And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
EPHESIANS 4:26-27 (NLT)
Anger – normally seen as a negative emotion – is not an uncommon companion on the journey through the valley of suffering – especially not for me – it was part of my ride on the emotional roller coaster. You have heard us talk many times about how we did not suffer pretty. We experienced a full gamut of emotions on the emotional roller coaster through our valley of suffering.
For Jan, her huge struggle was with fear but for me my monumental struggle was with my anger. From the time I was young I had always had a temper. But when I accepted Christ at the age of 25, my anger seemed to subside. Life was relatively good (and easy) and I really had no struggles with my anger erupting for the next 9 years UNTIL I journeyed through the valley of suffering. It was then that this volcano started to erupt.
During that time I kept so many of my emotions that I was experiencing inside because I did not know how to handle them. As a result, I lashed out in random acts of anger that had no relationship whatsoever to what was happening around me. I got angry with Jan and the kids when they weren’t doing anything wrong. They became innocent victims of my pain – pain I did not know how to handle. Because of the emotional pain Jan and I experienced during my battle with cancer, we sought the help of a Christian counselor.
I learned through the counseling process that anger is usually a response to three different emotions: fear, frustration or hurt – all of which are a part of the journey through the valley of suffering. Facing the reality of our fear, frustration and hurt is difficult, so most of us do our best to ignore those feelings. We bury those feelings deep inside – but they don’t go away – instead they can produce anger which then can produce guilt because we feel we have sinned.
BE ENCOURAGED. Anger is actually a God-given alarm within us that lets us know that there is something deeper going on inside of us. Anger, in and of itself, is not sin – it is just a secondary emotion. But the Scripture warns, when we feel anger we need to deal with it immediately OR ELSE the anger will control us – then causing us to sin – giving a foothold to the devil.
Now I know how scary it is to acknowledge and talk about those deep emotions. It was scary for me then and it is still scary!! But as I learned how to talk about those feelings, I began to free myself from the tyranny of my anger. When I dealt with the core issues inside, I was less inclined to express anger in situations where there was no cause.
I now know when I don’t deal with the core issues; my anger will build inside and eventually cause pain for the people I love the most.
Most people view anger as the number one negative emotion. However, anger is a God-given emotion that, when understood and used as God intended, has tremendous potential for good.
GARY J. OLIVER, PH.D.
On the journey with you,