Tag Archives: anger

The Emotion that Devours, continued

When we are wronged, how can we handle our anger? We answer that best when we look at what God does when He is wronged.  John Piper considers this in his book This Momentary Marriage: “But even though God has never done anything that legitimately pro­vokes our anger at him, what has he done about the breakdown in our relationship with him? He has taken initiatives to heal it—initiatives that were infinitely costly to him” (p. 151).

When we are wronged, we can reflect God by thinking like this: “In my spirit, I will walk towards this person in love. I will join Christ in this situation. I am willing to suffer so that this person can be healed.” Just as Christ was willing to suffer in order to love me well, so I can be willing to suffer in order to love others well.

Although the work of atonement was completed at the Cross, the work of redemption (turning ashes into beauty) and sanctification (turning self-centered, diseased people into Christ-centered, healthy people) is ongoing. It is an awesome privilege to be invited to partner with God in His work. Not only does He promise to reward us well, but He promises that He Himself will be our great reward. There is nothing greater than that!

This means that when I am tempted to be angry about what is happening to me, I can instead yield to the Spirit so that the situation belongs to Him and not to me. Not only does this allow His power and wisdom to replace my weakness and foolishness, but this also changes the suffering of that situation into His suffering, instead of mine.  Double-yoked with Christ, I delight in being drawn nearer to Him; sharing in His sufferings, I delight in bringing pleasure to Him as the desires of His heart are being fulfilled.

   In summary, here are the three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead:

1. Recognize that my enemy is my anger, not what someone else has said or is doing. It is my bitterness that devours my soul.

2. Choose to be an active giver, truly believing that the best blessings come through giving.

3. Choose to join Christ in His sufferings in order to love others well and to gain intimacy with Christ.

When we do these things through the Spirit, every bit of our lives can be infused with the beauty and joy of God.  That, I think, is awesome.

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The Emotion that Devours

In reading “my new favorite book on marriage,” I was interested to discover an entire chapter devoted to the topic of anger. Author John Piper bases much of his discussion in This Momentary Marriage on the Biblical directives given in Ephesians 5:21 through 6:4. When the apostle Paul speaks to fathers in this passage, he gives one strong warning: “do not provoke your children to anger.” Of all the things that Paul could tell fathers, why does he choose this one thing? Piper recognizes that anger is being highlighted here as a critical issue in the home.

As Piper points out, anger “devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness.” When we work to conquer anger, not only are we freed of that misery, but we also “unlock” our hearts “to a dozen other precious emotions that make worship possible and make relationships sweet” (page 150).

There are three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead. Here are the first two:

1. Recognize that my anger is the enemy, not what someone else has said or done. It is my bitterness that devours my own soul, and it is my resentment that is bringing harm to me. Anger is  destructive when it is based on lies. We often choose to believe the lie that someone else is messing things up for us.  But the truth is that every single thing that comes  into my life, whether it is a trivial frustration or a horrible evil, can be used by God to advance His trustworthy purposes. Everything that God has allowed to enter my life has been charged by God to prosper me.

2. Choose to be an active giver, believing that choosing to give is a great gift to myself as well as to the other person. I can choose to give grace, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, and honor.  I can consciously choose to walk in love toward someone when my natural reaction would actually be to run away or to attack. When I choose to walk toward another in love, powerful things happen in the spiritual realm: the enemy is weakened, strongholds collapse, chains of bondage are broken, and captives are set free.

When we are mistreated or misunderstood or unappreciated, we gain an even greater opportunity to give and to create spiritual impact. That is why James says that we can “consider it pure joy” when we encounter problems or pain. Situations that tempt us to be angry are the very opportunities that allow us to give so that we are enriched. Our spirits are naturally ingrown—a condition which leads to decay and death. Giving is what heals the sickness of our spirits.

(We’ll look at a third way to combat anger next time.)

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