Mind over “Madder”

by Charles R. Swindoll

Scriptures: Genesis 4:7

We’ve all heard the expression “mind over matter.” For the sake of our thinking today, let’s alter the saying to “mind over emotion.” To tie it in even more directly to a story from the Bible where these words would really apply, we should change it to “mind over madder.”

Adam and Eve’s firstborn was a son they named Cain. Their second, you’ll recall, was named Abel. Cain grew up to be a farmer. When Abel became a man, he was a shepherd. It came time for an offering to be made to the Lord, so Cain brought some of the fruit he had grown while Abel brought of the firstlings from his flock. We read in Genesis 4:4 that the Lord accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. Rather than accept the Lord’s decision, we read, “Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5). Interestingly, in the Hebrew sentence the term translated “countenance” is literally the word for “face.” Cain’s face fell. Unable to hide it, his anger was reflected in his face.

Let’s not go deeply into why the Lord rejected Cain’s offering, except to say that it was the wrong kind of offering to bring. He brought one that pleased him but not the Lord. What really interests us here is Cain’s emotional reaction to what happened. Plain and simple, he got mad.

The Lord didn’t simply look the other way; He chose rather to confront it head-on: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance [face] fallen?” (Genesis 4:6). He then adds a comment that I find extremely important. “If you do well, will not your countenance [face] be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (4:7).

The Lord knew that if Cain allowed his anger to simmer and seethe, it would dominate his life and lead to violence—like a bloodthirsty animal crouching nearby, ready to pounce. How could Cain call a halt to that happening? Go back and read God’s advice: “If you do well, will not your [face] be lifted up?” (4:7, emphasis added). By doing what’s right, Cain would gain the mastery over his anger and experience relief. He would feel so much better . . . even his face would show it! Best of all, he would not take revenge through out-of-control rage by allowing his anger to fester.

Here’s the principle: our mind must take charge of our emotion, which will prompt our will to obey. That’s the only way to live! But if we allow our emotion (in this case, anger) to continue, something much worse can happen; in fact, it will happen. And what is that? As God warned Cain, our beast-like nature will ultimately leap into action.

By doing what’s right, we can gain mastery over our anger and experience relief.

— Charles R. Swindoll

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