Little children love balloons. I suppose they’re attracted to the bright colors, the texture and “give” when you push in on them, and most of all, by the way they magically float in the air. But balloons are not much unless someone puts some air (helium) in them. They’re just limp, lifeless, and uninspiring.
Someone has to air them up for them to come to life.
I suspect that many, maybe even most of our problems are that way. We all have problems; some people have more than others, but they are all very real, and we cope with them the best that we can. Our trouble really comes when we start pumping them full of self-pity, despair, and resentment. Soon they have risen up above us, blocking the light and obscuring our view. They define our existence and we carry them around for everyone to see. They can even become like the giant balloons you see in the Macy’s Parade and we end up unapproachable and isolated.
In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel have brought their sacrifices before the Lord. Abel’s was accepted while Cain’s was rejected (see Hebrews 11:4). God spoke some very important words of warning to Cain when He told him,
“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it,” (v. 6-7).
God was telling Cain, you sinned, don’t dwell on it or soon you will be making bigger mistakes. Move on. Don’t put air in that balloon! Unfortunately, that’s just what Cain did and soon the ground around him was covered with his brother’s blood.
I have no wish to be glib about the problems, trials, or temptations that people encounter. Some of them are absolutely horrific. Nonetheless, it was God Himself who cautioned us about the possibility of greater difficulties if we fail to handle the problems we have in the right way, so even in the midst of our pain, we need to hear and heed.
How do we do that?
Imagine if Cain had taken God’s counsel. What might he have done differently? I think he would have sought God’s forgiveness for the inadequate sacrifice he had offered. By doing this, he would let all of the air out of his balloon instead of filling it up. He would have been taking his problem to God rather than trying to deal with it himself. Cain’s problem was more than he could handle, but it wasn’t more than God could handle. It never is.
And because that’s true, and because he would have found forgiveness from God, Cain would have had (more) reason to celebrate and pursue God’s goodness. Paul encourages the church at Philippi in this direction when he tells them:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you,” (4:6-7).
The Philippians were challenged to focus their minds and fill their lives with good things. That is the opposite of filling up your balloon with resentment and bitterness. In fact, you really can’t do these things and fill your balloon. Paul would know, since he was imprisoned at the time he wrote these words (1:12-14). Rather than fill up his balloon, he chose to rejoice in his Lord (4:4). Not only can we do the same, we must or our problems will become worse, rather than better.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21).