“…God will not ask you to follow any biblical mandate without providing the grace and ability to carry it out.” – Lou Priolo, The Heart of Anger
The other day I watched a substitute mail carrier drive up to our cluster of boxes, tinker around, then drive away. When I opened the box I saw only the Netflix DVD I’d left there to be sent back.
Irritated I wouldn’t be getting my next movie when I wanted to, I called the post office to complain. Later that day as I was driving, the thought occurred to me that I was waiting for the arrival of another Netflix movie for the kids. Could it be possible the mail carrier took the old Netflix and left the new Netflix, and because we received no other mail it only looked like the old Netflix was still sitting in the box?
When I got home I rechecked the box, this time taking out the DVD to inspect it, and sure enough, it was a new movie. I immediately felt horrible and embarrassed that I’d called the post office to complain. I’d sprung into action quickly, and my folly bit me in the ass.
Everything I read about anger boils it down to this simple heart issue: it is a response to thwarted or delayed expectations – whether real or perceived.
In his book Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender writes:
Anger propels us into battle. It is a response to a perceived or actual injustice that attempts to destroy the wrong done to us. Whether righteous or unrighteous, anger triggers activity: Our breathing quickens, muscles tighten, eyes narrow and focus on the enemy…. Many of us make choices with an internal chip on our shoulder. Anger is an adrenaline that increases our courage to move in a world that seems to oppose our desire.
For me, this anger is triggered by even the most trivial things, such as the Netflix misunderstanding I described earlier, or the take-out joint sending home the wrong soup, or my kids waking up from their naps before my work is done. I will actually stew in my bitterness over such things, often to the point of my entire day being ruined because from henceforth on no one or no thing can give me back what I first wanted.
I’ve overcome many of these patterns of anger the last few years, but I still struggle. It’s “easier” to let my temper fly in the moment, and it feels “better” to release the mounting tension, while slowing down my brain to process through my disappointment and getting my adrenaline rush under control takes patience and hard work.
When I read the above Priolo quote it reminded me of this scripture:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
I don’t have to fall headlong into anger anymore – God promises this by way of being our defender, shield, and warrior. In the face of real or perceived injustice, scripture calls me to be still and wait on the Lord to bring justice:
Psalm 27:14 (New International Version)
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 33:20 (New International Version)
20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 130:5 (New International Version)
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I’ve enjoyed a long respite from struggling with or thinking about my anger issues, but I’m realizing the absence of symptoms doesn’t always mean the absence of problems. Sometimes it means my circumstances haven’t provided the opportunity to practice overcoming them.
This has been a tough month, marked by stress, busy schedules, and a bout of depression to stir up a perfect pot of inner chaos. But as I notice many of the same patterns of anger in Ruthie that I’ve struggled with my whole life, I now seize the opportunity to help her build a tool box for addressing disappointment while dusting off my own tools and putting them to good use.
I’m reading the book, The Heart of Anger, by Lou Priolo, about dealing with anger in our children. Early in the book Priolo suggests parents read this book twice – once for ourselves, and then again for our angry child. I found this to be valuable advice, so I’m taking it slow.
Also, saw the doctor yesterday and and received some support for my adrenal hormones – this tactic always seems to take the edge off any depression and fatigue.
I feel hopeful that I’m looking at a peaceful, soul-searching summer, letting God fight my battles for me while resting behind his very big shield.