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.)