Thanksgiving is nearly here. And as I begin trying to rid myself of the thanklessness that often overshadows the blessings, I find myself growing in self control, and joy, and peace.
This week in our Sunday school class, the teens walked through the story of Cain and Abel. A story which I have known for years, but settled into my heart this week.
As Cain struggles with feelings of jealousy and anger, God comes to him. Speaks to him directly, though we don't have details, I can imagine it vividly. Cain is feeling rejected, jealous of God's favor towards his brother. I'd guess that there are deeper rooted issues, though I'm certainly adding my own back story here, but given Cain's enormous reaction, this probably isn't the first time Cain has felt slighted.
But God doesn't walk away, leaving him to seethe in his frustration. He comes to Cain. While Cain is angry, God speaks to him gently, lovingly. "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?" I don't imagine these words are spoken in anger, but love, from a God who fully knows Cain. Knows Cain's next move already.
The Lord warns him, "if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
Cain says nothing. In his heart, he is already rebelling against the God who loves him enough to come warn him personally. A God who doesn't reject Cain, even knowing the anger and murder that is already in his heart. So Cain hides his thoughts, nurses the pain.
So many times, I have set down a path knowing the road leads to destruction. But I begin down it anyways. Slowly, at first. Maybe it's just an angry word. A resentful heart. I feel God's Spirit stirring in me, warning me. But, like Eve, Cain, David... I continue, justifying my actions. I ignore the stirring. I ignore God pleading with me "sin is crouching at your door." I feed it, scraps, like a pet sitting under my table. I become attached to the hurt, the jealousy. Every time I feed it, it grows a little larger, begging to be fed again and again.
I keep telling myself my feelings are justified. And the sin grows larger, controlling more of my thoughts.
But God is still there. He is there beside me, just like He was in the garden, asking Adam and Eve where they were hiding. Asking Cain, "Where is your brother?"
It's me who is hiding. Trying to keep the sin hidden under the table.
God tells us, "you must master it." The more you deny it, the less power it has. Sin desires you. It desires to control your life, to control your relationship with God.
Either you are mastering your sin, or it's mastering you.
Every time we give in to an angry, resentful, jealous spirit, we try to hide a little more of ourselves from an all knowing, all powerful, personal God who fully knows you.
God pleads with us to do what is right. To master our anger. He gives us his Spirit to help guide us. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him so that we can know His perfect will for our lives. Not hide from Him. Not set on a path that leads to pain.
This week, I am beginning to physically count my blessings. I began a list in my kitchen. When I feel myself nursing a feeling of exhaustion, anger or hurt, I force myself to think of the blessing in it and write it down. This morning, for example, as D had an emotional period and found himself in tears over something, I wrote, I am so grateful that God has given me this child and allowed me to stay home with him, where his feelings are safe. Where he doesn't have to hide them, where he doesn't suffer from anxiety or fear of retribution.
I am thankful that God has washed me clean. That he comes to me even in my sin and pleads with me to master my sin. That he quietly invites me into conversation with him. I am thankful that I have the freedom to choose my path. Even more thankful that as I know Him better, His perfect will for me becomes more evident, and my path becomes more even.
Are you hiding anything from God today? Are you nursing anger? Resentment? Are you angry with your spouse, do you feel unappreciated? Are you exhausted and feel like there is no rest in sight?
I would challenge you to begin this with me. This week, today, right now, as you read this. Start a list. As you focus on the blessings, your feelings of anger lose power over you. You begin to master your flesh.You're free from the control of sin, and joy and peace begin blossoming in your heart.
From my family to yours. Happy Thanks-giving.