The Lord asked Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why do you look so unhappy? If you do things well, I will accept you, but if you do not do them well, sin is ready to attack you. Sin wants you, but you must rule over it.”
I have to admit, I’m just like my kids. Whenever I point out to them how they’ve not tidied their room when asked to, or done a haphazard piano practice, they’re quick to point out that It Was Not My Fault. Apparently there are always external circumstances beyond their control that prevent them from doing a good job. Or they burst into tears. How dare I imply their efforts are less than perfect.
If only they put that energy into improving themselves.
Sadly, that’s me a lot of the time. I just have more practice at masking my external reactions. And if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll admit that it’s hard to take criticism, constructive or otherwise. Cain certainly didn’t take it well. The interesting thing about God’s comment to Cain was that having done something badly, the immediate tendency was to do something even worse. Cain proved this by going out to kill his brother out of spite.
You may always respond to setbacks in life with optimism and sensible choices. I tend to wallow in despair and self-doubt. If I failed in this one thing I’m probably a failure in everything else. Why even try? But God’s advice is exactly the opposite: having failed, now is the time to try harder than ever. This is actually a useful tool to help implement yesterday’s resolution: if something hasn’t gone well then I know I’m suddenly more likely to fall into sin. So I immediately know to be more vigilant.
Jesus said, “In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” And he also conquered sin and death. That’s encouraging. So I’ll keep an ear open for God telling me, “Sin wants you, but you must rule over it”, look to Jesus’ example, and try to be the person I want my kids to be.