A couple years ago I was having some slight burning in my chest when I’d jog.
So I went to my doctor, who scheduled a stress test which revealed I had a blockage in my heart. Went to Pittsburgh, got a stent, spent one night in the hospital, and was back home. A few weeks later, my doctor shook my hand. “We beat the big one,” he said, pumping my hand as if I’d just won a marathon. “It was so good that you came in as soon as you felt that burning. When that particular artery is blocked in most people and they have a heart attack, they die 90% of the time. It is so good that you came in quickly. We beat the big one!”
The secret to “beating the big one” was dealing with it while it was a “small one.” This applies to lots of problems in life. If we deal with them quickly, while they are small, we can often solve them quickly and easily. If we don’t, they can become bigger problems that cost us time and money. If we deal with that leak in the roof when it’s a few drips it will be better than letting it go until our ceiling caves in from water damage.
This principle applies to anger and conflicts as well.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Eph 4:26-27)
One of the best vows my wife and I made on our wedding day was that by God’s grace we would not let the sun go down on our anger.
As one person said to my wife and me early on, keep short accounts. And by God’s grace, that is what we have always tried to do. It wasn’t always easy to keep this vow, especially in the first couple years of our marriage. There were times we’d be up really late trying to resolve a conflict. I even remember a few times when I said, “Kristi, It’s really late and I have to go to work tomorrow. Maybe I’m wrong and just not seeing it, but I’m committed to you and committed to working this out. So we will definitely work on this tomorrow.” And by God’s grace we always did.
When we let the sun go down on our anger – when we don’t try to resolve conflicts quickly – our anger festers. It simmers. It grows. We give the devil an opportunity. He adds his lying thoughts and tempts us in other directions. Our offense turns to bitterness and resentment. The devil loves it when we give each other the cold shoulder for days at a time. He loves unresolved conflicts in marriages and families and churches. He loves to divide and conquer.
Over the years I’ve found it best to deal with conflicts as quickly as possible. To go to someone as soon as I become aware they are offended with me, or as soon as I am tempted to be angry with them. The same day if I can. Sometimes there’s simply been a misunderstanding that can be quickly resolved. Other times it’s been something that required multiple conversations. But tackling conflicts quickly has spared me lots of temptation and grief.
There’s a spectrum from “love covers a multitude of sins” to “if your brother sins against you go to him.” Some sins we can simply forgive and overlook – cover in love. But other sins need to be tackled together. But whether you can deal with it simply and quickly – “Father, I forgive them, they didn’t realize what they were doing” and forget it – or it’s a sin that needs discussion, don’t let it fester.
Is there someone you are offended at? Or someone you know is angry with you? Go to them. Or pick up the phone and give them a call. Maybe you need to ask their forgiveness. Maybe you’re the one with the log in his eye. Maybe you misunderstood them. Maybe they didn’t intend to hurt you. It might simply be a communication problem. Or maybe you need to get together for a more serious conversation. But keep short accounts.
Deal with your anger while it’s simply a burning in your chest. Don’t neglect it until it becomes a full blown heart attack.
That’s how you beat the big one.