Shameless Anger

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV

Anger tends to be a bit of a monster for me. Anger is my contender, my opposer – my nemesis. I battle anger more than most emotions. It’s a thorn in my flesh that although God has broken the stronghold in my life – it remains a fight.

I fully believe some are prone to anger. Whether it be by temperament, experiences growing up, nurtured as a child and teen…we all face it at times, but some are prone to it.

After much self discovery over the years, I have learned that I am quite prone to it. Anger was a constant enemy in my home growing up, and it takes regular work to pull out those roots.

In addition, I discovered my temperament lends itself towards anger. I am a melancholy with a brain that doesn’t stop thinking, a perfectionist that not only has high expectations for herself but fights to impose them on others, and someone who feels everything deep in my soul. That combination of things can create an anxiety that leads to fear and anger (which are typically related).

I have had years of counseling, I memorize scripture, pray often, I balance my schedule, I unplug and rest often, and the list can go on. I have learned wonderful coping skills and have a somewhat keen self awareness. Yet, I still struggle with anger.

What is someone like me (or you) supposed to do with a verse like in Ecclesiastes or other verses that regularly address anger.

Is there hope for someone like me (or you if you are similar)?

Well, in short answer, yes. However, it is not simple and neither is the answer to avoid or pretend that anger doesn’t exist. The answer is not found in quoting away your anger by repeating a scripture over and over. And, no, just mentally deciding “I think I can” doesn’t cut it. That theory will always eventually self destruct. That approach causes one to clench their teeth, dig in their heels, “force” positivity towards a person, thing, or situation. And, in the end, it will leave you more broken and finding your anger has taken root and is turning into resentment and bitterness.

His Word tells us that although our flesh may war against our spirit – sin no longer is master over us. That, although, I may never find perfected life of no anger – the hold it had could be released and that I could regularly overcome it’s power. I may stumble and fall – but it does not need to be my master and it would no longer be a pattern of behavior. His grace would be sufficient in giving me the strength I needed to overcome the weakness and grow in the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness, and love.

Then, pray tell, what is the answer?

In looking closely at this verse, we can consider a few things:

The phrase “Be not quick to become angry” is quite important to reflect on. What this phrase does NOT say is “do not become angry”. The focus is on the phrase “be not quick”.

My counselor once said that when you feel angry it’s like the check engine light on your car telling you to look under the hood. You see, it’s never just the anger. There will always be feelings, events, experiences, expectations, and more that trigger that anger. I have found that the less work I am doing on my inner life, the less attention I give my soul – the quicker and more often I become angry. If I am taking effort to deal with all of the things under the hood that cause or trigger the anger, I am slower to anger. Then, God actually has the space in me to work and move and produce the fruit of self control and peace. In the end, it’s Christ in me that keeps those branches prunes, so that I bear fruit in a way that slows anger and lessens its impact. That leads to the second aspect of this verse.

“Anger is lodged in the heart of fools”. When I consider “lodged” it speaks of something that has gotten stuck. It has taken root, it becomes difficult to get out. It takes time, and extra tools. It potentially causes the breaking of the contraption that it got stuck in. Once anger has become “lodged”, it becomes quite difficult to remove. I think that might be why the proverb uses such a harsh word as fool. We are fools to allow our anger to take root, and then think we can just remove it on our own by a few simple prayers or quotations of scripture, add a little nice thinking, and we are all set. It just doesn’t work.

Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry, yet do not sin.” You will become angry, some will regularly fight anger. The pain of living in a broken world with imperfect people and events will call for and cause anger. No amount of avoiding will prevent the pain of anger. God is with us in our anger. He created us with these complexities and our anger does not overwhelm Him or chase away His grace.

The key is for us to not sin. When we allow it to take root, to become lodged-we will inevitably act on it causing sin. Our brokenness will surface, we will hurt ourselves and hurt others. We will say and do things we regret. We will lose our joy and peace.

However, the more we face our anger head on and we allow ourselves to stop and ask why the anger-the slower we will be to become angry and the less we will allow it to become lodged or rooted.

