I’m usually working through several different books touching on different themes, such as, theology, the Christian life, and pastoral or local church ministry. But in the evenings, and on my day off, I read history, biography, or the occasional highly recommended novel. This past Monday I began reading a most fascinating book: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. If you liked the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, you’ll like this one.
It tells the true story of a nine-man rowing crew, from the USA, who won the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Most of the crew were from very difficult, hardworking, and poor backgrounds who overcame great odds to achieve this success. But one particular member—Joe Rantz—is the heart of the story. The trauma that he overcame, from an early age, is almost unbelievable and highlights both the sinfulness of man and an indomitable will to survive. Further, it serves as a lesson that those who are wronged by others have a choice whether or not they will become embittered.
After many years of suffering at the hands of others (I won’t spoil the plotline), his fiancée, out of deep frustration, asked him how he could be so tolerant of those who had wronged him. She chided him: “I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.” He replied, “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead…. I have to stay focused.”
I’m halfway through the book and, so far, there’s no indication Joe was a Christian. Nevertheless his response to being wronged struck me with great conviction. I was forced to acknowledge how much energy I have wasted on anger over wrongs done to me. Too often, I have lost my focus all because I allowed someone’s mistreatment to goad me into a sinful response. Rather than keeping my eye on what God has set before me—not a gold medal but rather Christlikeness—I have wasted too much energy. And I haven’t achieved the spiritual progress I otherwise might have.
This lockdown has provided me the opportunity to reflect and repent. I have lots to work on. But I am determined to come out of this more focused than ever.
Several years ago John Piper, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer, wrote a little book called Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Well, we shouldn’t waste our lockdown.
Perhaps in the coming days you may find your mind remembering and then nursing wounds that others have inflicted. Or, as you reflect on the wounds that this current crisis is inflicting and will inflict upon you, think of the response of Joe Rantz, “It takes energy to get angry.” That’s a great admonition. But here’s an even better one: “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). In other words, do you want to achieve what God requires? Then stay focused on Jesus and you won’t waste your energy.
Working with you to not waste energy,