In which anger derails a perfectly blissful day

by Craig on December 31, 2010

Anger is a sneaky thing, not always what we think, and not always bad, and almost always destructive.

So I’m in my old Seminary library reading about James, and writing, and translating, and digging into church history. You know, just your everyday gleeful kind of stuff.

It’s easy to study about anger when anger really isn’t your thing.

You get to be all judgy.

James 1:19,20

“Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

So I studied this day, in the delight that this verse wouldn’t apply to me – just other people. Which is good, because the first part of it sliced me up like a ginsu in yesterday’s post (here).

I had hours of work on my computer all about this verse. I liked it. I was satisfied. I left the library, ate some Ramen noodles, rested a while. Then I went back to finish up.

When I opened up the computer, every file was fine – except one. The one I had just spent hours on. It wouldn’t open up. I could see it, but it wouldn’t open. I’ve never had this happen before.

Hours of research were locked up and not coming out.

I could have kicked and screamed and bashed my computer – or the table.  But I didn’t. I just don’t get all steamy over stuff. Lord knows I have plenty of weaknesses, but rage is not one of them. So I simmered…

…and I didn’t like it very much that this verse suddenly applied to me.

I redid everything, dug through the books again. But all that bliss I talked about – it was like an ice cube that dropped on the floor and got left there – and puddled.

I let the anger steal the joy. No fits, no tantrums, but still wrong. I was quick to the anger.

See what happens when you get all judgy.

Lets see, more stuff from my notes…

Oh. An angry spirit prevents spiritual progress. Example? Peter. He had to quit lopping off ears before he could get it. It might just be that it’s as hard for an angry person to enter the kingdom as a rich one. Anger is going to happen, but if I let it linger, I don’t grow – and  can even lose valuable spiritual ground.

Lets see … anything else?

Oh. Even Our Lord got angry – so anger isn’t always bad. Righteous anger to protect someone else, for instance, that’s not so bad I think. But then we have to be careful because – well – who are we to judge when it’s time to be all righteously in a snit? I’m safely assuming that Our Lord knew when to be snitty.

Let’s see … anything else?

Oh, and one last Bible geeky type thing…

The early Christians to whom James wrote? The ones with the heavy Jewish background? Well they probably had a good number of Zealots. Remember them? They were the guys who wanted to violently overthrow Rome – the ones that killed people. Yeah, those guys. Well some of them became Christians.

So there may have been a fair sized group in the early church that would be easily tempted respond in an eye for eye fashion. The hint comes from looking ahead to James 4:1-3,

“Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

James may have been telling this type of new Christian that progress of the kingdom couldn’t be had by the sword, by anger, by strife, but by unity and peace.

Now there’s some geeky Bible trivia for ya.

The thing is, If I make a decision and it’s done in anger, I better double check it.

If I make a prayer in anger, I better review my words and thoughts.

Anger can be as quiet as a stealing of joy by simmering,

or as violent as wars and strife.

Either one is anger,

either one stops my progress,

and the progress of the kingdom.

The effects ripple.

Can’t have that.

It boils down to some very simple Frankenstein logic.

Fire bad,

Tree pretty.

Anger bad.

Peace pretty.

May God Bless You

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymuss December 31, 2010 at 3:19 pm

These are challenging posts, Craig. Two days ago I was wondering how one could truly know if one’s anger was righteous or not. That is a separate question from how to deal with or respond to anger, I know. Maybe anger is neutral, like the gas tank indicator, just telling us something. Then, what one does about it either gets a good or bad mark (freedom or bondage-basically). I struggle recently with anger or frustration or hurt at those who have done things that I feel very hurt about, and who then have said to me I need to get over it, forgive, move on. I have forgiven-as best as I can tell, but the wounds and the time it takes to heal…how does one accelerate that? What is the time frame? If I heal more slowly than some, is that like wearing a big scarlet ‘Immature Christian’ emblazoned on my chest? I have been told that forgiveness should be instant. By ‘Christians’. And then, I have to make more decisions about how to relate to those whom I now feel very cautious and unsafe around. Lots of judgy flowing in all of this-both sides. Hurt, too. And offences. So much pain and some isolation. So much need for Jesus and Jesus wisdom and love. Does this belong in DeepintoLove or DeepintoScriptures? It belongs, for sure, in DeepintoBrokenness.

Thank you, Craig. Your words are helping me as I learn how to navigate in these waters.

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Craig December 31, 2010 at 4:29 pm

You spin analogies and word pictures like an artist A.

