Here are some tidbits from Sunday’s sermon, “Living Simply with Patience” (listen).
As we seek to live simply, wisdom tells us to watch anger. Our expressions of anger can complicate our lives and bring greater chaos.
About 12 years ago, there was a church in Modesto, California that was closed down due to anger. The Sheriff’s department asked them not to meet for a couple of Sundays because the two Sunday’s before fights broke out during worship. This is an extreme of anger run amuck. But if we’re honest, we have to admit, there is a lot of anger in the church because there is a lot of anger deep within Christians.
In the Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard writes, “The explosion of anger never simply comes from the incident. Most people carry a supply of anger around with them.”
How do we become such angry people?
Again, Willard insightfully explains, “Anger indulged, instead of simply waved off, always has in it an element of self-righteousness and vanity. Find a person who has embrace anger, and you find a person with a wounded ego…. To rage on I must regard myself as mistreated o as engaged in the rectification of an unbearable wrong, which I all to easily do.”
Anger has many faces.
* depression and withdrawal
* contempt (racism, sexism, vulgar language, name-calling, bullying).
* neglect or procrastination.
* harsh humor or sarcasm.
How do we create new patterns for dealing with anger?
1. Watch your exposure to anger.
Proverbs 22:24–25 (NIV84)
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.
Don’t fill your life with anger or people who are ensnared by anger.
2. Discover Spirit empowered patience.
Proverbs 29:8-11 (NIV84)
8 Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.
9 If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
10 Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright.
11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Find the joy of God-given self-control. How?
a. slow down. (Prov. 14:29) Stop. Listen. Understand. Create some space in your life, so you can think deeply about the things you are now reacting to.
b. be honest about where your anger is coming from!
wrong expectations? wrong values? self-centered? wanting control?
c. regain a Spirit perspective.
Gal. 5:22-26 reminds us that life with the Spirit produces patience.
* God is doing something bigger than you.
* We all suffer real injustices, that’s part of following Christ in this world. God has allowed that for now.
* We are here to love God and others. Our call is not to comfort and control, but to sacrificial service for the King.
Here are the texted questions for the day!
Q1:: (answered live) How can one make sure they control their anger but not let it build up inside you?
A1:: This is a great question. Because while we want to control anger-responses, we don’t just want to “stuff” anger and have it come out somewhere else (and we know it will). But to just be free-flowing with anger response is destructive. So, we have to learn to process anger constructively.
I think we should be honest about seeing our anger. And then we must take time to think through and pray through where that anger is coming from. And through Scripture, prayer and our community of faith, we may need to change the source of that anger (attitudes, values, expectations, etc).
Q2:: (answered live) Please give us some practical tips at the moment we feel like we are going to react in a negative manner. What do we do in those first moments?
A2:: This is a great question. And first, you will need to find what works for you. But, you can create some trigger-responses. For a while, when I had a problem with some negative thoughts, I kept a special coin in my pocket that had a verse about God’s call on my life. When I felt tempted to respond negatively, I felt for the coin. It wasn’t magic, or superstitious it was a reminder. Certainly, reading Scripture often helps us shape our hearts. Also, opening up in conversational prayer throughout the day, just talking to God about your frustrations, but then trying to listen to His Spirit. Or you may give someone you trust a “reminder word”. Something they can say to you when they see your attitude going south. One big key is, when you blow it, own it. Go back quickly, apologize and do what you have to make it right. If you get tired of doing this, it may help you be motivated for change.
Q3:: (answered live) You’ve said easy words that are things hard to do. When someone intentionally hurts someone we love our response is often anger. when the offender is not sorry, repentant or even willing to recognize their own actions then the action of “letting go” is quite difficult because there is not obvious justice.
A3:: You are so right. This is hard. And yet, if we don’t, by God’s grace get to the point of letting go of the anger, we will be consumed by bitterness and resentment. And then, we will hurt others we never intend on hurting. It is tough, yet for those who are hurt so deeply, it is necessary.
Q4:: (answered live) Is there ever healthy anger, like when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple court?
A4:: Interesting thought. I talked with another pastor about this just this last week. Nowhere in the texts of this story does it say that Jesus was angry. He may have felt anger, but I don’t think he was acting out an anger response. I think it was a very deliberate action. I think there are healthy ways to process anger. And anger may be able to move us toward positive action. But reacting in a rage-response isn’t ever productive. And the anger has to be other-motivated, not self-motivated.
Q5:: (answered live) In the process of offering grace and love, is there a place to offer a perspective on events, or is doing so covertly prideful and harmful?
A5:: My simple answer is yes, there is a time and place to offer perspective. We have to be humble about it. We can’t be like Job’s friends who kept pushing him to places God didn’t want him to go. But, in love, there are times when we can help people see the big picture of what God is up to. Another caution though, you may not want to offer perspective to someone in the midst of strong anger-feelings. At that point it may be like fanning the flames.
What are your struggles with anger? Where and how have you experiences success in dealing with anger and replacing it with Spirit-empowered patience?
Thanks Jim…..some great reminders and insights on this important matter!
You’re welcome Ron. Makes me wonder, why are the important things always so hard?