The great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage.
Henry B. Eyring
The other night, Leanne and I were driving home from Philadelphia after a wonderful date night at the Walnut Street Theater. I was driving through downtown Philadelphia making my way from City Hall to the Art Museum when I came face to face with a man in rage.
If you are familiar with the Ben Franklin Parkway around the Franklin Institute, you’ll know that the parkway bends and turns around several fountains, and right now this section of road is even more challenging to navigate thanks to significant construction in the area.
As I made my way around the area, I realized I was one lane too far to the left. I quickly looked over my shoulder, put my right turn signal on, and began to move one lane to the right. I immediately stopped merging right when I heard the horn of an oncoming white Honda Pilot. The driver of the Honda pulled up beside me, and I apologetically waved him forward. He shouted at me through our closed windows and remained right next to my vehicle. I quickly lurched forward until he blared his horn and sped up and swerved right in front of me.
The next thing I knew, he pulled a little further ahead and opened his door to stare at me and curse me up and down. I couldn’t hear a word of what he was saying, but I’m quite confident he wasn’t just saying “Hello.” He was full of rage.
I stayed in my car and stared back. Leanne repeated to me over and over again, “Stay in the car. Stay in the car.”
Rage (often called fury or frenzy) is a feeling of intense, violent, or growing anger. It is sometimes associated with the fight-or-flight response, and is often activated in response to an external cue, such as an event that impacts negatively on the person. The phrase “thrown into a fit of rage” expresses the immediate nature of rage that occurs before deliberation. If left unchecked, rage may lead to violence. Depression and anxiety lead to an increased susceptibility to rage, and there are modern treatments for this emotional pattern.
When faced with someone’s rage, how do you respond?
Do you turn away? Do you clam up? Do you simply freeze? Or do you respond back with anger and rage?
The responses above are all natural. We want to be right. We want to be heard. And we don’t want to be treated unfairly. So we often look for ways to take revenge.
How can we get back at the person who is unjustly throwing their anger our way? How can we make sure we get the last word?
I think we’re looking at it all wrong.
A friend of mine recently pointed out the following passage from Romans 12:17-21:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Live at peace with everyone? How is that possible especially when I want to take revenge? Paul’s response is right on. He calls us to overcome evil with good. When we do this, we are actually putting “burning coals” on the head of our enemy.
I can’t go back to the person I “met” on the Ben Franklin Parkway. I stayed away as he drove on ahead. While I may never see him again, I can pray for him. And I can look for ways to overcome the evil I face on a daily basis with good.
In case you are wondering, this isn’t an option for those who chose to follow Christ. We have to find a better way. We have to resist the urge to rage back.
Paul challenges believers in Ephesians 4:31:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Do you struggle with rage? What are you dong to overcome evil with good? Share your thoughts in the comments.
If you are interested in talking about issues like this with other men, consider signing up for my men’s mastermind list. I don’t have all the details right now, but I’m looking to see who might be interested in a group to help you become a better father, a better husband, and a better follow of Christ. Sign up below, and I’ll keep you posted.