I get the forgiving thing. It’s something i think takes prayer. But remember, forgiveness is not implied permission to hurt you again. If it really is past and people really aren’t in the business of hurting you again – then – forgive and forget. But consequences of actions don’t go away overnight. Especially when they involve feeling safe. These people who did the hurting, if they are Christian, should understand that. Just as you should be about the business of forgiving – they should be about the business of repenting and repairing the damage. It was in that post a while ago – about the unrequited sorry. Both sides have a job to do in forgiveness between Christians. Forgive the sin, work through the consequences. A general response to the general question :)

Ooof – I’m preaching – sorry. But I get it – and want you to know that.

For me forgiveness is cake. I couldn’t hold a grudge if I tried – and I have tried, believe me – I start out fine but can’t keep it up. But then I struggle in areas of my faith that you probably don’t give a second thought to. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

The “bunnies” that you have figured out. Their damage was awful. It still hurts. The consequences hover over my head ever single day. Forgiveness is one thing, dealing with the carnage is a little different. Keep praying A. I think I’ve learned God wants the heart, he wants the trying, the growing – and he’s patient.

God Bless I’ll pray for your navigating – is this the spilled glass?

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Anonymuss December 31, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Craig, your preaching is a good thing, no apologies needed. Thank you for the prayers-the spilled glass is part of this, yes. You are so right about dealing with the carnage-a challenge of its own, and not always or usually unmessy. Your site is like a watering hole in a parched land, for sure. Thank you. I will keep praying for your bunny carnage, too.

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Scott Wolf January 1, 2011 at 4:10 pm

My problem is not so much outrage anger. The more dangerous pacifist kind. Bitterness and resentfulness. I struggle with this everyday. Thank you Craig for reminding us that anger is not healthy.

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Craig January 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I chuckle as I write this Scott – but those words “anger is not healthy”. True – and OBVIOUS :) —- funny. Maybe not. Maybe I need a nap. But I totally get what you’re saying. Fist bump.

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lindaM January 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hi Craig,
I know how you felt when hours and hours of work gets lost on the computer. I’ve had this happen a couple of times to me. I sinking feeling for sure. Horror, might be a better word.
For sure I think that there are the natural responses and hurts that occur in our lives because of anger, jealousy, envy, disregard, lust, prejudice, etc. I believe that as we walk integrally with God and ask Him to help us, we start to experience the work of the Holy Spirit for the healing needed in our lives. Either as the recepient or the one doing the hurting.

I really am beginning to think that it’s a moving from our old nature to the ‘promised land ‘so to speak. Joy, Peace, Hope, Love, Wisdom, Power,. These are things that the whole world is looking for. People believe that they’ll find it if they can only be rich and not have to worry about finances. People believe that they will find this in mysticism and ‘old man’ disciplines. People believe that they will find this in formulas for life that self help books provide. Such as be assertive, don’t be a doormat, you have rights, etc. I don’t know the current philosophies and reccommendations going about our culture.

I’m thinking that that is how the Christian is going to stand out. Christians having obtained something that the world wants but has not been able to find or have. I’ve been reading in the minor prophets in the Bible. It seems that at some point even Nations are going to come to God because they recognize his ability to guide. Maybe I read about this in the book of Revelation?

Anyway, I think the point I’m making is that we keep walking with God. We keep learning and praying to him and reading his Word. We keep asking Him for help as we learn to put under the old man under and let the ‘new man’ arise so to speak. The man, Jesus Christ.
Talk to you later. Sorry about your stuff getting lost on the computer.

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Craig January 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

You are so right about riches. Every rich person I’ve ever known has told me it is difficult to have so much money. Tevya in Fiddler on the roof said, “If wealth is a curse, may God smite me with it.” But I take the rich ones’ I’ve known at their word – they, like Solomon, know.

I love your words and will ponder them this day, that “we keep walking with God. We keep learning and praying to him and reading his Word. We keep asking Him for help as we learn to put under the old man under and let the ‘new man’ arise” – a blessing – thank you.

God Bless you and yours Linda.

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Debbie January 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Thank you about the anger teachings . . .that anger stops spiritual progress. I can’t really afford to be angry for any length of time, can I? My one daughter, due to her PDDNOS, can get angry . . .a lot. But, it doesn’t happen as often as when she was younger. And the wonderful thing, when she’s done, she’s done. Moves on. I love that! :) God is so good to give me others to learn from . . .like her, you, A, Scott and Linda!

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Craig January 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

No Deb, we can’t stay angry. The whole not letting the sun set on the anger deal. Bunnies sometimes stay angry too long for instance. God Bless You Deb. And I learn every single time I read your words.

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