BY: JAN ANTONSSON
MAY 11, 2013
“In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)
We’ve had two e-mails from different people in the past month asking for help with anger management, and since this is has been an on-again, off-again issue for me over the decades, I felt led to share the help and comfort the Spirit has given me. The verse above offers peace and comfort for those who may still think it is up to them to do the conquering of this troublesome vice. Anger is listed among the so-called seven deadly sins, probably because many horrible things can erupt from a person’s uncontrolled anger. Paul addressed this topic: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph. 4:26-27)
All of us brought up in Fundamentalist churches know these verses well, along with the old hymn whose words have brought me down more than once: “Angry words, oh let them never, from the tongue unbridled slip.” Sounds simple eh? Just don’t be angry, but to be brutally honest, who can really accomplish this? It’s easy to say, “I don’t get angry,” and I’ve heard Christians boast of this ability, but frankly, I never believed them precisely because they could talk the talk, but couldn’t walk the walk in this area.
Here’s a portion of the e-mail from one friend which came this week:
“I have been having anger towards God lately as I just can’t understand all this pain and despair I see daily. Actually I will share with you that I’m actually afraid of living and hurting whether it be physical or mental. Yes, I have witnessed many healings including my own but it’s just not helping me right now. Can’t hide my feelings from the Almighty so I thought I would vent somewhere. Thanks for listening. Bless you”
This friend is a step ahead of many Christians who either do not realize or can’t admit that their anger is really toward God Himself. It took counseling for me to own up to my own anger toward God. I was brought up never to admit to being angry toward my parents (lest I not honor them, you see), and certainly, most definitely, heaven forbid, never admit anger towards God. Why? I was never sure about that but I suspect it was because my church leaders and family elders feared that expressed anger toward God would result in my burning in hell.
Thankfully, when I was about 25 years old, the Lord put Harry and Jeri Fox in my life and through them I learned the true gospel, that Christ died for all, and “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39) They listened to my groaning and ranting and angry outbursts, which went a long way toward letting out the steam which had been building up in me, sometimes threatening to explode all over the wrong people.
The truths I learned from them about the Holy Spirit and God’s unconditional love seemed too good to be true, but I really wanted to believe it, to be out from under the hell fire and damnation threat. My Bible was so marked up and written in, underlined and commented upon that I went out and bought a new Bible, and asked God to show me what He wanted me to know out of it. To my surprise and amazement, I found that the church I grew up in, which told me they were feeding us gospel, were in fact, feeding us a doctrine of works, pressure, striving, in other words, a doctrine with impossible goals.
One such scripture comes to mind: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) I have many faults, but I am an honest person and no matter how hard I tried to twist and contort my life, it just wouldn’t fit in the “perfect box.” I was in despair of ever pleasing God or living up to the impossibly high standards that Jesus laid down, or so it seemed to me. Harry patiently showed me in scripture that we do Jesus a huge disservice when we take all His comments as commandments, when in fact, Paul explained that we ARE the things we are supposed to be “IN CHRIST.” That phrase occurs 69 times in the New Testament alone, which leads me to conclude that all is well In Christ. Somewhere along in there, the Spirit showed me that when God looks at Jan, He doesn’t see all my many warts, zits, flaws, blunders, and imperfections. He sees Jesus, the Christ, who was birthed in the manger of my heart and who lives His life in me, through me, and to me, even as He does in your life as well.
That took all the heat off. Further Bible study showed that God works all things after the counsel of HIS own will (Eph. 1:11). Paul said that it was in fact God, not the devil “who consigned all men to disobedience, that He may have mercy upon all.” (Rom. 11:32) That set me free from the unbearable load I had always carried around with me.
Until I realized that the universe didn’t rise and fall upon my behavior, beliefs, faith, trust, or Bible knowledge, passages like Eph. 4:31, would bring me down to despair: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Until I realized that Christ IN ME was my hope of glory (my ONLY hope I might add), verses like this set my teeth on edge and filled me with fear, because I knew that I couldn’t meet those high standards were I to live 10,000 years!
I had a life long battle with anger until I understood by the Spirit that Christ had forgiven me, was forgiving me, and will on goingly, progressively, continually forgive me until He calls me home. I now understand at a cellular level what Paul was saying in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” I could add anger to that list.
It was helpful for me to express my anger to God about things in my life that weren’t working, because He alone could do anything about them. I ran in those days, and would let out my frustration, vent my anger and hurt to our Father in heaven, who always loved me through it.
The Spirit pointed me to the conversation Cain had with God. You’ll recall that Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. Both brothers brought the fruit of their labors to God, who looked with favor on Abel’s offering, but not on Cain’s. Cain was very angry about this. Here’s the part that struck me. Seeing Cain’s downcast face, God said to him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but YOU MUST MASTER IT.” (Gen. 4:2-7)
How was Cain to master his anger and sin not? What help did he have? Precious little it seems to me. No wonder he was angry. I’m personally convinced that people in the Old Testament were given Law (though Cain and Able lived long before the Law of Moses was given) to show that they could not keep it, any more than we can keep it today. Many churches offer counseling to the flock, but sadly, it often is merely laying law on those suffering from spiritual weaknesses. Quoting scripture will not make you holy any more than reciting a recipe will make you a cake. Only God, the master potter, can turn these vessels of clay into something beautiful.
Father, yet again, we surrender our imperfections, our failings, and our sins to you, baptizing them in the ocean of Your unconditional love. You do all things well, and You who began a good work in us will never cease until You have accomplished in us all you declared before the foundation of the world. For this, we thank and praise You now and forever. Amen.