I walked away from the stove for a moment to check on something and forgot that I had the burner turned up high. When I heard the sizzling sound of liquid meeting flame I quickly returned to find a mess, the contents boiled over onto the hot stove. It was not easy to remove cooked on food from the range. As I scrubbed, I realized that my little incident was a kind of parable for life. When we turn up our anger and emotions boil over, the result is always a mess! Cleanup, even if possible, is never easy.
Americans are feeling desperate. Our candidates and their surrogates stoke our fears about the future. The economy is stalled. The media feeds us a constant diet of terror and war. Change, good and bad, makes us wonder about the shape of the future. Desperate people often go from fear into anger, and with little encouragement – to rage! Yes, the world is full of angry people. I’ll admit that when I watch too much ‘news’ I get angry, too. Drive a little too slowly and anger will come your way, horns and yells. Start chatting over the break table at work and most likely there will be angry words: disappointment with a spouse, kids that have gone ‘bad,’ lousy bosses that don’t care. The pot in our nation is at full boil, as I see it.
Is that a problem? Yes, it is. Wrath, Rage, and Anger are a toxic brew. Don’t believe me? How about looking God’s wisdom about letting our anger loose.
- “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ” (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV)
- “People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.” (Proverbs 19:11 NLT)
- “Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes.” (Proverbs 14:29, NLT)\
Paul addresses the disciples of Christ and instructs us not to “sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT) Out of control anger is a spiritual issue.
Anger is not a sinful emotion. It can be a powerful motivator for change – in ourselves, in our family, in our world. When we see a weaker person being abused by someone stronger we should rightly feel indignant. When we see evidence of authority being used to exploit or oppress others — anger is a legitimate response. Jesus was angered by the abuse that the religious leadership pressed on the people in God’s name! The OT prophets passionately declared God’s anger with those who were oppressing the poor and/or the weak.
When we feel that emotion rising, we must focus it, govern it, inform it. If we just ‘turn up the heat’ feeding anger with slogans, only reinforcing our outrage with people who talk and think like us, we will likely just start shouting, adding to confusion. When we couple anger to truth, matching our feeling that ‘things must be better’ with real acts of service, we become a force for good. Our prayers grow more passionate, our hearts grow more tender, and people come into view instead of causes.
Know this – whatever the cause of anger, the emotion releases some powerful chemicals in our brains that are addictive! Rage addiction is not just psychobabble! If we feed that addiction with outbursts of rage, we are said to ‘get mad.’ Why? Because a person in full rage has temporarily lost his grip on reason. In a rage, a father is capable of beating a child; a man of killing his wife; a friend of destroying a relationship with his oldest companion. That is why the Word says “keep a leash on anger!” Use anger sparingly. Ask yourself, “Why am I so ready to take offense? Why do I personalize each and every situation and turn it into issue of respect and/or dignity?”
The real cure for wrath and rage is a profound experience of God’s love. When we are loved powerfully, we need no longer rise quickly to anger in self-defense. God, the Spirit, enlarges our spirit in a way that removes the need to resort to anger over petty issues. Oh yes, I confess, that I feel the sting of regret and shame when I remember when I have given free rein to anger over inconsequential matters. When the pot boiled over, there was no good result, only disgrace of the Name of my gentle Lord. Got an anger problem? Many do, but won’t admit. Anger is one of those ‘safe’ sins many of us excuse and even tolerate.
How do we conquer rage?
- We start with confession of our addiction to anger and name as sin! No justifications and/or excuses allowed. Don’t blame your heritage, your spouse, or your life situation. Only a fool says, “They make me so mad!” Nobody makes anybody mad. We choose to be angry! When you give vent to rage and/or wrath, confess it to God and to the one against whom you have raged. Accept forgiveness from Him.
- Then, we possess the truth of God’s amazing love and pray for a deep revelation of the depth of it for ourselves. Want to really know God’s love? The paradox is that His love is better known when we are broken than when we are blessed. We are most open to God’s love when we are out of options, beyond self-help, shattered by life. It is then we are prepared to accept the wonderful love of God that heals us from the inside out.
Here’s the word from the Word. As you head off to an angry world, pray with me that the Spirit will make this a life principle.
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:8-11, NKJV) Amen