When you’re tempted to react instead of respond

psalm 103

I made a speech about it.

My oration covered the themes of procrastination, respect for others, taking things for granted, and gratitude.  I delivered my speech while I drove in my minivan, while I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, and on the phone to my husband while he drove home from work.

It was a great speech and I delivered it really well.  My points were well-argued and well-reasoned.  By the time I finished, I had her accused, cross-examined and pronounced guilty on the stand.

This woman….

This woman had not only ignored my email messages, she had left the email group I was using to send out information about an upcoming event for her child.

So, how’s she going to know all the info that I’ll be sending out in the highly important emails she now had prevented me from sending her?

I mean, good gracious, what is wrong with people?

It wasn’t until the next day that I got hit in the face by the full impact of my foot flying into my mouth.

Turns out due to the odd spelling of her last name and some messy handwriting, I had mis-read her email address.

Turns out this woman had never gotten any of my messages I’d sent and I’d actually been blocked by some poor, random stranger who probably thought—this lady is out of her mind.

Oops.

Good thing all those speeches I made were to myself, my mirror, my one-year-old and my husband.

Serves me right for jumping to conclusions, for being easily offended and for judging without contemplation, without grace, without time for facts and truth and gentleness.

I was wrong.  So, so very wrong.  And I had to take a long humbling look at myself and see what was ugly, infected and festering in my heart.

The Psalmist says:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8 ESV).

In fact, I read this song of worship all over my Bible.  It is the hymn of God’s character:

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 ESV).

 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Numbers 14:18 ESV

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 ESV

Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
    and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:13 ESV

I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster (Jonah 4:2 ESV)

I read it and I’m so thankful. I’m moved to worship, moved to humble gratitude.

Because if there’s one thing I need, it’s a God who is slow to anger, who is gracious and full of abundant mercy for a messy, sin-covered girl like me.

Yes, our God is Slow To Anger.

Are we?

We could chalk this up to divinity.  That’s just who God is.

But no.

James writes:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19 ESV).

Ouch.

God wants to do this work in me also.

He wants me to listen first and listen well before making speeches in my car or shooting off a nasty email or calling up a friend to gossip or jumping into conflict.

I am to be quick to hear, slow to speak.

And yes, slow to anger also.

More willing to bestow grace than to deliver an oration.

More apt to overlook an offense than leap into an argument.

More inclined to believe the best about another person’s intentions or motivations than assuming the worst and jumping to unfair conclusions.

More prone to listen and love even when someone else hurts us, because maybe they just had a bad day, maybe it’s not how things appear, maybe they just didn’t know or didn’t mean it that way.

This world doesn’t respond to situations.  It reacts.

We can learn how to stop reacting in anger and start responding with the same grace and mercy that Christ shows us.

It starts by slowing down.  

Wait before answering.

Listen before speaking.

Think before acting.

Pray before we do anything.

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

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