Anger is a difficult emotion to overcome. Compounding anger with a sinful reaction is even more difficult to overcome. Anger is defined by wikipedia.org as "an emotion related to one's psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged or denied and a tendency to undo that by retaliation". How do we control this powerful urge to sin in retaliation to the people and things that surround us everyday? How do we as sinful creatures, train ourselves to respond in a non sinful way?
Yesterday was a lesson in learning for me. I experienced an anger that was so overwhelming that I was speechless. Looking back on that experience from the perspective of a new day, I see that speechless was in fact a good thing and most likely the holy spirit covering my mouth! I had started my day with quiet time with the Lord, reviewing a scripture passage for a meeting with my small group. The passage was Genesis 33:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God. As I read this passage, I thought of how blessed I have been. We have jobs, health, a home, two working vehicles, four beautiful children and enough food to never know the feeling of hunger. I was so thankful in fact, that I laughingly thought to myself, "I bet my time of 'wrestling' will come eventually". It did! By 8:30 AM in fact. Didn't take too long for God to wrestle me off my high horse!
What started as a quick trip to the pediatrician for a sore throat in a 12 year old quickly morphed into a wrestling match on the table with a petite nurse, a mother, a large kid and 2 rather long q-tip swabs! I could not believe my normally well behaved child and this wiggling, squealing monster were the same person. Now I knew from past experience that this daughter of mine was afraid of strep tests, but this was beyond my wildest imagination. We had discussed how to best do this test, and even pointed out that it would be less painful than dental shots in the mouth and getting your ears pierced (both of which she had done well at in the last year). She was ready! She sat right up on the table, assured me she would be fine and cooperative, and waited patiently...until the door opened and the nurse walked in!
Needless to say,(but I will anyway), I WAS ANGRY! I was embarrassed. I was ashamed that I could not control my own child better, ashamed that I obviously had not trained her well enough in obedience, ashamed that I hadn't anticipated this and left the younger siblings at home. I mustered the ability to say one line, "Get in the car now"! I couldn't speak anymore. I couldn't find the words to express to my child what I thought. Every word going through my mind was inappropriate for a christian mother to say to any child. So I said nothing. Nothing all they way to school to drop off the little ones, nothing all the way to the middle school to drop off the offending 12 year old, and nothing on the way to my small group where several christian women waited to discuss the bible verses from Sunday's sermon.
One of the ladies read through the scripture of Jacob and God wrestling, but the part I think of now as most significant wasn't the wrestling at all, but what God said to Jacob in changing his name to Israel. "Your name will no longer be Jacob. It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won." (Gen. 32:28) He won. Perhaps not in the way we look at winning today, Jacob didn't pin God to the ground. Jacob won because he survived. He didn't die because of God's presence, he thrived. Jacob could have chosen anger at God for his troubles, or selfishness when he went to meet Esau the next day, but he did neither. After his encounter with God, Jacob choose humbleness.
So how do we train ourselves to not sin when we become angry? With preparation. Reading God's word on a daily basis will soften our hearts to situations that have the potential to be volatile. Gathering with other believers who will hold us accountable for our actions, who give Godly advice to help us deal with the "wrestling matches" we encounter, and who stand in the gap praying for us. Seeking the company of older, wiser Christians whose lives and behaviors we can see as examples even if they're not perfect. By surrounding ourselves as much as possible with God's word and God's people, we will enable ourselves to reflect Him in our lives and in our responses. By controlling what we put into ourselves through reading, hearing and association with others, we control better what comes out of us as well. "Whatever is in your heart determines what you say", Luke 6:45
Determine this day, what you will put into yourself. Will it be God's word, songs of praise, inspirational christian writing? Will it be the supermarket checkout magazine, the top 40 music hits, the secular romance novel? Who will you have lunch with today, the office gossip with an ear bending story, or the christian sister who will pray with you? We are surrounded by many choices everyday. Choose wisely.
"then choose today whom you will serve...as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord."