Know When to Let Go
An integral part of being angry and not sinning is knowing when to let go of your anger. Perpetuating anger perpetuates sin, which perpetuates unforgiveness, which intensifies the anger response. You no longer are dealing with each infraction of displeasure; you are dealing with an accumulation of many infractions against your person. You are repeatedly scraped by the same offense until it is no longer the site of a single injury but a multiple stab wound.
Let’s probe into the part of Ephesians 4:26 that says,
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
There is a very important spiritual and physical principle here. When you go to sleep upset, you wake up upset. When you have not extended mercy the night before, it is hard for you to embrace God’s mercy in the morning (Psalm 59:16).
In Psalm 4:4, David warned of the danger of inviting anger to sleep with us:
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. — Psalm 4:4 NIV
This singing warrior, who possessed a heart that pleased God, shared this wisdom that transcends time and culture. From his experiences he admonished us, “In your anger don’t sin; lie down on your beds, search your hearts, and be quiet.” Notice David’s use of plurals: beds and hearts. Most of us sleep upon only a single bed just as we each possess only one heart. I believe he understood and was addressing the fact that most anger occurs within relationships. This would encompass couples, family members, and friends. Back then it was not uncommon for married couples to sleep in separate beds. This king is telling his subjects to go to their beds, lie down, wind down, and calmly search their hearts, laying them bare before God.
Be Still and Know God
There is an invitation to revere God, to be still and know. Know what?
Know Him as God by allowing Him to reveal Himself in the midst of your pain, conflict, or crisis.
He wants to be the final word you hear before sleep overtakes you.
In the quiet stillness say nothing else; don’t have the last word. Don’t justify your position. Be still and allow God to reveal Himself in the silence. It is a time to gain His insight and perspective and lay down all arguments.
Prayer and meditation before God are often much more about what we hear than what we say. My river of loud and angry words will not wash me clean. They merely express my side, my justifications, my frustrations. No, my wild torrent of reasoning is much too muddy and troubled to cleanse; it only stirs up the bottom and deposits additional debris. It is the still and gentle living fountain from the deep that refreshes and removes the guilt and shame.
Dreams of Anger
But what if you choose to spurn David’s counsel and turn to your own reasoning? Your frustration and pain are too real and present to release without sleeping with them at least one night. You embrace anger and draw it close as a shield to your bosom. Though you may drift off to sleep quickly, you most likely will experience a restless or tormented night just as I did because:
As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. — Ecclesiastes 5:3 NIV
Instead of waking clean, clear, and refreshed, you will find your mind weighed down by all sorts of sordid and angry thoughts. Quite possibly nightmares from the previous night will trail their way into the morning light. Their impressions and experiences will seem strangely real. They can cloak you with a dingy shroud of discouragement or fear. You try to shake them off as dreams, but on these mornings they seem to cling tenaciously.
When we were first married, I frequently woke up angry with John because of some dream I had had the night before. I was convinced that he was an active and willing participant in this bad dream. I was almost certain he knew what he had done and probably would do it again in real life at the earliest opportunity. Of course I was being ridiculous, but it all seemed so real in the dim morning light of my unforgiveness.
Or possibly your night was as void of dreams as it was of rest. You slept, but it was shallow and fitful. Now the remnant of anger from the night before clouds your mind like a dark fog that muddles your thoughts. You forget any apologies or forgiveness and remember only the offense. In the morning light it seems to loom more ominous and offensive. You can’t let them off that easy… they must pay!
Now you are a victim, and victims don’t ask for mercy because they are too busy demanding recompense. You will not embrace God’s morning mercy if you awake feeling justified or victimized. If I have learned one thing, it is that I need a lot of mercy, so I have to extend a lot of mercy.
Returning to Ephesians we find that God has even more to say:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. — Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV
Sinning in your anger by postponing its resolution affords the devil access or a legal entrance into the situation.
Matthew Henry’s commentary brings out this point: “Let your ears be deaf to whisperers, talebearers, and slanderers.” If you are alone and angry in your bed, who else could you possibly hear? Your own thoughts are too loud. They override the still, small voice. No, it is the bolder and louder one you hear. One that keeps excellent and accurate records of previous wrongs committed. The accuser of the brethren dispatches his messengers. They whisper loudly in your ear as you drift off to sleep. They intensify their attack to include talebearing and slander while replaying images of past hurts and pains. Then they project future possibilities of conflict until you wake to find yourself exhausted, angry, and deeply offended.
Don’t forget how the Bible describes the devil:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. — 1 Peter 5:8 NIV
He is prowling and watching for those who are not self-controlled and alert. Another translation warns us to be sober and vigilant. The opposite of sober is drunk. A drunk is often unaware of what is really going on around him. His perceptions and perspectives are blurred. His response time is slowed and his reasoning distorted. To be vigilant is to be watchful and on guard; it implies to stay awake and attentive.
Lions often hunt at night. The devil is compared to a roaring lion on the lookout for someone to devour. He obviously does not literally come into our rooms and physically consume us. If that were the case, each of us would be certain to resolve any anger issues before allowing our head to hit the pillow. No, he consumes us in other, subtler ways. Though they are less obvious, they are no less of a danger to us. He consumes our joy, our peace, our rest, our strength, as well as our health, our relationships, and our thoughts. He replaces the peaceful silence with a din of accusations. The quiet, reverential fear of the Lord is over-shadowed by tormenting and torturous fear. I believe God used the terror and persistence of a hungry lion to visually illustrate the determination and persistence of Satan’s pursuit. He catches the scent of offense and unresolved anger as a lion detects the blood of his prey.
Perhaps on this earth we will never have full comprehension of just how important it is to obey the warnings of God. Those with a childlike obedience who don’t offer lengthy explanations are often granted greater spiritual authority than the learned who choose to lean on their own understanding.
God wants us to sleep in the light of His truth, whether we fully understand why or not. If we are warned so succinctly to be sober, vigilant, alert, and self-controlled, we would be wise to heed the warning.
It is healthy to allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance any grievous word or deed. But this is best accomplished in the stillness of your bed as you read your Bible or commune with the Lord in your heart. What I did, and what I am afraid many of you may do, was to berate myself in the night and then allow the weight of it to smother me as I slept. In the morning I would allow myself to pray and ask forgiveness, but by then guilt had such a stranglehold on me it was difficult to believe His mercy was new every morning.
Jesus understood that the guilt from our sins and failings was too much for us to bear, so He bore it for us. He wants our faults to be exposed by the light of His truth, which is His Word. This light heals what it reveals. As we draw closer to Him, He dispels the darkness of our lives until it becomes light. Guilt is darkness; mercy is light. The following is one of my favorite verses. It paints a beautiful image of the process of transformation.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. — Proverbs 4:18-19 KJV
You are on the path of the just. Though you are not perfect, you are walking toward the perfect day. Now is the time to allow your heart to be purged. Won’t you embrace God’s Word and wisdom? If so, pray with me.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus. I have been guilty of sleeping with the enemy. Forgive me. I no longer will sleep with rage, guilt, or anger. I will no longer allow darkness to shroud my heart. I want the light of Your Word and love to permeate my heart with truth. I will be still and quiet on my bed as I seek Your counsel. I embrace the promise of Your Word: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24 NIV). I humble myself in obedience under Your mighty hand. I resist the devil, and he must flee from the areas where I have granted him a foothold. Cover me as I rest, for “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 NIV).
Excerpted with permission from Be Angry, But Don’t Blow It by Lisa Bevere, copyright Lisa Bevere.
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Sisters, no more sleeping with the enemy. We need to know when to let anger go. We don’t want to live our lives in unforgiveness towards others or in accusations against ourselves. We want sleep to be sweet, right?! Let’s pray that prayer with Lisa with our hearts focused on the Lord and the promises in His Word! Come share your thoughts on letting go of anger on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full