I began to identify the extent of the anger in my heart after I became a mom. I had always envisioned myself as a warm, loving, gentle and kind mother. I thought that if I had children, I would be able to nurture them and model godly character to them. Whoa! I didn’t take long before I would find myself exploding over little, insignificant things. Then I would feel extremely guilty for overreacting. Something was not right. Things had to change – I couldn’t continue this way.
It was at this time that I “discovered” that the rage or anger in my spirit was the result of sin. Anger took on a whole new meaning to me. I imagine I had again fooled myself into believing that my anger was usually justified (righteous). Oh my – now pride was creeping into this equation . . . I guess I thought I knew what was best, and when others didn’t follow through with my best plan, I had a reason to be angry. Once again, I had a wrong view of God and a wrong view of myself. God alone is altogether righteous; He alone is the Sovereign of others and of me.
I sought counsel from a godly woman who was mentoring me. She took me to the Word. She directed me to Galatians 5, where Paul exhorts believers to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit-filled life. Well, I’d certainly heard about the fruit of the Spirit before – pie in the sky stuff, unattainable behavior. We looked at the context of the teaching on the fruit of the Spirit. In verses 16-21, Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. The flesh sets it desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . . the deeds of the flesh are: . . . jealously, outbursts of anger . . . envying . . . those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Wow!! There is a battle going on – but I don’t have to fight this battle by myself.
Romans 6 and 7 are rich with truth about the battle and my opportunity to allow sin to reign or to let Christ reign. Romans 6:6 says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Christ, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” In verses 11-13, we are told to “reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” I have a choice. If I were not yet redeemed, I would not have a choice. Even all my good acts would not be done in the Spirit and would be worthless. But because I do have the indwelling Holy Spirit, I can either choose to let sin (anger, envy, etc.) rule my heart and mind, or I can choose to yield my spirit to the Spirit of God.
Coming to grips with this truth has changed my entire thinking. I recognized my attitude and my actions as fleshly. I was dealing with a sin issue, and what’s the first line of defense against sin in a believer’s life? Confession – I wanted to keep short accounts with God (first and foremost) and also with others. Secondly, I need to grab hold of the Scriptures – because the Word is sharper than a two-edged sword. Memorizing and meditating on God’s Word (especially those verses that addressed anger/sin in the life of a Christian) became crucial. You see, I had to replace the wrong thinking in my mind with right thinking. I had to learn to take every thought captive – I couldn’t continue to justify my deeds or to excuse my sin. I resolved to assume the best of others rather than to live in a constant state of disappointment.
In fact, I learned that discontent and unmet expectations contributed to my anger. Did I think I deserved better? Did I believe that I was letting others down and they were not meeting my standards either? I have had to stop and evaluate my heart and literally take time to ask (often aloud), “Who’s on the throne here – Becky or God?” I had to remember whose I am – I had been bought with a price.
I so wanted Christ to have the preeminent place in my life. I wanted to live yielded to the Spirit, and I wanted to exhibit spiritual fruit. So if I didn’t want to live with anger and jealousy, how did I want to live? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . that’s what I wanted to be about! I chose three elements of this fruit (patience, kindness and self-control) that I believed would help me fight against anger, and I did word studies on those words from Scripture. What an eye-opener!
Anger certainly still rears its ugly head in my life, but I do not feel defeated or controlled by my anger. God has given me many tools to fight against this enemy – my flesh. Will I engage in the battle or just let sin neutralize me? I want to be a warrior and an ambassador for Christ – “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!”
My personal keys to dealing with anger are:
- Recognize anger as sin
- Confess that sin to God and to others – keep short accounts
- Study what God’s Word says about anger
- Memorize specific verses to help combat anger
- Take every thought captive
- Assume the best of others
- Ask the question, “Who’s on the throne of my heart?”
- Do word studies on the fruit of the Spirit
- Be held accountable by another believer
May the Lord bless you.