It’s painful to take that inside look and have God reveal our own brokenness when we would rather put the blame on our situation or the offense of others. Yet, in the end, our anger is our responsibility alone. We have the power, through Christ, to bear the fruit of self control, of peace, and love. However, it does not come without the cost of bearing and acknowledging our pain, disappointments, hurts, losses, failures, and more. Nevertheless, the reward will be great. We will find an otherworldly ability to bear grace, peace, mercy even.

It is in our power to love, to show love. We must let Christ do the inner work of revealing those anxious ways, those triggers, and those blind spots. When we make this a pattern of living, a preventative measure rather than reactionary, we will find we are slower to anger and less likely to allow our anger to lodge. And when we have discovered that the anger has become lodged, it will not take a full excavation of sorts to uproot it-it will be a smaller event of pulling weeds.

Our goal, then, should be not avoidance of the anger but positioning ourselves to deal with the anger, and then surrendering so that God is able to break the stronghold of anger. Thus, when we do experience and feel the pain of anger – we work to understand it and it’s source and then we find solace in the only One who can produce the peace we need to love instead of rage.

I have learned to have a healthy respect for the anger that I feel as it signals me when I have become distracted, despondent, ignorant of my pain. Just as the check engine light on a car is necessary to tell us there is a problem under the hood, God uses our anger to alert us to a need inside. Yes, be angry. Feel the pain of this imperfect world, then allow that anger to lead you to a deeper-inner work from Christ that leads to surrender and peace.

In the end, it’s less about the justification of our anger and more about the purification of our anger. It’s less about shame for our anger, and more about respect for the anger. It’s less about avoidance, and more about exploration of why anger. Anger dealt with appropriately will and should end in grace, peace, and surrender.

Grace in Vain

The question begs to be asked that if God is all loving without condition, completely independent of my inner or outer darkness, why change?

If God loves me and will accept me and offer grace the moment I repent and turn, why not pursue my own selfish agenda and allow myself to be lured by temptation?

When I am ready to be loved, I will turn and he will embrace me-always. And He will, there is no doubt. Mercy always triumphs over judgement.

Yet, is that true freedom, the true abundant life offered by our Father?

Doesn’t our God who calls us Beloved offer us, beyond just grace, but abundant life?

Paul asks a similar question in Romans 6, “Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?” He responds with an emphatic, “No!”

God knows the heartache, the pain, and the emptiness that will always result from self indulgence. There is a place of great loss that becomes the conclusion to a series of choices lived out in “my choice, my freedom” kind of living. A lack of peace is inevitable when we persist on being fiercely independent of God and even others. The yearning and seeking for more will be perpetual and unyielding.

Thus, I would conclude when we truly come to know the Father – when we abide in Him and Him in us – a yearning to please and turn away from this world will ensue and overtake every part of us.

The peace, the love and freedom that comes through honoring God, through a life lived in him will be preferred. And I have found this to be true.

You see, it is when we stop abiding and move away from His arms that we become enchanted and infatuated with the world once more.

There is a verse that states “do not receive this grace in vain”. I believe vain enters the scene when we persist in moving away from our God. When we insist on self indulgence and self fulfillment. A corruption of grace at that point is inevitable.

Thank God we do not struggle and wrestle with these things on our own. Within all of us, I believe, deep within, is the potential for betrayal of the love of our God.

The question is what will we do with it and how will battle against it? It certainly will not come through selfish acts or rebellion. And, yet, it certainly will not manifest through dutiful obedience and obligatory service.

I believe the answer is found, the true joy and peace is found in one of Christ’s greatest teachings. Blessed are those who mourn their sin, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who are meek and humble of heart, who acknowledge their need of God, who hunger and thirst for more of Him. It’s less external righteousness and more an internal of being and seeking, of honoring and serving. When that takes place, the overflow will be fruit that speaks of devotion to Christ. Peace, freedom to live and love – truly love steadies the heart and leads this sort of inner transformation.

In light of all of that, I believe I have answered my own question.

Searching for Answers

The world is in disarray. Seeking, searching. Fear gnaws away, pulling at the confines of our minds and souls. Those whose hope is in God find themselves waning in confidence. Hope erodes slowly, allowing fear to control.

