Being Still = Not Acting in Anger and Frustration towards People
This week in our “Being Still =” series we’re talking about people. Specifically the type of people who really get to us. In Psalm 37:7-9 it says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land” (NLT).
This passage illustrates that being still and knowing He is God can mean—and I personally struggle with this one so much—NOT acting in anger and frustration towards people. Let me explain that a little further.
Notice I didn't say "not getting angry and frustrated with people." I don't mean that we should never get angry with anyone about anything. Jesus Himself got angry. It is possible to be angry for very good reasons. Godly reasons. Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "Be angry and do not sin..." (ESV). So the point is not that we should never be angry, but that when we feel that anger we don't give into sin.
I believe sinful anger is what Psalm 37 is talking about. The kind of anger that causes you to erupt in a sinful way that gives full vent to your rage and your desire to see the other person hurt or destroyed.
Not getting angry and frustrated with people in a way that causes us to sin could mean not seeking revenge; or not getting so caught up and frustrated trying to change them. Have you ever gotten so aggravated trying to change another person—or maybe a whole group of people—that your frustration eventually led to full blown anger, rage, and bitterness?
Yes, we’re supposed to speak the truth in love. Yes, we’re supposed to protect the oppressed. But we’re not supposed to get so caught up trying to change all the people in the world that we find ourselves trying to be God.
And here’s the part we (and I personally) don’t want to acknowledge: We can’t change people. It is absolutely not within our skill set nor our power in any way to change a person’s heart. The only One who can do that is God. And He gives each person a choice to either accept His offer of transformation… or not.
God does not call us to change people. Not ever. That’s one reason why Paul tells us in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV)
“If it is possible…” This tells us that in some cases, because of the stubbornness and sinfulness of humankind, it may not be possible to live at peace with some people. And that’s okay. It happens. And in cases like that we have to surrender those people to God even more so.
“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…” This right here assures us that the only person we can ever change the behavior of is ourselves. It also frees us from the responsibility of making sure everyone else does the right thing. That is not our responsibility. That’s between them and God, and we can entrust their journey to Him. The only thing we’re called to monitor and change is our own behavior and how we react in those situations.
God is in control. And He is the ONLY one who can deal with people’s hearts. He is the only one who can see both their sin and their value as His beloved creation and act accordingly. He loves them more than we ever could (and if we're being honest, often more than we want to).
He pursues them with grace and forgiveness, and if they never repent He will bring justice. But we must leave the outcome in His hands. Because holding onto that kind of stuff will kill our spiritual lives and leave us so strung out and exhausted.
Our job is not to control all the people in the world. Our job is not to punish all the people in the world for what they've done. Our job is to be still and allow God to deal with our own emotions. Our job is pour out our anger and grief to God like the writers of the psalms and allow Him to minister to our hearts. Our job is to wait quietly in His presence and allow Him to shape our perspective and give us His love for the people we hate. Our job is to pray and wait with a patience gifted only by the power of the Holy Spirit for God to act in the lives of the people we know. And our job is to let go and trust the outcome to Him.