We are living in times when stress is common, tensions are high and tempers are on edge. The cumulative impact on our culture brought on by a pandemic that is seemingly without end—and the resulting hardships on our economic conditions—are a one-two punch that tends to take the air right out of our sails.
Sadly, it is not unusual to read about increased road rage, arguments over the simplest things within the aisles of grocery stores, and treacherous posts on social media. All of these are happening with an alarming increase in frequency.
Why is this happening? As complex as our situations might appear, at the end of the day, the answer is really quite simple, and that answer is printed right in the Bible for us all to see…
In James 4, we read this:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2a ESV)
James helps us to see the heart of the matter—and that is the matter of the heart…the human heart. Our hearts.
We are all prone to this condition, not just the apparent “hot heads” among us, but each and every living and breathing man and woman, boy or girl. We are all susceptible to that thing that rises up inside us…when we don’t get what we want.
“You desire and do not have…” There it is, in living color. The range of responses in our lives run the whole gamut—from minimal to maximum, from something as simple as a fleeting disappointment to all out rage aimed at someone who cut us off in traffic.
We all love our ability to be passionate…but we have to remember that passions can go awry. That is why we hear the phrase “crime of passion…” being attributed to the reason one took another’s life in an actual murder.
We all have passions, and they are wonderful blessings. That is, until we allow them to war within our hearts, taking over our attention and guiding our responses.
I mentioned the simplicity of the explanation to our quarrels and fights, but while the way out of this is not always easy or simple, it is quite doable. Especially with the wonderful help and grace that God gives freely to those that ask for His help.
A friend of mine once found himself dealing with an obstinate next-door neighbor, and he was surprised at the level of anger and bitterness that quickly rose up in his heart and mind.
But just like that, he remembered the verses printed above, as he had just been reading through this book. In his heart, he heard the quiet, loving voice of the Holy Spirit: “Control yourself…you’re not getting what you want.”
That simple but powerful thought gave him the ability to accept the things that he didn’t like, and to lay those deep feelings at God’s feet.
In life, we can’t control every situation, and we certainly can’t control other people. But we can and must learn to control our own responses to life’s more unpleasant moments.
And when we learn to do so, we will see the level of fights and quarrels diminish. That, my friends, is a good goal for us all.