This one is NOT going to be fun today for me. I have been battling this issue in my life lately. Not “explosive kill someone” anger but a “slow boil” under the surface. More like festering frustration that never seems to really go away. I’m in the “stew pot” of stress.
Before I go any farther, I need to define a few terms. I’m doing this because when I looked at the helps from my bible their “anger” didn’t match up with what I think of as “anger.” I wanted to know what it really means. I also included two other words that describe MY condition.
Anger: a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.
Frustration: a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.
Irritate: to excite to impatience or anger; annoy.
Now that I have Webster’s definitions, where do I fall in this spectrum and how does that affect my relationship with Jesus? I thought it prudent to also include the study note from my bible that got me searching for definitions in the first place.
(ESV Study bible note on Matthew 5:22) Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder. Calling someone a fool is closely related to anger, in that it represents a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. Thus Jesus warns that the person who violates another person in this grievous way is liable to the hell of fire.
Okay. So what I’m dealing with doesn’t rise to the “desire to damage or destroy” anyone, but it still hurts in my heart. If I were to use the above definitions, I would rank it in the “irritate” category. But as you can plainly see, “irritation” leads to “anger”, meaning I still need to deal with this NOW.
I think this is exactly why Jesus said we need to deal with anger while it is still in our hearts. In our heart, or mind, is where the thoughts take root and then become action. We don’t suddenly commit the act of murder without it first starting as a seed of anger or hurt in our heart.
I noticed in my bible that the phrase “without a cause” is not in there. I’m not qualified to say why it is not in there, nor am I qualified to say what Jesus says is “just cause.’ I know that Jesus became angry when He saw the money changers in the temple swindling people. In Ephesians 4:26 we are told to “be angry and sin not.” Where do the boundaries of “anger” lie? Maybe with the second part of the verse in Ephesians; “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” If it lasts longer that that does it become sin? When the anger is left for longer than the day it grows roots that tangle around the heart and require stronger measures to get rid of it. If it interferes with your walk with God, as in the next section it probably is sin.
Jesus says that when you come to the alter, and realize there is unresolved anger with a brother; you need to get up right then and deal with it with your brother first. In this portion, as I read it, it doesn’t say which one is angry or which one is at fault. Does it matter which one is right? I’m going to say, not usually. I know from personal experience that when I am angry I can’t concentrate on anything else. God wants my full attention when I come to Him. He doesn’t have it if anger is still in the way.
The last expression of anger in this section of Jesus’ sermon results in going to court. In those days, courts were no friendlier than they are now. They may have even have been worse. I have been involved in several court battles in the past 10 years or so, and I am here to tell you that they are NOT fun or pretty. I would have loved to been able to resolve the situation BEFORE going into the courtroom. The majority of my experience has come in the form of assisting another in their case.
Right now I am assisting a friend in his divorce case. This is an UGLY divorce and every time we think it is almost over, the other party finds a way to stretch it out even longer. I am praying for resolution! I know that even after the hammer falls that day that there will still be problems left to deal with. This is probably one of my underlying “stew pot” issues.
(Warning: Soap Box moment loading!) I wish the judges today had the power of judges of old. Maybe that would entice people to actually settle their issues on their own. The divorce I’m currently involved in, the other party refuses to honor the bargains struck in and out of court. The court is powerless or chooses not to exert any power over this situation. Definitely in the “stew pot” over this issue.
God, help me recognize my seeds and what they are growing into. Give me discernment into which are weeds that need to be pulled while still little, which have LONG roots and need digging out, and which need their fruits picked before they spoil and begin to rot. Please forgive me for feeding my frustrations or letting irritation become anger because of not dealing with the underlying issues in the first place. It’s not easy for me to confront my issues, because I want to be the “peace keeper”; but if it only results in me becoming a slow boiling pot waiting to spill over, I NEED to deal with it. Help me always approach my issues with love and with the heart of a peacemaker, which sees both sides of any conflict as valuable and important. Remind me to value the relationship above the issue, especially our relationship.
Thank You God for Your grace and mercy. There are so many times when You should have, or have been, angry with me. I know that Your anger is never without cause. You show amazing restraint in how You treat me when I have wronged You. You don’t strike out at me, as I deserve, but speak to my heart of Your pain and gently call out to me to look at what I am doing. When I see where I am and what I’ve done, I ask for Your forgiveness. The most amazing thing is that You never withhold it. You give it in full measure. THAT is how I want to behave. Teach me Lord to love like You. Teach me to turn loose of my anger. Teach me to forgive! True forgiveness is the end of anger.