In moments of distraction, with an urge to connect to the world around me, I read the blogs, messages, and statuses. I read stories of tragedy, sickness, crime, and hate. The cries for answers, the search for love, the yearning to make things right. It sometimes is too much. I read the constant offering of answers and solutions as though we are assuring ourselves we have some vague sense of control. As though, we will finally through this or that find the peace and love for which we so very much long.

It really is self fulfillment at it’s core, and we all fall prey to it as we seek to satisfy the yearning in our heart for avoidance of pain and more happiness.

Walking that road is dangerous territory for one who already fights a battle with anxiety and fear. It feeds that monster inside that constantly tries to share lies that God being enough is just too hard and really too good to be true. It is the worst kind of traitor, luring me into ignoring the love He offers even when I know better. And, I find myself unable to keep up, unable to employ many of these things in my real world of living. Which, then, leaves me depressed and despondent.

Disconnecting myself from all forms of media is surely the answer, I tell myself. Yet, is avoidance really the answer?

I contribute to the online world through a blog of my own. Maybe I contribute to the noise. I have considered this often.
Avoidance of this world and the terror that fills it, it’s NOT the answer.

That still small voice inside of me screams “I am the answer.” Fear has no place in the midst of perfect love. Be in the world, not of it. What does it mean to be “not of it”? I believe it means product of the world, a creation, a result of this world.

In transparency, the church often betrays me. It’s own cries for solutions and answers add to the chaos of the noise. Their strategies of defense leave me skeptical and even a little perplexed. We have created solutions, strategies, and predictions many times derivative of this world. In other words, they are, more often than not, poor imitation of what Christ really offers.

They are unoriginal and uncreative. We speak as though they have been created and molded in response to and by scripture. Yet, if we were to take an honest look at them – they are molded in response to a world that is broken. And, much like the world, are a result of our own depravity – anger, resentment, bitterness, pain – all which have gone ignored and avoided.

Criticizing is not my aim. I just find it all still leaves me confused and disheartened. It leaves me feeling overwhelmed as though, these solutions to the predictions we create sound great, but what if I don’t do it right? Or worse, what if I am dispassionate by what you say is the answer? What if, as great as all of the solutions to the worlds AND the church’s problems seem – what if it is simply not enough?

If we get more people to do the right things, and yet their souls remain in trauma, what then? If we win them spiritually, yet they remain physically, relationally, emotionally disconnected and broken – what then? If we focus so much on the how that we forget the why – what then?

Isn’t the gospel our answer? Don’t we believe that God is in the process of redeeming all of mankind? And it is just that a process. When things are in process, there is rarely a defined solution. Just a series of steps, one after another. The result remains unknown. God is in process of restoring all of creation. Those who follow Him and those who do not.
We are not in control of the result of that redemption and neither are we in control of another’s process or journey.

God uses ALL of creation for this redemption process. And He uses all trauma, pain, chaos, loss, and more. He uses the one who bears fruit of relationship, and He uses the one who lives in stark contrast of His principles. He uses His followers and He uses those who despise Him.

If you follow Christ, you have to accept this. Read the Bible, read about the countless slanderers, traitors, manipulators, cheaters, murderers.
All of them were part of the redeeming process and they continue to be. Why? Because He is in process of redeeming all creation. He is sovereign enough, majestic enough, great enough and most of all loving enough to be impartial in His work and plan. Good can come from all things because we serve a sovereign God who is moving and redeeming ALL things.

When I set aside the external that is outside of my control and invite Him to go deeply inward, He reveals my hidden rebellion. He sifts through the layers and mess and I discover my anger and disappointment in Him, in people, or even myself. Most of all, he reveals that I have strayed. My heart which was once His home has become closed off and boarded up.

Yet when I welcome him back in, back into my mess and pain, he is compassionately waiting. He redeems, restores, renews. He heals the broken places and he softens the rough edges – all of the sudden I am aware of what is right. All of the sudden, I know the answer. I hear His voice, I respond in confidence. I have courage in the face of fear. All of the sudden, the well meaning thoughts, solutions, and strategies no longer cause strain. They are put in their rightful place.

When I consider this, I am reminded of at least one answer that I have control over…stay connected to the vine (John 15). Embrace the painful pruning process. He, Christ who lives in me, He will empower me to live. He will empower me to operate, not out of fear, but out of love. He will direct me and counsel me.

Henry Nouwen says it like this, “The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear that voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulation and power games of this world”.

Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.”

Solutions, plans, predictions – they have value – but only in light of the truth of His Word and the reality of His work IN our lives. Because, in the end, everything will fail without being rooted in Him.

God, this is our world. Give us the grace to be in it, not a product of it.

When Pain Robs You Blind

I have terrible memory recall, yet some of my most poignant remembered moments are of deep grief. They are of moments when my dark was the darkest, and my hope was gone. Moments when anxiety was so great within me, I couldn’t breathe.

I read this passage this morning, a Psalm from David.

“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”

It is highlighted in my Bible. I still remember the season when it became highlighted. It was 9 years ago. It was the time after my 47 yr old dad had died suddenly leaving us all in a state of shock and grief. Countless tears were cried, screams of anguish, long dreary days of no hope and relief in sight. 

More seasons of lament have come since then. The suffering of my mom and her death from cancer, health problems, job loss, broken relationships, disappointments in ministry, struggles with the children, my own daily fight with depression and anxiety. Seasons of lament come and they go and yet some pain in our lives tend to be chronic. 

These words of David are so beautiful. They so perfectly describe the grief of trauma to our hearts. Yet, we – as a culture – have this stupid insistence to wrap things up neat and tidy and that includes our pain.

Well meaning wishers that pat our backs and with soulful eyes, tell us it will be okay – this too shall pass. Hearts of “tough love” that take us by the shoulders, look deep into our eyes and say, “you got this, you are strong, you’ll make it. When all the while inside of us we are crying: I. Don’t. Think. So.

Lament is the cry of our brokenness, an acknowledgement of the unfairness of this world, the betrayal that cuts deep to our core.

And it must be given permission to be released. We typically will give permission to those that have experienced the ” big things”. Those capital T traumas that knock the wind out of all of us when we hear. And, sometimes, we will give some season of time to the other traumas, the kind of average ones, the death of elderly grandmother or father or others of the like. Even in those, we get a little impatient. Impatient with ourselves and impatient with others. 

And what of those those daily traumas? The chronic illness, the mental health fight, the conflict ridden relationships, the offensive employer, the wayward child, the disabled parent or child, etc.

What of those small traumas that plague our mind, our body, our soul, our spirit?

Do we allow ourself to lament, to weep, to grieve? Do we wrestle and name our pain, call out our anger, and scream out to a God we can’t seem to feel, hear, or see?

Do we give room for others to experience their own pain? Do we allow ourselves to mourn with those who mourn, or are we only willing to rejoice with those who rejoice?

We try to answer the questions, we repeat sentiments of “everything happens for reason”, and we convince ourselves that others have it worse. 

There is nothing necessarily wrong with those things, but if they are used as defense against pain, then they have become the scapegoat for your grief.

It’s okay not to be okay. God is big enough for your pain. Put words to the anguish you feel inside, name your disappointments, deal with your anger. Our tender Shepherd waits to comfort and carry you through. 

Psalm 23 states “the Lord is my shepherd”, when I walk through the valley of death…” I don’t need to fear the evil or fear the pain. Walk through that valley of death, not around or over. 

Rob Bell says this, “What you are experiencing needs expression”. 

The broken places of pain-big and small-they need to be expressed, acknowledged. Freedom and peace is found in this expression.

Charles Spurgeon said “Those who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls”.

Freedom and healing does not come in the avoidance of pain, but in the expression of the pain. Surrender of the pain does not come in the “pushing out” of the pain, surrender comes in the experience of the pain.

If you let yourself lament and name your pain, there will come an acceptance and then surrender – but you must first acknowledge and express. And, sometimes, for those who suffer ongoing trauma-there are days where you just need to give expression to the weariness, the exhaustion, the anger over your daily struggle. When given freedom to release, to be named and seen – pain loses its control. Joy will be found again. 

God promises us He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. He sees our tears, He knows our anguish and he invites us to take refuge. Refuge, not for the ignoring or pushing away of pain, but refuge while we feel deeply the pain experienced.

Joy will eventually come in the morning, healing will take place-but only if you let yourself first endure the weeping. 

Desolate Places – A Retreat Away

I went on a three day spiritual retreat where I stayed at a Franciscan Monastery in Kennybunk, ME. It was birthday gift from Brad, but it is something that both of us have talked about individually doing. And he made it happen.IMG_0613

I cannot accurately express what these last few days have been for me. Not truly. The gratefulness in my heart for my Father reaches to the depths of my soul. The ceasing of activity, but most of all the ceasing of my frantic thoughts – my mind is in a state of peace that is quite rare. Time spent with God,  hearing His voice, receiving wisdom, building awareness of my struggles…it’s been so rewarding.IMG_0542 I never have fully realized how much I truly enjoy being alone, and how I am actually quite comfortable with it. It’s no wonder I am so independent. I yearn to find a balance between my gift of marriage and motherhood and my innate, weighty need for solitude and quiet. I long to release – once and for all – the shame and guilt that comes from desperately needing to step away from everything and everyone.

IMG_0651Yet, I read often of Christ moving away to desolate places-walking away from others to find a place alone.

Retreating away – it is appropriate, it is responsible, and it is loving. It is loving to myself and those in my care. And, it is a lifeblood for me.

Everyone needs to cease noise and activity regularly. It is there you not only find rest, but through reflection and searching, you discover struggles, pain, disappointments. You discover what’s necessary to finding peace and freedom. God reveals the depth of your struggle while simultaneously reminding you of the magnitude of your need for Him. It’s only in identifying your weaknesses, the disappointments of your heart, the buried anger in your soul that you find true freedom. It is certainly not found in the ignorance or avoidance of those things.

Most of all, from these three days of silence and solitude – I have found my true self once again. Unhindered by environment, with no obstacles to discovery in Him. Who I am in Him and Him alone.IMG_0658

It’s priceless, really. This gift, a treasure. Unhurried, unbound by a schedule – just free to sit and enjoy my Father, enjoy His creation and find value in myself again.

Detaching from this world, even the good things of this world like family and friends, it forces you to take serious look at where your reliance lies. I find that I quite heavily rely on this world and al l the good gifts in it to feed desire,  my need for peace, and more. Where, now in this moment, I am more at peace and filled with more joy than I have been in a very long time. It isn’t the absence of those things that cause the peace and joy, it’s the full reliance on and abiding in my Heavenly Father. Sweet peace and content joy has been found as I have rested in the arms of my Father, and we have communed and He has sang over me in pleasure and joy. My unhealthy ways of self fulfillment have been discovered as I have invited him to search me and find those anxious thoughts. Where do they originate from? What are they rooted in? What lies have I come to believe?

He has so graciously brought light to those dark and hidden places. The darkness that just not long ago threatened to undo me…it has been dispelled as He has caused the sun to rise again and He cleanses me as IMG_0588the ocean tide cleanses the shore.

I have been reminded once again who I am and whose I am. I am cherished by a God who loves me so wholly and completely. One who is working tirelessly to redeem me and make me whole. Never has one offered themselves so completely and whole. There are no fragmented pieces to His love, no reservations, no conditions. Time and time again he pours out love – wave after wave. There are no strategies of defense, no lack of trust, no doubts, no insecure thoughts to our God. He has given everything and He says everything is enough. I choose over and over life with Him. No matter my propensity to stray, over and over again, I will say yes. God-you are my home.

Sometimes, sometimes, if we can just silence all of the voices and cease all of the activity – in the quietness – all that we yearn for will be found.IMG_0556

I am fully confident that this discipline – this art – of silence and solitude is necessary for us all.  Brad and I believe so much in the benefits of this that we require all three of our children to have this time every day. The younger two still take full naps. Although our 7 year old no longer has to take a “nap”, we insist that he take an hour rest. For the first 30 minutes he is to rest quietly, cease activity and just rest. (sometimes he actually falls asleep). The latter 30 minutes can be spent doing a quiet activity like writing, drawing, or reading. We explain that this is necessary and beneficial to his health – his body, soul, mind, and spirit.

My time away fed my body, my soul, and my spirit. I implore others to find a way to incorporate this discipline daily, yes. But, if at all possible, also find a way to remove yourself from your world of relationships and demands and go away for a day or more. You can read more about silence and solitude here.

« Older posts

© 2016

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: