Anger is like holding fire in your hand

I have been frustrated. I’ve been disappointed. I’ve been tense. But I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve been angry. It just doesn’t happen often. It’s not my personality. But when I do reach the point where anger hits me, I have a hard time getting rid of it.

Maybe it’s a lack of experience. Maybe it’s a character flaw. Either way, I don’t like it.

And while I hate to admit it, I’m angry. And I’ve been angry for several months, no matter how hard I’ve tried to let it go or give it to God or stop fixating. The anger just stays, cemented in my heart, strapped to my shoulders.

Anger is like a dark, stifling cloak that weighs you down. Have you ever worn a woolen coat in summertime? That’s what anger is for me. It’s vexing, exhausting, and it makes me say and do things I would never say or do. Anger turns me into someone I’m not, even if it’s righteous anger. Regardless, once it gets its hooks in me, how do I escape?

Ephesians. That’s all I really need to say. I never thought Ephesians was a book about anger management, and maybe it’s not. But it has a lot to say about being angry, and it has even more to say about being in relationships with people who make you angry. The chiefest of which is the fact that people aren’t our enemies (Ephesians 6:12).

For a moment, set aside the emotion. Push the crushing hurt and the sting of betrayal aside. Let the memory of what people have done to you fade for a second. And think.

Anger is like holding fire in your handChrist-followers have an enemy, and it isn’t each other. The enemy hates us. He will do anything to get us to destroy each other, to turn against each other, to wreck each other’s testimonies. And the most effective weapon to hurt a Christ-follower is another Christ-follower.

Show me a damaged Christian, and I’ll show you another Christian who thought they were doing the right thing.

But once you’re hurt, once the damage is done, what do you do with the anger? It doesn’t matter if they were right or wrong. That’s no longer the issue. The issue you’re facing now is how do you move on? How do you recover? How do you heal? And how do you forgive?

First, recognize that your anger can control your actions, but you don’t to let it (Ephesians 4:26). You always have a choice. You can be angry but refuse to act on that anger. You can choose to do what is right, what is good, what is honorable, and what brings glory to God even if you’re angry.

Second, be kind (Ephesians 4:31-32). Be kind to the people who hurt you. Be kind just in general. You won’t want to be. You’ll want to snap at everyone. You’ll want to hurt other people so that they feel what you feel, whether they’re the ones who hurt you or not. But think about that sort of behavior. If you use your anger as an excuse to attack other people, you’re saying that you deserve better treatment than Jesus.

Jesus had every right to demand honor and glory, but He didn’t. He could have commanded all mankind to bow at His feet, but He chose not to. Jesus was God. Jesus is God. But when people lied about Him, tried to ruin His reputation, hurt Him, and betrayed Him, did He turn against us? Did He lash out against His accusers? Did He snap or speak harshly to His followers? (Philippians 2:5-11)

No. So if Jesus didn’t get special treatment, you shouldn’t expect it either. (John 15:18)

James 1:19We should never aspire to anger, and we should never seek to be angry (James 1:19). Anger can be useful in certain circumstances, but it’s like trying to hold fire in your hand. It’ll spur you to action, but it will leave scars. Even passive anger, which is a thing, can cause damage—sometimes more than anything else, because passive anger can be passed off as concern or even love. But you can always tell the difference. Love always wants the best for someone else, and anger never does.

It’s not easy.

Choosing to put away the hurt inside should be easy, but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It feels like giving up. It feels like letting the bad guy win. But that’s not what you’re doing. What you are doing by setting aside the anger and choosing to be humble is obeying (Colossians 3:12-14). And if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that God blesses obedience.

Are you angry today? I hear you. But you don’t have to stay there. Those people who hurt you, who made you feel this way, they aren’t your enemies. Our enemy isn’t someone we can see or touch, and that means we can’t fight him in our own power. That’s why we need God’s help. So instead of fighting back against what you can touch, fight back using the tools God has given you.

You have a choice. You can act on your anger, or you can be kind. What do you think Jesus would do?

Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember who your enemy is

I’m always shocked when a good deed turns sour. Have you ever seen that happen? Have you ever watched something that started out good become so twisted and backward that it turned into a weapon? Before your eyes, an idea that was meant to help people became a tool to tear people apart. A pure, simple request can into a major issue that has people at each others’ throats.

Do things like that just happen? I don’t think so. It takes craftiness and skill to turn a pure, innocent idea into a raging tool of destruction. And if we as Christ-followers don’t keep our eyes open, we’ll be tempted to think that craftiness and skill comes from the people around us rather than its true source—our enemy.

Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 6:12.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I posted recently about how predictable Satan is, but I didn’t really talk about how sneaky he is. And personally I think he takes great pride in how he can take someone’s good deed or someone’s good intention and twist them into something hurtful.

Maybe you’ve never seen him do it. It’s masterful. Completely evil but totally masterful. Say you want to buy flowers for a loved one. You have the best intentions in mind. You want to show that person how much you care. Well, when you get to the florist, their delivery people have a bad day and don’t drop the flowers off when they’re supposed to. So the person who was going to get the flowers late in the afternoon on a Monday gets them early instead, when he/she is in a meeting. And it interrupts them and breaks their concentration, and their whole day ends up spiraling out of control, and they’re angry about it when they were supposed to be happy. And that makes you angry because you spent your time try to do something nice for them, and it didn’t work.

That’s a pitiful example, but you get the idea. You can start with the best of intentions, but Satan can twist circumstances and (if they’re not paying attention) people’s perspectives to turn the kindest deed into a personal attack. When that happens, you have two options. You either go with your gut or you do what you know is right. Believe it or not, those two don’t always go hand in hand.

When somebody hurts your feelings, what do you do? When someone treats you like you’re stupid, how do you respond? When you feel like the person talking to you is talking down to you, what do you say in return? My reactions vary from sharp words to full-on tears, depending on who I’m dealing with. If it’s somebody who already intimidates me, you can bet I’ll be crying if they raise their voice at me. It’s embarrassing, but it’s true. If it’s someone I view as a peer or a friend, sharp words are likely, as much as I hate to admit it.

I don’t like being talked down to. I don’t like being treated like an idiot. And I really don’t like being interrupted when I’m trying to explain something. Maybe that’s pride. I don’t know. But it’s like pulling teeth to get me to back off and react with humility when someone is talking over me. But here’s the evil genius of the entire scheme: Most of the time the person talking down to you is only reacting to your tone. Or they’re just reacting to the tone of the person they talked to before you.

How many conflicts could have been ended before they even began if we just remembered that most people don’t want to fight? I mean, who really loves confrontation anyway? Yes, there are some difficult people out there, but generally speaking, people don’t want to fight with each other. They want to get things done. And getting bogged down in misunderstandings is a waste of time. Satan knows that. Why else does he keep turning us against each other the way he does?

He knows how it divides people and hurts people, and he loves to turn us against each other, especially if the people fighting are Christ-followers. Because the more he can drive us apart, the less effective we will be in accomplishing God’s purposes.

So the next time you find yourself embroiled in any kind of conflict, take a moment to just breathe and remind yourself that the person you’re talking to isn’t your real enemy. They’re doing the best they can in the situation, and maybe they started at you with sharp words, but sharp words in return aren’t going to help calm anyone down. Somebody has to back off. Maybe it should be you.

Satan wants us to fight each other, but it’s our choice whether to go with it or ignore him. Trust me. We’d all be better off if we ignored him. So stow the sharp words. Get your perspective back where it belongs, and remember who your enemy is.