Anger and Yielding to God
My eight-year-old son was throwing a fit over his math. He had daydreamed away the morning, and realizing that it was lunchtime, he started screaming.
I tried not to be disgusted at the immaturity of my son. I didn't want to be angry with him; I wanted to have compassion as my gut reaction to situations like these. I asked God to help me love my son more. Kids who don't feel liked and enjoyed by their parents know that they are not loved. Who cares about technicalities? Parents think that they love their kids because they are in the same family, and they are very familiar to each other. To love someone for real is an entirely different story, especially if your child has qualities that are irritating or the opposite of your personality. Only God can swoosh through you to love that person properly, not just technically.
I decided to wage war against anger in my life. I knew that I got angry too quickly, and that Proverbs calls me a fool for doing that. Not wanting to be a fool, I decided to strategically attack this sin until it was gone.
“A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.” (Ecc. 8:1b ESV)
Scripture reveals that my face is contorted when I'm angry (it is harsh), and that if the Spirit is shining through me, I will have a different expression on my face, almost like it's shining. You know, like Moses, when his face shone because God was radiating out of his face.
Anger is associated with fools, and a cool, peaceful spirit with the wise, in the book of Proverbs. So what is wisdom? Wisdom is “insight into the true nature of things; ability to discern modes of action with a view to their results; understanding.” (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary) In other words, wisdom is being aware of the results of our actions, and practically knowing the right thing to do in each situation.
I began to acquire wisdom when I realized that anger is actually a symptom of an underlying idolatry. I highly recommend The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo, because he uses Scripture to reveal the real sin in your life. For me, my idol was my time. I thought my time belonged to me, so I had no patience when my son caused me to stop what I was doing to deal with him. What I wanted to do was go away from his screaming. But I knew that wasn't what God wanted me to do, so my guilt would cause me to come into the room and face him and help him.
My problem was that I didn't know how to help him. I am not a nurturing person, although God is changing me in this area. What I decided to do was this:
- Remain calm and reach upward in my spirit to God to connect to Him so that He could flow through me.
- Stay connected to God and ask Him for wisdom.
- Look at my son with compassion.
- Wait for him to stop screaming.
- Say whatever God wants me to say at that moment.
I practiced what I would do or say in frustrating circumstances. I Timothy 4:7 tells me that I should exercise myself for the purpose of godliness. I asked God, “Lord, what do I need to do to not be ruled by anger?”
- Don't take the children's sin as a personal insult. They have sinned against God, not me.
- Be filled with the opposite: patience and longsuffering.
- Walk away and pray. Return filled with the Spirit, and have them look me in the eyes so that their attitude changes.
- Or God can pump patience through me at that moment, and I can be firm but gentle in requiring obedience.
After some time passed, I was in a fast food restaurant with my family. The children were kicking each other under the table. I felt anger, and I firmly told the children to stop kicking each other. Then I went over to my husband. I thought to myself, “I haven't changed at all. I thought I had conquered anger, and here it is still, so all that work fighting against it was for nothing. I'm doomed to failure.” I told my husband how I was feeling, and he said that it was a lie from the enemy, that I had made great strides, and that my fuse was a lot longer than it used to be. Those encouraging words were life to me.
Even though I still struggle with anger, I am able to re-establish habits of righteousness so that I can have seasons of triumph. The first time you conquer it is the hardest. You also need to realize that you are trapped in the “flesh,” so there might be some sins that you struggle with until you enter heaven.
What you have to do if you slip up again is to stop yourself at whatever point you are. If you get angry and yell at your child, it's not too late. Repent, yield to God, and ask your child's forgiveness.
If you realize you are angry halfway through a sentence, stop abruptly. Stop whenever you notice you are sinning, and abruptly switch gears. Eventually you can conquer it again.
“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” (James 1:20)