I used to be quick to dismiss messages on anger as irrelevant to me. I was never one to curse or to make a mad scene when upset, and since I received Christ’s gift of salvation and Lordship over my life He has also redeemed me from harboring serious grudges or wishing ill of other people.
In recent days, however, God has been making me aware that anger is still very much a part of my life, after all. I just happen to have my own brand of it: consisting mostly of passing irritations and bearing little resemblance to the deep-seated feelings of resentment and bitterness that Christ already freed me from. It is the kind of anger expressed simply through a sharp look, a raised voice, a sarcastic remark, or sometimes even a piercing, strongly worded email. Have you ever had that sensation of heat surging from your chest all the way to the top of your head? I get that once in a while, too, whenever I feel that I’ve been wronged or hurt or inconvenienced by another person. Most times I just take a deep breath and tell myself to let go and let God, but occasionally that look, or voice, or remark, just escapes me.
God’s grace is revealing to me now how I’ve been viewing my anger as acceptable, even negligible, according to my own standards. God clearly states, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a), yet I have been guilty, countless times, of letting my anger get the better of me. God warns, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27), yet I allow anger to thrust me into a snowball of transgressions: from judging others, to causing pain and damaging my relationships through my responses, to justifying my behavior by claiming that what I have is “righteous anger” and that it is not a big deal compared to the misdemeanors of others whom I judge to be far worse than I am.
In this week’s message one thought struck me particularly hard – that to deal with anger, a person must recognize its root. Anger can always be traced to something else – another emotion, for instance, such as jealousy or fear. As I prayed and reflected I found that as difficult as it was to admit the need to deal with anger, it was even harder for me to admit its root. But the Lord knows my heart and made it impossible for me to deny that my flashes of anger have been rooted in my PRIDE and SELF-CENTEREDNESS.
Continuing to pray and reflect in the days that followed, I was reminded by God of how my ego means nothing, as He himself knit me in my mother’s womb and gave me all that I am and all that I have. I felt the admonishment for being quick to point out others’ offenses toward me, as the Lord called to my mind the many instances, day by day, in which I myself hurt others, failed to meet my commitments, disappointed my loved ones, and disobeyed Him. Lastly, He brought me back to Calvary, that I would not forget how it is only by His grace that I have been saved.
I have no reason to demand to be treated better, no excuse to judge anyone and in anger to try to “put people in their place.”
Humbled before God, accepting the truth about the roots of my anger and confessing my sin, I thought of John 3:30 as I prayed for Him to help me get over myself, because “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Reveling in all that He is and recognizing who I am – a sinner redeemed, an undeserving recipient of God’s mercy and grace – I prayed, too, to remember that I have every reason, regardless of circumstances, to choose always to make things right with others and to forgive whatever fault is committed against me. “Just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32b), as Paul reminded the Ephesians.
*Published September 7, 2011 on my church website.