Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you. Proverbs 20:22 (NIV)
Oh how we crave a strong and punishing retaliation against that person who crossed us. Place that against our faith, our instruction from God, and the internal struggle begins. Retaliation begs for immediate action and causes us to ache for its venom, but we must never give in to its urge for immediacy. We must leave room for God’s spirit to guide us – and avenge us.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E. Frankl
Refusing to “pause” or leave space for God plants a seed of bitterness, which grows quickly into meditations of retaliation. Isn’t it amazing how quickly a fleeting thought can turn us into a different person?
Filling the “space” between action and reaction with our own idea of revenge pushes God to the side. With God removed, our occupied minds become consumed with “next steps” of revenge. With our faith now compromised, our mouth quickly changes filters from “Christian” talk to venomous poison. The surly words we hurl can cut our target to the core. But does it stop there? Is revenge satisfied? Never. Our words alone can do little to satisfy our lust for revenge, so we are left only with actions.
In the heat of the moment – when we close that space and shut out God – is when we are more likely to do something regrettable. In that moment is where our profession of Christ as our King and Lord can disappear behind a cloud of evil behavior. Given the right circumstances, even a deeply committed man of God can lash out in a shocking act of revenge… which can never be taken back.
Vicious words, degrading words, physical outbursts, slapping, hitting, sexual actions, adultery, and the list goes on. There are too many reactions and actions available to fill the gap between action and reaction.
As humans, we just aren’t capable of properly handling revenge. Whether acting out foolishly, immediately, or worse…internalizing our anger, we never get it right and it rots us from the inside out.
Revenge is God’s job. And when we attempt to do God’s job – we foul it up, we destroy others, and we lose our credibility as Christians – as people. Taking matters into your own hands is like telling God that you can do His job better than He can. Put it down and walk away.
As Christians, look for that pause when you want to retaliate. Look for that split second between action and reaction and fill it with a request for God to take over. Ask Him to give you the appropriate response. That is where we succeed and grow our faith.
Like the proverb says, Wait for the LORD, he will avenge your wrongs.
RIGHT NEXT STEP
Write down the number one grudge that you carry. Pray that God take control every day until it is gone.
PRAY: God, you know who has offended me. Show me how to forgive them so I can move forward in my life. Teach me how to guard against future offenses. Grant me the courage to walk away from those who continue to draw me into a state of revenge. Give me patience to wait on you to avenge my offenders. Amen.