Good Tidings, Christian stories, poems and essays

Healing of the Angry Heart

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunken-ness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God - Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

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People with anger issues end up pushing away the very ones they want to draw near. I know because I've been there, and I had a great list of excuses for staying that way. . .

I didn't make excuses because I wanted to remain that way. . .I just didn't believe things could be different. Issues with anger will remain until they become too costly. For me the day of reckoning came shortly after the birth of my second son, Austin. In case you don't know, a firstborn is an accessory; you take them out, you dress them up, and they behave well. But it's all a trick to get you to have more children. When I actually had my second son I remember thinking, What have I done? I'll never brush my teeth before noon again. I felt like such a failure, and with each passing day my housekeeping skills slipped further away.

At the time John was an associate pastor, and we had one of the few listed phone numbers. My days were filled with phone calls from woman desperate enough to call a postpartum mother trapped home with two under the age of two for counseling. They imagined their calls were interrupting my devotionals, but no such luck. Their calls were interruptions in the war of naptime. You see, my firstborn son who had always been perfect and compliant about naptime was afraid he might miss something if he took a nap, and he fought it with a vengeance. He had no idea how important his nap had become to me. Naps were when I showered, brushed my teeth, washed breakfast dishes and straightened in an effort to avoid flunking the question I had learned to fear more than any other I'd encountered, the question asked daily by my husband as he surveyed the chaos of our home-"What did you do all day?" I'd feel a little defensive standing there in my bathrobe, a baby in my arms, another at my feet and my nursing flaps down. I'd answer back, "Listen, I don't know what I have been doing all day! People have been calling saying they are going to commit suicide and I'm offering to join them! If you'll hold Austin for fifteen minutes I'll take a shower."

A few months into this process I snapped. My son jumped off his bed to head downstairs, and I raced up to meet him. I was desperate. I remember looking around the room and thinking, What can I do so he won't get off his bed?, when a thought came to me: Hold him up at eye level, tell him not to get off his bed and then slam him into the wall. It was a horrible thought, but at the time it seemed logical. I raised Addison eye level-and that's when I saw terror in his eyes and realized he wasn't afraid of what I was going to do. . . he was afraid of me!

When I saw his fear I remembered the promise I had made myself growing up in an angry household-I will never treat my children this way! Yet here I was, a born-again pastor's wife getting ready to slam my son into the wall, and it broke me.

I placed him gently on the bed, apologized for frightening him and went downstairs. I threw myself on the carpet and began to weep. I cried until I had no strength left. I realized it was not my upbringing, John, my children, my ethnic background or my was me.

"God, it's me. . . I have a real problem with anger! I don't want this anymore. I'm not blaming it on anything or anyone; forgive me, Lord." In that moment I felt Him lift the weight of sin and guilt off me. I began to cry all over again, but this time it was with relief. When I humbled myself and acknowledged my inability to handle this in my own strength, God had given me His. In the stillness after this storm I heard God speak to my heart, "Because you are no longer justifying this, I will take it out of your life."

What you justify. . . you buy. You say, "I've earned the right to be this way because of what has been done to me." For so long rage had been a part of me, a piece of me I excused as weakness or a personality flaw. Now I was face to face with it, and I saw it for what it really was...a destructive self-willed force I could not control, but that controlled and consumed me. There was a war raging within me; Galatians describes it this way: "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law" (Gal 5:16-18).

What did I want? I wanted to be a godly mother, wife and Christian woman, but because I wasn't living in the Spirit I was doing the very things that I did not want. Life in the Spirit means we take up our cross daily and deny ourselves-not make excuses for ourselves.

Don't be quick to excuse your flesh. God did not tell us to excuse it but to crucify it. As long as we make excuses we remain captive. By referencing my past I excused my present. I thought past pain earned me the right to behave this way. By blaming others I felt absolved of responsibility. But wasn't Jesus' past pain enough to purchase my freedom?

When we refuse responsibility we forfeit our ability to change. It is only when we humble ourselves, admit our iniquities and renounce them that we escape their snare. When I did this it was the end of my temper or rage controlling me. That was twelve years ago, and since then I have walked free and thousands of others have learned from my mistakes. The same can be true for you, for "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Adapted from Lisa Bevere's, "Healing of the Angry Heart"

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But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. - Galatians 5:22-25 NLT

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