Ephesians 4:26, 27
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Early in my marriage I was told this passage means my wife and I should never go to bed angry with each other. Doing so would allow the anger to “ferment” into bitterness (and give the devil a foothold in our lives). We sure didn’t want to do that so we stayed up many nights fussing and squabbling till we were both exhausted and couldn’t even remember what we were so mad about – but we were still mad and the sun had gone down (and sometimes was ready to come up again).
Eventually I decided that couldn’t possibly be what that passage was saying – mainly because staying up till we resolved the problem was turning out to be stupid advice. We usually didn’t come to any resolution, it got worse as the night dragged on and now we were going to be tired and cranky the next day also. I didn’t know what that passage meant but I knew it couldn’t mean “fight the night away”.
I am embarrassed to say we were thirty years into our marriage before I realized the simple truth this passage was conveying. I can’t stop the sun from going down and I discovered I couldn’t always resolve the differences with my wife before it did go down but I could do one thing – I could forgive, forget it and move on before the sun went down.
After all, forgiveness, like love, is a decision, not a feeling. I could decide to forgive, drop the matter and move on. I didn’t have to find the magical, mysterious solution to our disagreement. I didn’t have to help my wife realize how right I was and how far off base she was. I didn’t have to restore any “warm fuzzy” feelings. I just had to decide I was not going to carry this anger with me into the night. If need be, we could return to the issue the next day, after some sleep and perhaps with a fresh perspective and insight. As a wise eight year old girl put it when she was asked the secret to happiness, “Sometimes you just need to take a nap and get over it.”
So don’t let the sun go down while you are still fuming. Forgive, take a nap and get over it. Tomorrow will be a new day.
James 1:19, 20 (NIV)
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.