October 12, 2011

Day 12: Anger Much?

Good morning!  Grab a cup of coffee, this post is a little long!

This is Part 12 of a month-long series you can learn more about by starting with Day 1 here.  There are many others doing super cool series this month as well, perhaps you'd like to see the list?

Over the last week, we've been delving into the sins in our hearts in the context of the Gospel - that God forgives our sins when we trust that Jesus' took our punishment (death) for them in our place - to the end of "becoming more ourselves than ever."  But even knowing that God loves us, His children, we still kinda squirm when we admit to ourselves just how much we continue needing Jesus' work on the cross.  We really squirm when we have to admit it to others.  Don't we want to "keep up appearances"?  I sure do.

Sadly, the keeping up of appearances harms us and those around us ... not to mention the offense against God.  However, when we talk about our sin and God's work in our hearts, we're protected from our pride, God receives the glory He deserves, and others are pointed in His direction.  I love David's words after He's cried out to God for mercy and for a clean heart in Psalm 51:13.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

Could God use me or you to teach another?  Will we let Him by opening our lips to share all that from which He has saved us?

Think about those questions as we move on with today's topic:


Anger is a biggie in my life.  Rather than being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19), I'm prone to the opposite, making the next verse a real zinger:

for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Jesus, in fact, likened getting angry with our brother to murder.  Ooooh ouch, Jesus.  Really?  Is it that bad?

*     *     *

I don't believe people throughout my life would describe me as an "angry person" - though you could weigh in in the comments if you disagree!  Grumpily lumbering about and always snapping at people has never been my style (I'm far too much of a people-pleaser for that.  ha!)  Yet, all joking aside, how quickly comes the fit of rage (Galatians 5:20) when suddenly life is not going my way?!
  • someone cuts me off or tails me or goes too slowly when I'm on the road
  • a child doesn't listen or obey quick enough for my liking
  • my husband fails to meet my expectations
  • the kids are up too early for my taste
  • I am made to look foolish or misrepresented in some situation
  • someone takes what was rightfully or "rightfully" mine
Speaking for myself, I've used all of the above as excuses to cling to my anger and feel justified in treating others poorly (sin begetting more sin!)  Now, a Heather-style fit of rage may not express itself in punching out another driver, physically abusing my children, or leaving my husband.  When we hear of people doing things like that, we breathe a sigh of relief that we're not that bad, don't we?  Phew, at least I have enough decency not to ... when I'm angry.

But allow me to, ever so kindly, remind you that Jesus said:

You have heard it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  Again anyone who says to his brother, "Raca," is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Matthew 5:21-22

Can we agree that when we talk anger, we're not talking small potatoes?

You'll notice the bold words in the list I created above.  Most of the time our anger is all about Ime, and mine, isn't it?  I believe we talked about that root problem early in the series: we want to be our own god, we want the world to revolve around us.

I find that often I don't even make a decision to get angry, it just happens in the blink of an eye.  And before I know it, the little spark is a huge fire of rage within my heart.  I may not be an angry person, but I am a person in which anger lurks - just. under. the. surface. - waiting for the opportunity to unleash itself in all of it's hideous glory.

*     *     *

How can we extinguish these angry heart-fires?

ADMIT THE SIN:  As with all sin, we've gotta start by admitting there's a problem - our natural reaction does not honor God or our neighbor.  Oh, how we need Jesus to help us admit it!  We want to give Him our excuses about why our anger is justified in this situation; He's inviting us to repent, believe, and be changed.

MAKE A DECISION NOT TO LET THE ANGER GROW (self-control):  This is a "fruit of the Spirit" thing. The more we're talking with the Holy Spirit about our desire to change and our need for His intervention in those moments of testing, the more growth we will see - the more we will become who we were intended to be and can rejoice at the way God is at work in our lives.
An example: My kids have always been early risers.  Friends, this used to make me so mad.  I'd just be settling in to my morning quiet time, and I'd hear the little pitter-patter of feet above me.  They are coming.  Aurgh!, I would groan to myself.  Sometimes I would angrily try to get them to go back to sleep: speak harshly, ignore, or whatever I thought might guilt them into going back to bed so I could get my way.  Yep, real mature, I know.  But wow, has God been changing my heart as he's shown me the error of my anger, its extensions (rudeness, impatience, unkindness), and is helping me to choose patience, kindness, and self-control.   What a difference it makes for all of us on those mornings that I choose God's way!  (And how much easier it gets to choose His way when we've practiced doing it before.)
FORGIVE:  There are times that we're angry because of a legitimate hurt or offense, not just because life is not going our way.  In this case, too, we have the opportunity to choose.
Another example:  We were hit by another driver on Good Friday this year.  The accident was his fault, but he lied to his insurance company and they would not pay our deductible.  It just wasn't right.  Every time I drive past where the accident occurred I'm reminded of how infuriating that is to me.  We had the money to pay for it, praise God!  No one was hurt, even better!  But I had to really hash it out with God and choose to forgive that man.  Clinging to the anger accomplishes nothing but maintain rot in my heart.  Jesus said that other hard thing in the Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Dear Lord, help us to forgive!
And finally,
PRAISE GOD:  Jesus' blood has covered over every little ounce of anger you've ever expressed or will express.  Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?!

*     *     *

My apologies, this post has gotten too long, but it doesn't seem right to split it up.  If you made it this far, thank you for being a kind and loving blog-reading friend!  I pray that today God's Word would take root in your heart and that He'd allow you to see, EVEN TODAY, what He's accomplishing in YOU.

* I'll not be getting into "righteous anger" vs. unrighteous here.  I venture to guess, if you're anything like me, that most of the time the anger you deal with is primarily about you being right, justified, offended, etc. not about pursing some righteous cause.  Maybe not, but I'm functioning under that assumption.  And I'm just not familiar enough with "righteous anger" ... not sure I've ever experienced it!


  1. Heather, I'm with you all the way in this. I used to be very short tempered and much as I hate to admit it, I am sometimes still. But I have found that your little parenthetical comment to be very true too - how much easier it gets to choose His way when we've practiced doing it before!
    Thank you for all your challenging blogs this month! Love, Gladys

  2. Thank God for Jesus' blood! I've have done a lot of extinguishing lately! Glad I'm not the only one.

  3. Heather, I am the same. Anger lurking just under the surface, and I've realized the same things you mention here. It's about choosing God's way and realizing that HE IS LOVING ME in all those circumstances. That helps. Jesus, help!

  4. Heather, I am the same. Anger lurking just under the surface, and I've realized the same things you mention here. It's about choosing God's way and realizing that HE IS LOVING ME in all those circumstances. That helps. Jesus, help!