Category Archives: Anger

Worship Wednesday – Thy Will Be Done – Hillary Scott

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We don’t try to explain God’s will at play when good things happen. It’s just celebration time. However, when bad things happen, we are caught off-guard. There must be some reason, something He’s teaching me, something wrong that He is righting, or some greater good. How do we as His children even imagine that we can explain or justify or normalize the activity of God?

Maybe because we are children. I think of my own children growing up and coping with a decision or direction change that caused them pain, disappointment, or confusion. After their questioning and attempts at convincing us of a better way, after the tears, came the surrender. We were always relieved when they let go of those exhausting emotions and would finally wrap their arms and legs around us, and lay their heads on our shoulders, to come close and be comforted. I remember those intimate times…grateful.

[It’s odd that my memories like these don’t go back to childhood and the same struggles with disappointments, seemingly caused by my own parents. Maybe you do remember times like that. Please share in Comments. Perhaps being grown, we have sorted it out enough times that the hurt has dissipated.  Or the relationships, between child and parent, have proved to be trustworthy, and the disappointments just don’t matter in contrast.]

When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he modeled a prayer for them. Within the text of the prayer, there is an appeal to God, echoing a surrender, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” I have prayed that phrase over many countries, and over my own life, and that of our children.

Jesus was/is in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit…and the will of God. In that unity, unblemished by his years on earth, he embraced and lived within that will. Still, even for Jesus, there came a dark, awful night, when he wrestled with the sometimes costly nature of the will of God. The next day, sinless Jesus would take on the sins of all the world – dying willingly for us in order that we, in every generation, could be restored to a holy God…forever. It was the only way for us…His obedience, his surrender. In a moment of human struggle, Jesus raised the possibility to the Father of another way…but resolutely, he reaffirmed “Not my will, but Thine be done.” [Luke 22:42]Blog - Jesus prayed - Thy Will - redeeminggodPhoto Credit: Redeeming God

At times, we also wrestle with the will of God. Maybe we are less tempted to question Him when we receive the scholarship, or the job offer, or the marriage proposal, or the healthy baby, or the clear medical report. It’s when things go terribly wrong that we struggle with the “why’s” of the will of God. I don’t want trifle with offering up an explanation for God or attempt to answer for Him. When I was younger, I tried, but it seems vain and inadequate for us, as children even His, to try to explain God or give rationale for something hard in our lives.

Terrible things do happen in this world…and I am sure they grieve the heart of God. How do we reconcile the fall-out of sin and brokenness in this life and how God works his will even in those situations? We can’t see with his eyes…nor can we know why. What we can know always is that God loves his children. If we suffer at the hands of others or because of some circumstance of a sin-sick world, we cling to a God who is good…always good.

We are not tossed and tattered by the will of some god who is distant or uncaring. When we face a difficult turn in our lives, we don’t face it alone. Just like our children crawled up onto our laps for comfort when they didn’t understand, we do the same with our Father in Heaven. We may be confused by what we’re facing, but we can be sure that foremost in God’s will for us is to know that He loves us and will bring us through whatever situation we find ourselves. He will lovingly bring us through it.

Hillary Scott, singer-songwriter, of Lady Antebellum and The Scott Family, writes a song about this very process – this resting in the love and person of God, no matter the loss, or painful situation.

Worship with me.

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord*

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Photo Credit: Cocolaelle

*Lyrics to Thy Will Performed by Hillary Scott and Scott Family

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott Shares the Story Behind the Song Thy Will

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

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And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-13, 17

Bitterness. It’s been described as a poison concocted for the one who wounded you but you are the one who drinks it.

We may have situations in our lives that are truly grievous and undeserved. We rail against those situations, and the persons who created them, and our hearts are altered…hardened. It’s not intentional at first – almost like the formation of a scab or a scar. If not recognized and repented of, bitterness becomes its own enemy in our lives.

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I have seen the damage bitterness can cause in the lives of others…we all have. It’s frightening to watch it grow in someone we love. My older brother struggled with a lifetime of losses. His regret at his part of them was taken over by blaming others. I will be forever grateful that he did not die in that place, but began reckoning with his bitterness before he died.

