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March 3, 2014 By Ruth Seebeck Leave a Comment
He who angers you conquers you. ~ Elizabeth Kenny
Have you noticed that life is a battle? Particularly for those of us who are Christians trying to live a Godly life in a world controlled by the devil? Of course, we know he’s not really in control. Jesus defeated him more than 2,000 years ago; then He turned around and gave us His authority, His power-of-attorney, to maintain dominion over the devil’s tricks.
One of his tricks is controlling our emotions. He uses anger, frustration, depression and other negative emotions to keep us bound and ineffective in life’s battles. The Gospel of Mark clearly listed his tactics: affliction, persecution, worldly cares, deceitfulness and lusts of other things (4:17-19). If we let the world’s cares and afflictions overwhelm our emotions, we lose the spiritual battle Jesus gave us to fight (Eph. 6:12).
From a Biblical perspective, emotions (part of the soul) are not designed to be ‘managed’. We are supposed to have dominion over them and be the conqueror God created us to be. You see, He has already won the war against the devil and his wiles. We are simply the police force, deployed on earth to maintain God’s kingdom. That includes dominion (control) over our own mind (thoughts), will (choices), emotions and physical body.
The Power of Anger
When I was young, dad made us kids rubber-band guns. He cut strips from old inner tubes and shaped wooden guns with his jigsaw. We set up target practice with empty pop cans. We played cops-and-robbers or cowboys-and-Indians in the field behind our house.
Whether you had a ‘real’ rubber gun or just used your finger and some rubber bands from the box, I’m sure you’ve fired off a few rounds. I can tell you from experience, if you got hit, it hurt! Anger is a weapon, manipulated by Satan to cause discord and strife. If you allow yourself to pull the trigger, something or someone is going to get hurt.
It can happen instantly, like a rubber band snapping in your brain. Rubber bands have great elasticity. They can stretch to do whatever needs done. But there is a point, when that rubber band is tired or over-used, that it loses its flexibility. One moment, you think you are still in control and reasonably able to cope with the pressure. Then – snap! – you can feel that anger explode inside you, like a water balloon on impact.
Sometimes, though, those rubber bands would misfire. Either they would go off course and hit something you didn’t intend to – or they would snap back at you!
The Bible (KJV) uses the word ‘anger’ and ‘angry’ almost 270 times. Do you think God has a few things to say about anger?
Most of the Old Testament talks about provoking God’s righteous anger. His people were stubborn, stiff-necked and disobedient … continually! Yet, Psalm 78:38 says that God, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity … yea, many a time turned he his anger away and did not stir up all his wrath. Did you get that? It was up to God whether to be angry; He chose not to stir it up.
The Bible repeatedly compares anger with fire. Have you ever lit a pile of wood, and watched it burn? At first there is little heat, just a small flame. Easily controlled. But if you fan the flame and poke those logs, you can get a bonfire going in no time. Left uncontrolled, it will ‘rage’ into a forest fire, unstoppable and uncontrollable.
Do you doubt that God’s anger was righteous, totally justified? Of course not. Yet He chose to control His response. There are many times when anger is righteous, and it can prompt us to take action against some wrong. Discipline is good; uncontrolled wrath is not. We need to follow God’s example and be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy (Ps. 103:8). Psalm 37 tells us to cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil (v.8).
Don’t practice. Marksmen practice their craft. They get really good at hitting targets, doing damage, perhaps taking lives. Do you get mad at your car? Your computer? Maybe the weather or traffic lights? If so, you’re practicing being mad and upset. Then when someone crosses your pathway, they are in range of your rage. Early in our marriage, my husband faced a bitter cold day at work. And the zipper on his winter jacket split. He punched a hole in the living room wall in retaliation. Now, he had a broken zipper AND a hole to repair.
If you constantly allow yourself to get upset by life’s challenges, you’re primed and ready to fire at every irritation that crosses your path. Perhaps you got mad at your boss this morning; then the deli delivered the wrong lunch. On the way home, traffic was terrible. By the time you walk in the door, you’re primed and ready for a fight. After all, you’ve been practicing all day. Do you really believe your spouse or children deserve that? A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Prov. 15:1). The louder we get, the angrier we become.
Don’t provoke. To provoke means to incite, arouse or stimulate a reaction (usually strong and unwelcome), to stir up purposely. It also means to exasperate or vex. When someone provokes you, you know how you feel – manipulated, irritated and angry. So why would you purposely do that to others?
The Bible tells us (and it specifically mentions fathers) not to provoke our children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Col. 3:21). Our children need encouragement and instruction, not anger and discouragement. That’s true for your spouse, your neighbors, your co-workers and everyone else who crosses your path. Instead, we are to seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:4).
Proverbs 16:32 says if we are slow to anger, we are actually better (people) than the mighty, those with power and authority. Proverbs 19:11 adds that a man can defer his anger and pass over (take no notice of) a transgression. And Proverbs 21:14 says a gift in secret can pacify or defuse anger.
Sin not. As Christians, we are to strive against sin. That includes anger. Consider this verse: Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind) (Eph. 4:31AMP). That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? The next verse tells us what to do instead: become useful and helpful and kind … tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely].
Love commands us to take no account of a suffered wrong (I Cor. 13:7). “No account, Lord? But they hurt me. They made me mad!” No, you are fully responsible for your own emotions. ‘They’ might do all kinds of things, but ‘you’ are choosing to be angry. You can, instead, choose to ignore their antics. You can choose to walk away. You can choose to respond quietly, or not respond at all. You can choose, purposefully, to stay rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17).
Use The Word. Our battle is not with people. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he clearly explained that our battle is with spiritual forces. Satan tries to tempt us just as he did Jesus. Use the same weapon Jesus did, “It is written.” What verse do you need to meditate today to keep yourself under control? Meditation was created by God for our benefit. It simply means to ponder, think on, consider, say out loud. The Word is described as a sword. Use it to run the devil through!
Anger is not really ‘managed’. Instead, The Bible explains that anger is sin and sin is to be banished. I’m not saying it’s easy, but God’s Word clearly shows us that it can be done. Replace frustration with patience. Pursue peace instead of retaliation. Practice love instead of anger. After all, love is the ultimate ‘manager’; it never fails (I Cor. 13:8).