I think it’s safe to say that this year has started out as 2020 +1. It’s enough to lead anyone to feelings of anger.
I’m sure many of us hoped that when the clock struck midnight on January first all the hardships that
plagued us last year would disappear like Cinderella’s fancy dress and coach. At least for me, that did not
happen. I only pray that last year helped us grow in emotional resilience and we will be better able to handle the unexpected situations that are sure to be thrown at us.
As I have struggled with new frustrations, it is very easy to feel my disappointments and fears start to morph into the secondary emotion of anger. I have had plenty of time this month to consider why the Lord has commanded us to “refrain from anger.” Why He considers it a sin. My thoughts have taken me down an interesting path where I began to compare that command to instances in the scriptures where His own anger is spoken of. Some of those situations feel so similar to scenarios our current world seems to be duplicating.
So, what is the difference between our anger and God’s anger? I will share some of the thoughts that have settled in my heart as I have contemplated this question.
When I was younger, my mother taught us that anger is a secondary emotion. There is usually a different emotion that comes first, maybe
disappointment, fear, frustration, helplessness, etc. So very often, when we allow those feelings to transition into anger, and that transition is usually very quick, it often results in a lack of control on our part. We lash out without truly understanding the heart of the individual or group that is causing us discomfort. We don’t take time to consider our response. We often use anger as an excuse for our erratic response and we distance ourselves from our outburst by saying, “Well, they shouldn’t have made me mad.” As if we had no responsibility for our feelings or what we allowed them to become.
God’s anger, on the other hand, is always based in disappointment and the punishment is Him acting in complete control in the best interest of His child, or group of children, that He loves to the very center of His core.
When my sisters and I were little my parents held a family meeting and we all decided on a set of rules that would help our home be a safe and happy place. They were simple rules and affixed to each one was a specific punishment that we all agreed on. After our meeting, my mom created a chart with our agreements. On one side she wrote and drew out figures to represent our 4 or 5 family rules. In the column next to the rules was written the punishment that would be earned by breaking each rule. When I broke a family rule, I knew my parents were disappointed. I also knew I would be punished for acting in such a way that I had made our home feel unsafe or unhappy. We were never disciplined when my parents were angry, they were always in complete control when the punishment was applied. I always knew I had earned the punishments and I knew they were never happy about having to deliver it. Maybe I have applied my childhood experience to my understanding of God, but to me, it makes sense.
God loves us each very much. He is so disappointed when we break one of His commandments and make His other children feel unsafe or unhappy. His anger is His disappointment and His punishments are something that are and always have been affixed to His laws that have been broken. I know His joy is full when we repent and correct our behavior. All that He does is rooted in His love for us and His other children.
One of my favorite scriptural examples of this is when Christ chased the moneychangers out of the temple. He took the time to braid a rope. He was in complete control of His emotions and had carefully considered His response. The temple was set up in such a way that the outer court was the only place in the temple accessible to all God’s children, men, women, Jews, and Gentiles. This is where the chaos of money and animal exchange was happening. Because of them, not only were the Jews being taken advantage of financially, but those not allowed into the next court were unable to have a sacred experience with God in His house.
It was out of love for His Father and ALL God’s children that Christ acted. It was His very controlled response initiated to protect His Father’s house and acted out in the best interest of ALL God’s children.
One of the best books I read this last year was Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One of my favorite concepts in it is that we have been given the agency to choose our responses to each situation we encounter. The word “responsible” actually means “able to respond.” I am working very hard on becoming more able to respond to those frustrations that are thrown my way. I know that God can help me choose the best response when I take time to:
- Listen for understanding when someone speaks to me (even when they are angry, maybe especially then).
- Evaluate my own feelings, and
- Pray to understand where the other party is coming from.
When I have chosen not to act out of anger, but rather to practice these three things, I have been amazed at how quickly disagreements can be resolved and good feelings can be restored.
I know that all God’s commandments are given out of His love for me. The commandment to not be angry is certainly given to help me feel safe and happy and allows me to feel His peace more abundantly. I have also discovered that when God gives us a command, He gives with it, the ability to fulfill that command. We just have to turn to Him for the added power to make up for what we lack. With Him, we can let go of the anger we feel and respond in a way that both He and we will be pleased with.
Get Hope. Get Christ. Get Anchored.
A Little Help for Little Friends:
Share the story of Christ protecting His Father’s temple with your littles.
Song: Let Go by Matt Hammitt