It’s a dangerous place to find ourselves – that hardening of our hearts in response to grave injustices, deep losses, and dreams dashed. No matter what the cause – whether the hits we take are from enemy or friendly fire – bitterness will not only hurt us but those who love us the most…and our fellowship with God who loves us best.Blog - Bitterness and Brokenness - Henri Nouwen - quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

John Piper has preached and written so much about anger and bitterness (see links below). Don’t miss his  piece on battling the unbelief of bitterness. Here are his 4 points (gleaned from Ephesians 4:30-32 :

  1. Believe that what the Great Physician says is good advice. If he says, “Put away anger,” don’t ignore the counsel. Put it in your mind and resolve to keep it.
  2. Believe that you are forgiven, and that being forgiven by an infinitely holy God is an awesome thing.
  3. Believe that vengeance belongs to God, that he will repay those who do wrong.
  4. Believe that God’s purpose in all your trials is to turn the cause of your anger for your good.

We have beautiful trees in our neighborhood and seedlings pop up across our yard. Dave pulls them up regularly. The hardest ones to get up, he says, are the oak seedlings. They quickly and seriously drive a woody root into the ground, extending beyond the taproot, holding onto the soil, as if with a vengeance. Blog - Bitterness - airpotPhoto Credit: Air-Pot

As beautiful as oak trees are, the image of that stubborn and strong root reminds me of bitterness. It spreads and takes firm hold.

The writer of Hebrews talks soberly about resisting a “root of bitterness”.

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”Hebrews 12:14-15 (12:14-15). John Piper again gives “warning not to treat holiness lightly or to presume upon more grace…[a bitter person] defiles many and can lead to the experience of Esau who played fast and loose with his inheritance and could not repent in the end, and find life”.

As much as we might feel justified in nursing our bitterness, it is a treacherous thing…a terrifying thing for those who love the one struggling with it. Our souls may cry out for justice, and God will do justice. What He requires of His children is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We cannot, with His blessing, exact justice without both administering loving kindness and practicing humility. Whew….

To get out of the burden and yoke of bitterness, we must allow God to break our hearts toward Him and the situation…a brokenness that will penetrate the hardness of heart and restore us to ourselves.

Piper prescribes a practical way out of the grip of bitterness:

“By the work of the Holy Spirit, God defeats temptation (like the temptation to be angry and depressed that you are suffering) by awakening joy through belief in the word of God which is at work in us. And that word is most centrally the good news that Christ died for us so that all the promises of God are Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

By the Spirit, we trust the promises which bring joy which defeats temptation. And all the while we are praying!

So now let me illustrate how this works. It helps me to have an acronym called APTAT.”

  • A – I admit I can’t in myself do what needs to be done.
  • P – I pray for God’s help.
  • T – I trust a particular promise He has given.
  • A – I act to do whatever God is calling me to do.
  • T – I thank Him for His help when I am done.

Worship with me to Keith Green‘s rendition of Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

[Repeat x 3]

Don’t give up on God. He doesn’t give up on us.

[One last thing – for anyone out there who read this thinking of someone else…we all have it in us to wound others, sowing the seeds of bitterness. In a callous casual word, in a decision made with wide ramifications, and an act of preference, exclusion, or judgment. Examining our own hearts is always wisdom. Confession when needed and repentance as widely as the offense requires…may be a Holy Spirit response. Peace.]

Bitterness or Brokenness – Tony Shirley

SermonsandSongs.Org – A. W. Tozer – The Root of Bitterness

7 Bible Verses to Help Overcome Bitterness – Crystal McDowell

YouTube Video – Bitterness and Forgiveness – John Piper

The Word of God Is at Work in You – John Piper – [the video above is a portion of this sermon transcript]

Top 10 Christian Songs About Forgiveness

How Christ Conquered Bitterness – John Piper

Why Can’t I Overcome My Bitterness and Anger? – John Piper

Fighting Bitterness – Interview with John Piper

YouTube Video – Donnie McClurkin: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Sulking and the Idolatry of Relationships

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I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.

Joseph Bonifacio defines the verb sulk:

Blog - Sulk - joseph bonifacioPhoto Credit: Joseph Bonifacio

When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.

Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.

Today I read the most fascinating description of sulking by Alain de Botton, author of On Love: A Novel and The Course of Love: A Novel

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At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”Alain de Botton

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Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every  requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.Alain de Botton

Sheesh.

We can make it hard on those we love the most.

In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:

““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”Martin Heidegger

It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them.Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?

A senior couple enjoying a cup of tea together

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

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Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

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I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

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