Hot Under the Collar: A Godly Response to Anger

Jeff McVay

We have all been there at one point in our lives or another. Our spouse, kids, boss, neighbor, or friend does or says something that upsets us and all of a sudden we feel the pressure begin to build. Your shirt starts to feel tight around the collar, like the dry cleaner put too much starch on it. Heat builds up around the ears and you feel your face begin to flush. As you continue to think about the action or what was said it increases. Your heart pounds and life begins to go in slow motion. You can almost hear NASA control…T minus 10, 9, 8.

What you do or say at this moment may affect the next few minutes, hours, days or even years. What usually happens for you? Do you go into “silent treatment” mode? Do you escape onto the highways and freeways in pursuit of your NASCAR fantasies? Or do you explode with a tirade of intimidating words or actions in a vain attempt to control the situation? Regardless of the action the result is distance, danger and damage none of which bring back the closeness or safety that we all hope for in our relationships.

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about anger and how we should respond to it? Maybe you are wondering what God expects of you when it comes to your angry feelings towards others. You may have searched the Bible for answers and have finished with more questions than you started with. Be assured that you are in good company and your questions are valid and understandable. The Bible makes a few things clear when it comes to talking about anger. It lets us know that anger, is a feeling is God created and is not a sin, but anger is a slippery slope that can lead us to sinful action.

As Christians we believe that God created all things even human emotion of which anger is one. Believe it or not, anger does serve a purpose for each individual. It is not a pleasant emotion but it is one that can be useful. I like to compare it to pain. Pain is not very fun to feel but if we did not have it we would not know to move our hand off the hot burner or our bodies out of harmful situations. Anger is an emotion that comes up as a reaction to someone interfering or placing limits upon our will. If the limit is an unjust one such as slavery, racism or sexism then that anger gives us the motivation to make a positive change. Dr. Richard P. Walters defines this positive use of anger as indignation. Indignation as a response to our natural anger at injustice is a good, non sinful, God created, emotion that can be used for bettering things here on earth. Once the injustice is corrected the emotion drops off much like pain once the healing from the hurt has occurred.

However, the Bible also recognizes that anger can be held onto and even fostered within us to the point that it leads us into sin very quickly. Therefore it gives us a great guideline for how to deal with anger so that it leads us through the feelings and back into relationship with those whom we are angry. Ephesians 4:25-27 tells us:

‘So then, putting away falsehood let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the adversary.’

This scripture gives us a great strategy for dealing with our anger in a Godly manner.

In it we are told that there are appropriate times to be angry. In the original language, this word for anger is in the imperative meaning that it is a command. This means that in those appropriate times we are commanded to be angry. But it holds in tension that the anger must be expressed in a way that is not sinful or destructive to the person who is angry or to the group or individual with whom we are angry.

How do we do this?

The first and last verses give us great examples. The prior verse says that we must put away falsehood and speak the truth. This gives two guidelines. First, it reminds us that we must not say false things about the one with whom we are angry. Often when we are angry with someone we say things about him or her that are not true. In our explosiveness we may degrade, insult or attack who they are. This often leads to further anger and hostility on their part and most of the time we wind up regretting what we have said about them.

Secondly, it tells us that we must speak the truth. This means that we must speak truthfully to the one we are angry with about how we are feeling and how the action they have taken has wounded us. We are allowed and even expected to say to the one who is offending that their action has a consequence in our lives and because we are ‘members of one another’ it has a consequence for them as well. Only then can we come to a resolution.

The last verse then prompts us to come to a resolution quickly. Hopefully it can be resolved within the day and we are urged to try to make it so. Otherwise we give our anger a foothold that can be used to break down our relationships instead of building them up.

This does not mean that we cannot take a ‘time out’ to gain control of our anger and frustration so that we can put away falsehood, speak the truth and do so in a timely manner. In fact sometimes we must have this space in order to allow ourselves to calm down and process what we must say. If this is the case for you, a great strategy is to tell the other that you must have some time to think and give them a set time that you will be back to talk about what has happened. Then you must follow through with what you have said.

One of the great ways to speak the truth about your feelings and stay away from falsehoods is to use the following formula when speaking to the one with whom you are angry. The formula is as follows:

‘I feel (state your feeling) when you said or did (state the action or words that were spoken that brought up the feeling) because (state the message that you received from the action or words) and what I need or want from you is (state what it is that you think will fix things in the relationship).’

This simple statement can help you formulate what you want to say in order to make things right in a timely manner. It causes us to be responsible for our feelings instead of the other’s behavior (which we cannot control anyway). Then we state why it hurt us and what we think will help mend the relationship. It is not easy to do but with practice this simple formula can help us follow scripture’s advice concerning anger.

For some of us, anger has been around for so long that we may need to enlist the help of others (pastor or therapist) to help us learn this method. Yet if we commit ourselves to working out our anger in a Godly manner we will find that we are blessed with relationships that enrich and nourish our lives with the goodness that God has for us.

For some help with anger call 1-800-NEW-LIFE. A ministry service representative can help you set an appointment with a Christian counselor or connect you with a Christian coach.
Also, please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’

Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage: Part 3

David Wever

Sex was good from the beginning. And it is still good for one reason: Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ, you and I can be redeemed from our sexual sin, and, believe it or not, restored to enjoy sex in a way we have never imagined. We definitely know how sex can be misused. We have seen both its sinful use and the consequences. For men who have been wounded sexually, and who have sexually transgressed for years, to know there is hope for sex renewed and a paradigm to hold onto is vital. This new hope and paradigm is found in Jesus. We talked last month about God’s initial design for sex and some of the effects of sin upon that design. Now let’s look at four basic principles for renewed and reclaimed sexual intimacy for our marriages.

First, due to the Fall, there was no equal-ness between Adam and Eve. Suddenly they were polar opposites. This unequal-ness ushered in an ability to objectify one another. The advent of sexual sin turned compassion and concern for our spouse to objectification. This objectification damages the equality in the relationship ultimately hindering true intimacy. That equality is renewed in the marriage bed through Christ Jesus. In Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ It is because of Christ we can see our wives differently. Not in an objectified way but with eyes from our heart that see their true value.

Second, false intimacy often results from our sexual sin. This false intimacy keeps us from truly being known by our spouse. It many respects we stay hidden in the bushes or behind fig leaves due to our shame from our sin. The good news is that Jesus has also taken our fig leaves away. We need not be naked any longer. In Christ Jesus, we have new clothes. Galatians 3:27 says it all, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ We have a whole new wardrobe that does not have as some of its acumens: shame, fear and nakedness. Although we may fear this new nakedness of being truly known, we can trust that because of Jesus, we have a whole new wardrobe in our identity in Christ Jesus.

Third, one of the most comforting aspects of our sexuality being restored and reclaimed in Christ Jesus is that we have a restored covenant relationship with God. In Ezekiel 16:8 God says, ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.’ This same restoration is needed for healthy sexual intimacy with our wives as well. We have to re-pledge our fidelity to our wives just as God has done the same to us through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, this new paradigm around our sexual intimacy being restored can be held and acknowledged by us. No need to fear that this cannot happen. Now some of this healing may happen over time and our wives may heal at a different rate than we do. But, it can be held by your heart due to Christ’s death and resurrection justifying who you are. The Message says it well, ‘Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.’ Take a few minutes and meditate on this passage. Do you truly believe you are no longer on that ‘list’? In Christ Jesus you are no longer on that list. It is true, and this truth will be foundational to you living in true intimacy within your marriage and marriage bed from a renewed heart.

Jesus has truly changed our lives forever. And because of him our sexual intimacy and marriage bed can be restored as well.