Monday Morning Devotion (Overreacting)

Have you ever overreacted to something? Have you allowed some action of your spouse, or something he or she said to send you over the top, possibly because you were so angry about something else that you were just ready to boil over?

I certainly have. In fact, most of the arguments I have had with my wife have resulted from just such overreaction, and though it would be nice to tell you that I’m usually in the right, I’d be lying. I’m an expert worrier. I’m also an expert “resenter.” If something goes wrong I can worry about half a dozen different possible disastrous scenarios without even working up a sweat. There is at least one benefit from this—things practically never go as bad as I’m afraid they will!

I can handle resentment in a similar way. Take one little offense, quite possibly unintended. I can put it away in my mind, and then set up scenarios for it as well. What I should have said tot he person right then. What I will say, given the chance, what he or she will say back to me, how mad that will make me, and finally how I will get my revenge and teach that person a thing or two.

Can anyone relate?

Well, there’s a woman in Oregon who probably can. She’s sitting in jail waiting for $350,000 bail to be posted. As reported by MSNBC, she lost her car keys. When she couldn’t find them, she decided her neighbor had stolen them. She went over to the neighbor’s trailer and started trashing the place. No keys. She then brought a lighter and oil and tried to light the place on fire. That took a couple of tries. When she succeeded, she hid in the nearby bushes to watch. A friend called her husband who came and found her in the bushes. Hanging from her pocket were—you guessed it—the car keys.

Now none of us have gone quite that far, I hope. But are we in danger? Do we have a right to laugh at this woman? Or should we rather be saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I?” So frequently we talk about forgiveness as though it was a favor we do to someone else. No, when we forgive someone else, even when they don’t ask for it or even deserve it, it is a gift we give ourselves. Because ultimately we could all wind up where that woman is, or even worse. How many times after a murder in someone’s home do we hear something like, “But he was such a nice man! I can’t believe he did it!” That’s the power of resentment. It can make a seemingly sane person crazy.

Be angry, but don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. — Ephesians 4:26

Might I also recommend Matthew 5:21-26?

But I think that our resentment and anger is fed by our worry. It’s often easy to forgive someone when we’re in a position of strength. But when we’re in a position of weakness, when we worry, we get more and more defensive. We want to sit in one place (in our minds) and just hold the line.

25Because of this I tell you, “Don’t worry about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body as to what you will wear. Is not life more than sustenance and your body more than its clothing? 26Take a look at the birds in the sky. They don’t plant, nor do they harvest, nor do they gather into storage barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they are? 27Now who of you can add one foot to your height by worrying about it? 28And why do you worry about clothes? Learn from the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work hard and they don’t spin to make cloth, 29but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory wasn’t dressed like one of them. 30So if God cares about the grass of the field that is there today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he care about you, people with little faith? 31So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will be drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For the gentiles look for all these things. Because your heavenly father knows that you need all these things. 33Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. — Matthew 6:25-31

Both worry and resentment come from not trusting in God. The first means we don’t trust God to provide justice; the second that we don’t trust God to guide and provide for our very lives.

Seek first the kingdom—it’s the best way to avoid overreaction.

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