As we enter the Lenten season, and I ponder the sins I struggle with, a thought occurred to me that encapsulates my struggle: mad is easier than sad.
In other words, when someone hurts me and I feel sad, it is easier to decide to be angry or mad about what they have done than to feel sadness. If I decide to be mad, then I can cling to the illusion of control that is absent in the midst of sadness.
But the control I feel really is only an illusion. When I choose anger instead of sadness, I have given over control to the devil because it is the devil who wants to see me angry and unforgiving.
As I opened my Bible to our scripture readings for the Ash Wednesday service last Wednesday, my eye fell upon a passage that preceded our reading. We were reading from Matthew 6, but my eye was drawn to these words of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV).
This is not the only place in scripture where we hear Jesus telling us to not be angry. In fact, He says that if we do not let go of our anger and forgive others then we will not be forgiven. See Matthew 6:15. He also tells the wonderful parable of the unmerciful servant who is forgiven a huge debt by his master, but then refuses to forgive his fellow servant’s debt owed to him. Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV).
It is clear from scripture that as easy as being mad may be, it is not what our Lord wants for us or from us. Anger and unforgiveness are serious sins that need to be repented of. I must turn to God and ask His help in overcoming this sin.
As I thought about how much easier it is to be mad than to be sad, it occurred to me that the latter is not a sin. Nowhere in scripture (that I am aware of) does God tell us not to be sad and to turn from our sadness. In fact, in the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV). In Romans 12:15, Paul tells us to “mourn with those who mourn.” Mourning and sadness are not a sin, but an acceptable response when we encounter trials and tribulation. Even “Jesus wept” and mourned. John 11:35 (NIV).
During this season of Lent, my goal is to turn to God and turn away from the sin of anger; to seek His help in being more forgiving. I want to not take the easier path, but to take up my cross and follow Christ.