By Jim Candy
Normally I start blog posts with a funny story. But not today.
As the pandemic subsides in the US, I’m concerned about a new pandemic that can’t be fixed by scientists in a lab.
Recently, we’ve seen in the news:
A significant increase in flights needing to restrain passengers for being “unruly.”
Shootings in major cities rapidly increasing, higher than pre-Covid levels.
World leaders and local politicians feuding over the origins of the pandemic, human rights and elections.
The divorce rate is rising beyond even its pre-pandemic heights.
Yep, the whole world is downright pissed off right now.
Conflict is raging politically, between friends, in marriages, at work, in churches and pretty much everywhere else.
The next pandemic, named Rage and Bitterness, is blooming.
Rage and Bitterness is an equally deadly pandemic, albeit less headline-garnering; an unwelcome offspring of Pandemic 1.0. Although it’s always been with us, Pandemic 1.0 provides the perfect conditions for rage and bitterness to flourish. While reading about enraged people in the news is one thing, recognizing the roots of this second pandemic in our own hearts is another.
Covid-19 threatened to kill the body, the resulting rage and bitterness aims to ruin the soul.
The Roots of Pandemic 2.0 Inside Us
Where is the potential for rage and bitterness in you after 2020? Have you named it?
You’re mad at your church for meeting in-person too soon or not soon enough.
You’re mad at your spouse because you fought over how to handle Covid restrictions.
You’re mad about what happened to your kids while they watched school for a year online.
You’re mad at God for a life lost, opportunity lost, or money lost.
You’re mad about a relationship that drifted because of quarantine-induced distance.
You’re mad at your work for using Covid as an excuse to make decisions you disagree with.
You’re mad at a friend whose politics became polarized.
You’re mad at yourself for the bad habit you developed.
All of these are very common – I hear story after story and have my own.
The most relevant question is: will the fruit of Pandemic 1.0 morph into rage and bitterness? To be clear, anger and conflict aren’t bad. Jesus was angry quite a bit. We should be angry at any of the bulleted items above. It is unaddressed anger that begins the process of damage to our souls.
Rage is both lazy and addictive.
It brings temporary feelings of pleasure because we feel powerful. Punitively assessing someone else and their shortcomings gives us a shot of potency. Briefly. My personal rage tends to simmer; coming out in biting comments. I’m unlikely to get in a fist fight, but I know how to dissect someone with my tongue.
It feels good, and it is counterfeit; it works against the things we desire.
Still, rage is an enticing drug. It’s available with a seemingly endless supply, but far from inexpensive. Each time we succumb to a “Rage High,” we teach ourselves to slide into the next one. And the trap is set. For some, this pattern becomes so ingrained it defines their identity.
And that is the death Pandemic 2.0 attempts to inflict.
A soul set to rage or bitterness, no matter how outwardly respectable, is lost. Pfizer is not working on a vaccine for this one. The solution will be more hard-earned, and we will need help from an outside Source. But Pandemic 2.0 requires a far more active, less passive, approach.
The Apostle Paul accumulated a massive list of enemies. The fallout for suggesting there is one true God named Jesus was/is a conflict-producer both then and now.
Paul’s commitment to Jesus meant jail, beatings, betrayal and eventually death. He had every opportunity to allow rage, bitterness and the desire for revenge to control his heart, but instead he wrote these words:
Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.
Remember, these words are from someone who, in his younger days, sought out Christians to kill them. So it’s not like he was just born with a sweet disposition. The change in Paul’s life was so profound.
So ridiculously profound.
How did he change?
The Unsatisfying Ending
You won’t like how this post ends.
I don’t have a “Do _______ and in ___ days you will __________” formula for beating Pandemic 2.0.
God refuses to be reduced to a mere process because he’s offering a relationship not a magic trick. Paul knew this and, while directing us, didn’t exactly spell out the “How to” steps clearly:
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
“Let the Holy Spirit guide…”
In a Pandemic 2.0 world full of broken relationships and dreams, this passage is more relevant than ever. And more difficult. The sinful nature loves rage and bitterness. We wish for and have become accustomed to magical, one-time shots in the arm, but Pandemic 2.0 will be more of an ongoing struggle.
We are all like boxers being called to the center of the ring, and now the real fight is about to begin.
And your fight will not be the same as mine. Because, although we have the same Spirit in our corner, interaction with God is as different as how any two siblings might interact with their dad.
So my question for you today is: have you embarked, today, to live by the Spirit?
And my second question is: When you figure out how to do that well, will you let me know? ;-)
If you found this helpful would you please push the "Heart" button to like and pass along to someone else? And I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.