turned from peaceful thoughts to ones of anger and pride. I had become angry and had fallen into sin. When I arrived home I ran to my Bible and opened His word. I landed on Psalm 37. Here, once again, was that word fret! Why was I fretting?
"Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil."
Psalm 37:1-8 ESV
         The word fret means to work yourself up into anger. It means to become inflamed about and over the actions of others. Anger, my anger, derives from the hidden motives of self. People are not acting the way that I think they should, or they are not driving the way I want them to drive so I get angry. I get worked up in my mind and in my thoughts to the point that I become angry and it bursts forth in what I say and what I do. One thing I have learned (and learned the hard way) is that I alone am responsible for my own actions and reactions. I have a choice to get angry or I have a choice not to get angry. But in the end, before God, whatever I chose He will and does hold me accountable. Grace does not mean we won't have consequences, it only means we won't suffer because of them.
         Don't let the actions or reactions of others kindle you to anger. People are going to be people. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and we are always going to be right in our own eyes. Don't let other people's actions cause you to react in sin. Trust in the Lord. Be secure and confident in the knowledge of His control over your every moment.
         So what then is the cure (for lack of a better word) for fretting? What is it exactly that the Lord is showing me to help me overcome these sins of anger within my heart? First I have to recognize that this too shall pass. In verse 8 of Psalm 37 the Lord tells us that just as the grass withers and fades so will all of this. Those who irritate us or cause us to become inflamed with anger are themselves dealing with their own stuff. We must ask ourselves if it is really that important? In the span of our short time on this earth, is it really worth getting worked up over? I can't change anything. I can't make that person move out of my way or make them do what I think they should do, so why am I letting that get to me? Because the root of all our anger is a found in the soil of self. When that anger starts to surface I must recognize it and determine if it is really worth fretting over? I must deny my "self" the satisfaction of getting its way.
       Next, the Psalmist shows us that we need to trust the Lord. Let me ask you this. Has anything in your life, from the moment you were brought forth into this world, has anything every caught God off guard? Have you ever done something or had something done to you that God did not know about? No, and you never will. He knows every single detail of our lives from start to finish. He is never surprised or caught off guard by any event, any thought or any circumstance that may come upon us. He knew I was going to get stuck in that traffic and He used that moment to teach me about fretting and to show me an area of my life that was not right before Him. We can trust in Him. We can be confident in the truth and knowledge that He has us in the palm of His hands. Trust that He knows what He is doing when He allows certain things to come upon us.
        If we know this and accept this as truth, then we need to ask ourselves why we let other people's actions dictate our own? Why do I let other people dictate my emotions? Don’t let the sins of others stumble you to sin. Don't let yourself get worked up and stressed out over things you cannot change. This reminds me of the Serenity Prayer that I learned as a teenager while struggling to break the chains of drug and alcohol addiction: 
"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

         The next thing He showed me as I went through Psalm 37 was that I am to do good, dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. (vs. 3) According to the Hebrew/ Greek Lexicon to do good means to act well and live honestly. We are to act with kindness all the time. We are who we are when no one is looking. The real you, the real me is the one who no one else but God sees. Trust that God is in control and act kindly towards everyone, even the irritable ones, even the ones who make our minds boil with anger, even the ones who hurt us. "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this that you may inherit a blessing."
1 Peter 3:8-9
My outbursts of anger in my vehicle might not have been seen by anyone else, but God saw it all. I am who I am when no one else is looking.
        We are here for a purpose and a reason. Every moment of our days has been given to us to life a life for God. We are not our own, we were bought at a price, therefore we must glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits. (1 Corinthians 6:20) We are in this world, and we are going to have to deal with people. But while we are in this world we have to make the decision to live for Him, even when no one is looking. He does not force us to choose Him, we have to make that choice for ourselves every moment of every day.
         Rest, trust, delight, commit and do not fret. Just as He causes all your sins to come to light, He will cause all of theirs to come out into the open as well. He doesn't need me to point them out to Him, He already sees them. He does not need me to point out all the wrongs done and the evil wrought upon this earth because it is always present before Him. What He needs me to do is trust that He is in control, and not get worked up over other people's actions. Let Him be my peace, my calm and let His presence dictate my emotions. This is His day, be glad and rejoice that He has allowed you to be blessed with it! Don't dwell on others, dwell in Him!
Lord Jesus I pray that Your words to me today would be a light and a blessing to someone else. There are many of us who are struggling with the sin of fretting, and we need You to show us the truth of Your word in the midst of our darkness. Father, we are not alone, we are all struggling with something today. Father, forgive us our trespasses. Father, I pray that today would be a turning point for our fretting. I pray that we would no longer work our hearts into anger but instead we would allow You to teach us to rest, trust, delight and commit our hearts to You, even when no one is looking. In Jesus Name, I do pray. Amen.