“He lived in opposition to all his brothers.” (Genesis 25:18b)
Most of Ishmael’s days were laced with anger. From a human viewpoint, he probably had every right to be anger. His father was Abraham. His mother was Hagar, an Egyptian, a slave to Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Sarah had no children, so she gave his mother to Abraham to sleep with so she could give Abraham a son. Hagar had no real personal choice. She had him, Ishmael. Then, when he was older, Sarah got Abraham to send his mother and him away because of Isaac, out into the desert with a little bread and a bag of water, where they came very close to dying of hunger and thirst, until God finally intervened. They survived.
In his old age, Abraham had more sons. After Sarah died he took another wife named Keturah, and she bore him 6 sons. He had some concubines, and they had sons of Abraham, too. Abraham gave them all gifts. And he gave his precious Isaac everything.
Such was the viewpoint of Ishmael. He had great anger, and he never resolved it. He lived in opposition to his 7 plus brothers. There was never forgiveness, just hostility and antagonism.
What a terrible way to live a life, with unresolved anger. And yet, there are many in our world today who live their lives just that way.
What might Ishmael have done to resolve his anger?
The first thing he could have done was to look at how blessed his life actually was. Clearly, Ishmael suffered, and yet in his 137 years of life God made his sons into major clans which went on to become nations, just as God had promised Abraham. God sustained his life.
The second thing he could have done was to trust his life to the sovereignty of the Lord, recognizing that he would know great blessings in life through a personal faith and walk with the living God.
The third thing he could have done was to forgive Abraham and Sarah for what he felt were injustices done to him and his mother. Had he understood that this was part of God’s plan for honoring Abraham’s prayer that God bless Ishmael, that might have made a difference. If he had only forgiven Abraham, his life would have been so much happier, but because he didn’t he basically lived his life in a self-made prison of unresolved anger.
If you face unresolved anger in your life, you have the same choices. First, look at the big picture of your life and see how God has blessed you. Second, trust the Lord and His sovereign plan for your life. Third, if you feel you have been unjustly treated, forgive the perpetrator. Lay your anger to rest through forgiveness. Then, experience the freedom of resolved anger.
Lord, Help us all to remove unresolved anger through perspective, faith, and forgiveness. Amen.