There are a lot of angry and depressed people walking around today—a significant number of them professing Christians. They’ve succumbed to the overwhelming pressures of life in a corrupt world and to the harassment of impossible people. They’re worn out and tired, physically drained and often on medications, and frankly without much hope for things getting better. Maybe this describes you today. The question is: is it the way we Christians are supposed to exist? And of course, it’s not at all how we’re to live! But what can we do to change it? The biblical account of Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, gives us the answer. It’s found in Genesis 4.
Cain, of course, was the first human being born with a sinful nature. He was thoroughly in the grip of original sin. His younger brother Abel was equally a sinner, but when God revealed to them that He required sacrifices, and when they offered those sacrifices, Abel responded obediently, but Cain rebelled against God’s will. Because the Lord rejected his sacrifice, the Bible tells us that “Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). In other words, he got very depressed. This is a very revealing verse, opening a window into our emotions as well. It is no exaggeration to say that our irritation, anger and depression issues are the result of sin, particularly of openly and knowingly rebelling against the word and will of God.
So what happens next? God approaches Cain (who was in no mood to seek out God!). “Why are you angry?” the Lord asks, “Why are you depressed?” (v. 6). We discover here that sin needs to be confronted, and if not by others, then God will eventually confront us. But note the gentle way this confrontation takes place. The Lord does not level accusations, but asks Cain two questions. However, Cain, who is obviously irritated, doesn’t respond. So the Lord then counsels Cain this way: “If you do well, will not your countenance 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” (verse 7).
Now this is exactly what most of us don’t want to hear. Cain didn’t either. The Lord lays the responsibility for our attitudes squarely on our doorsteps. The root of our anger and our depression, more often than not, is our sin. A lifted countenance—in other words, a joyful heart—is the result of doing well. Our manner of life will determine our frame of mind. Doing well, of course, means doing God’s will, and that means obedience to His Word. It’s that simple. On the other hand, if we do not do well—listen to the Lord’s vivid language here—“sin is crouching at the door.” And “its desire is for you.” Thus, sin is like a wild animal on your doorstep, ready to pounce, or a thief hiding in the bushes just outside the door, ready to assault the unsuspecting resident. Sin is vicious, it’s dangerous and destructive, and often hides out waiting for just the right moment when it will jump on you, and if you don’t do something about it, it will tear you apart.
So what can we do about the threat of sin to rob us of our peace and joy? God’s answer to Cain was. “You must master it.” The words “master it” mean to “rule over it,” or “control it.” But Cain was a sinner and he was angry and depressed. How could he be the one responsible to control his sin? Why didn’t the Lord say, “pray to me and the Holy Spirit will come and take away your anger and depression”? But the Lord didn’t say that. He said, “you must master it.” In other words, get a hold of yourself, and by force of your own will, show the responsible side of your personality by controlling yourself. Of course the Holy Spirit is there to assist the believer (one part of the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control”). But still, get a hold of yourself!
So don’t throw a pity party and moan over your anger and depression. Don’t resent others. And especially don’t blame God. The problem is your sin. Master it, and do well. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel!