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The Problem of Anger

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This week in our continuing study of 1 Samuel, we will see David fall into one of mankind’s most deadly traps–anger. In fact, we see the deadly nature of anger almost immediately after the fall when Cain’s anger toward his brother Abel causes Cain to kill his brother (Genesis 4). Like Cain, David’s anger in 1 Samuel 25 causes him to take 400 men and set out to kill the man who caused David’s anger to flash, a wealthy farmer named Nabal. Fortunately for David, Nabal’s godly and wise wife interceded on behalf of Nabal and gave David the opportunity to cool down, and he did. 

As we know from the Bible, there are two kinds of anger: sinless anger and anger that causes us to sin. The Apostle Paul notes in Ephesians 4:26 that we can be angry yet not sin. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? After all, In Galatians 5:19, Paul identifies anger as a work of the flesh. Perhaps the simplest line of demarcation between sinful anger and righteous anger is the root cause. Sinful anger is always rooted in self-serving motives; righteous anger is that which seeks either God’s good or God’s will.

As much as we might like to think that our anger is righteous anger, it’s usually not. Attempting to walk that fine line is equal to trying to light a candle in a room filled with natural gas hoping not to ignite the gas. To complicate matters even more, those of us who try and act from a righteous anger position find ourselves stepping into God’s shoes, which also is sinful. It is not our place to seek vengeance for the Lord; vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). Anger, like the sin of lust/adultery, is a sin of passion. Once ignited, it takes on a life of its own. It quickly leads us to sin. Proverbs 6 is describing the danger of adultery, but I believe the same reasoning applies to anger when Solomon asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). 

How Can We Learn to Control Anger?

Anger is not something you can hope to rid yourself of and be free from for the remainder of your life. As we see in this week’s text and the example of David, anger ignites in the most godly people. So, while we can’t rid ourselves of anger, we can learn to control anger and not let it become a sinful, destructive pattern in our life. 

  1. Recognize the spark that ignites anger. As we observed above, the spark that leads to anger is almost always rooted in a strong sense of injustice, and the focus is always on either ourselves or those we love. We have a strong inner sense of what is right and wrong for us, and when someone crosses that line, it sparks anger within us. Learn to spot the small spark landing in your heart and quickly extinguish it. Don’t let it simmer until it becomes an uncontrollable flame.

  2. Watch for the physical signs of anger. You may not think you have them, but if you ask your family or those close to you, they can tell without question when you are getting angry. The signs may be subtle (e.g. your face or ears get red), or they may be obvious (e.g. you start to pace or your voice gets louder). Whatever are your signs of anger, learn to detect them and observe the warning.

  3. Learn to trust those who love you and know your patterns. Just as Abigail rushed to derail David’s anger in this week’s text, learn to trust those around you who attempt to derail your anger before you sin. Understand, however, that depending on your past history, this may take a lot of time. If you have vented your anger at your family and others close to you over the course of many years, they have likely learned to retreat from your presence rather than walk toward you when you are angry. Few things can sow more mistrust and relationship destruction than anger. Solomon warned, "Make no friendship with a man given to anger” (Proverbs 22:24). If you have subjected those in your family and circle of influence to the heat of your anger, you will need to walk in humble repentance for a long time as you re-earn their trust.

  4. Guard your physical and emotional health. As we noted above, anger is an emotion of passion, and we tend to be most vulnerable when we are physically and emotionally depleted. In our text this week, David and his men have been out on patrol, protecting the flocks of Nabal while running for their lives from Saul. They were tired and hungry. When Nabal refused to give his men food David felt they had earned, his anger sparked and he was off to the races to kill Nabal. We are no different. We are most vulnerable to sinful anger when we are tired, hungry, or lonely. In fact, a key tool used in 12-step programs is summarized by the acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Those are triggers that make us vulnerable to sin. It’s important be extra cautious with our emotions when we know we are vulnerable, because it’s at moments like this when anger can go from 0 to 100 in seconds.

 

Bible Verses Concerning Anger 

As you wrestle with the problem of anger, here are some helpful bible verses to meditate on:

  • Proverbs 14:29–Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 15:1–A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:18–A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
  • Proverbs 16:32–Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  • Proverbs 19:11–Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
  • Proverbs 22:24–Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
  • Proverbs 29:22–A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
  • Ephesians 4:26–Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
  • James 1:19–20–Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 

Free Downloadable Bible Study

Do you need help getting control of anger in your life? We are offering a free 44-page Bible study titled “Anger: Facing the Fire Within” by June Hunt. You can pick up a copy of the Bible study at the info wall or download a digital copy at http://myffc.co/2pCISVe.

Less is More

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Stuff. It’s always there, always needing to be dealt with, always adding to my to-do list. I was getting sick of the “stuff”. We have 4 kids and live in a modest-sized home, and if you came over for a visit, you would not think we have a lot of “stuff”, but we did. It was hidden in the nooks and crannies, closets and build-ins of our home, away for the eyes of our visitors. But I knew it was there, and I knew it needed to be dealt with.

After being inspired by a book on tidying, and after years of wanting to get our house in order, I made arrangements for people to help with the kids so they would be out of the house for an entire day so I could focus.

It was overwhelming at first––the thought of going through clothing for 6 people, books, toys, papers, photos, etc. After I got into the groove of things, and really started discarding things we truly do not need or even want in same cases, I felt an incredible lightness and release. We don’t need this stuff. What an incredible realization.

In fact, there isn’t a ton we actually “need” to live this life.

I think we all can admit that we have things in our homes that we don’t need, want, or even like.

But what about your spiritual life? Do you have things hidden in the corners of your heart and mind that need to be released? Things that need to be dealt with?

We all do.

You are not alone if there are deep secrets that hang over your life like a heavy blanket.

It's time to deal with it and live a life of freedom and lightness. That is what God wants for us. Rest is found in Him and Him alone. So how do you do that? For me, it is verbalizing my struggling to a trusted friend or my husband, it is praying about it fervently, it is releasing old ways of living, and turning from sin.

For you, it may be different. Maybe you need to seek help from a pastor or small group leader. Maybe you need to meet with a counselor or therapist.

Whatever it is, DO IT now.

Don’t live in darkness and heaviness. Get rid of the things that weigh you down. Find peace in Him. Then, you'll have the energy, time and love to help and love on others, and you will be truly blessed!

 

Psalms 51:10 - Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

2 Corinthians 7:1 - Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Finding Rest and Retreat in Christ

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My husband and I recently sat down and calculated the number of baseball games we’ve attended for our boys. The number was somewhere in the mid seventies, and the season isn’t quite over. We have three sons who all play Little League, and one who is currently on another team as well. (Go Outlaws!!)

So, roughly seventy times, I’ve washed uniforms, packed snacks, filled water jugs, and applied sunscreen or winter hats depending on the fickle Iowa weather. I’ve nursed skinned knees, disappointed hearts and wounded pride. Baseball season has worn me out physically and emotionally.

I’ve recently found myself without a smile on my face, and choking on my next breath out of sheer exhaustion. I feel as though I have nothing left to give at the end of the day, and that feeling usually carries over to the next morning. We’ve stretched ourselves to the max, and I’ve got no more bend in me.

I’ve heard the same things from other people lately too.

“I feel like I’m chasing my own tail.”  

“I don’t know if I’m coming or if I’m going.”

“Is my chest supposed to feel this tight all the time?”

“I can’t remember the last time I laughed. I have no more joy left.”

This life has worn us ragged. We’ve undoubtedly said “yes” to too many things and haven’t put healthy boundaries around sacred things. We’ve skipped prayer and quiet time to cram in the unexpected, because we are completely out of any sort of margin in life. My quiet time the other day was spent using my carpet cleaner on an unexpected pet mess. There went my “extra” thirty minutes of the day. Another thirty wasn’t to be found, and my time budget was already in the red.

Friends, I’ve had restroom accidents three times in the past two weeks. Literally. Because I am cutting things so close, I end up making it to the bathroom a bit too late. I think to myself, “I don’t need to go before leaving the ballfields  because I have to drop this kiddo off at home in the next ten minutes. I’ll just go when I get home.” It’s true... I’m not even giving myself time for my own bodily functions, and friends, the scary thing is, I know I’m not the only one. I have verbal confirmation on this.

So what gives? How do we find the right balance?

I don’t know.

I think the “fix” looks different for everyone. Every individual, couple, and family has to make decisions about schedules and commitments for themselves. This unfortunately isn’t a four step solution. However, one thing I know is true and good is the promise we have from our Savior about His abundant streams of rest and grace.

Before Jesus went to the cross to be crucified, He sought out time alone with his Father... our Father (Matt 26:36–46). Scripture says Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. However, rather than hashing out his problems with his friends, he walked away from the noise, from His companions, from the task, and talked with God.

He asked Him questions, laid out His fears, and begged for His mercy.

He let God speak the salve of peace to his burdened, unto death, heart.

He rested in the One who had the answers to the whys and the what ifs.

So in the days to come, I am committing to a few things. First, I will go to the bathroom when the urge first hits. And second, I’m going to rest at the feet of my Savior who is so capable of managing my weakness. He’s so eager to restore my soul. He’s so incredibly good. I’ll breathe in His gentle words. I’ll trust in His historically grounded promises. I’ll let my Creator nurture my weary heart.

And in all my frailty, I’ll listen and obey.

Posted by Marti Skow with 0 Comments