There is always a tendency when people write about personal struggles in a public forum for other people to misinterpret their words, to not understand the purposes of their words, for their words to serve as a stumbling block in the sense that their “airing” of struggles “tarnishes” people’s perception of them or worse, individuals use their transparency as a means to hang it over that person’s head (yes, this sentence was a run-on!). For all of those reasons and more there is a reticence in people sharing their struggles; sharing more openly, frequently and in a context that is appropriate. However, juxtaposed with the aforementioned misunderstandings is the reality that people can tremendously benefit from others being vulnerable or transparent. I hope and pray that this post serves God’s people in that manner. That being said, here are some reasons why I think it’s important to share struggles, at least in a sin-downplaying-Jesus-magnifying-way.
Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). Wayne Mack highlights four lies that the devil wants to impress upon our hearts and minds. I have shared these in another post but they’re worth quoting again due to their significance and applicability to what I’m writing about.
- The first lie is that we are unique in what we are experiencing.
- The second lie is that God is not faithful and has forgotten about us.
- Lie number three is that God is going to test us beyond our ability to endure it.
- And the fourth lie is that our situation is hopeless and inescapable.
1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that none of these is true. As a result, I need to trust in the truth of this verse that there are some individuals who will be able to identify with the specific struggle I’ll share briefly about (anger) but I also need to understand that each of us has our own struggles – no one is immune from the battle of sin.
The previous four reasons drawn from 1 Corinthians 10:13 serve as catalyst in me sharing about my struggle. Thus, this post will simply be a quick summary of one area of my life that I have struggled with. That area is anger. I do not mean in a pugnacious I want to fight someone/anyone who disagrees with me type of way or a passive aggressiveness that appears “okay” but bubbling below a veneer of self-righteous sinful anger is an explosion that could blow any moment (and yet, there have been times where my sinful emotions resembled the previous two examples but by God’s grace not in habitual pattern). But what I do mean is a sense of getting irritated, impatient, or frustrated with people and doing so, to my shame and embarrassment, quite easily at times. Here are some examples: getting irritated that people do not immediately see the “wisdom” of my point of view (I know sinful huh?!?); when I’ve had an exhausting day at work and all I want to do is simply sit down and relax but as I come through the door my precious bride looks at me with that look that says “I’m glad you’re here. It’s time to take over”…I get annoyed and impatient at times; when people drive in a manner that hinders me from getting to my point of destination as quickly as possible (for those of you who have driven with me there may be some room for improvement on my end [note sarcasm]); for people who check out of the fast-lane with a maximum of 10 items at Kroger, Meijer, Walmart or wherever but have 27 items, I get irritated. There are a multitude of other circumstances that I allow to frustrate me or where I choose to be impatient, unkind, angry, etc., but I’ll try to keep some of those to myself – or at least to the inner-circle of men I have trusted and confided the inner-workings of my heart to (apart from the Lord Jesus).
With that being said, here are some things I am doing in my personal fight against sin, in particular the sin of sinful anger. I say sinful because yes, there is such a thing as righteous anger (Eph 4:26), but let’s be honest, rarely, if ever, do I or you exemplify righteous anger. We may think we do but tucked away deep down in our heart is a real motive that many times serves as the catalyst for our anger and the vast majority of instances (if not all!) this anger is derived not from a holy passion for the glory and honor of God but for our own honor and glory.
- I am in accountability relationships with brothers who ask me periodically how I am doing with expressing myself in a way that honors Christ and does not grieve Him. This accountability is not where we sit down once every other week and they pepper me with questions about my personal life. Rather, it’s me asking the Spirit of God to impress upon me the weight and evilness of my sin and then feeling the onus or burden to confess it to my brothers and many times to my precious bride. Accountability only works when the confessor owns his/her sin and subsequently desires to confess it.
- I am memorizing several passages of Scripture that help me remember God’s promises and His truth in times where I am tempted to allow sinful anger to happen. Here are some of the verses I am memorizing from the Book of Proverbs:
- 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
- 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- 15:28 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
- 16:32 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
- 17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quiet before the quarrel breaks out.”
- 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
- 26:21 “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling fire.”
- 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
- 29:20 “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
- I am seeking by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit in my life to “own” my sin (stated earlier as well), I am reading and watching resources that help me to be conscious of sinful anger, to understand biblically how to diagnose anger and what the Scriptures prescribe for this particular struggle. A couple resources that I have recently watched or read are:
- Robert Jones “Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem” is probably one of the best treatments on anger. I highly recommend it.
- A video from the Desiring God website entitled “The Heart of Sinful Anger,” which is a 5-minute interview with David Powlison (Biblical Counselor) who explains what sinful anger really is (sobering – make time to watch it).
You may be thinking “this sure sounds like a lot for one particular sin!” I would then ask you, what do the Scriptures say about our sin? They say we are to cut it off, flee from it, abstain from it, kill, crucify or mortify it, etc. That is language indicative of someone who is at war and someone who takes their sin seriously. With that, I praise God for His grace and mercy because I am much more conscious of my anger and know how to more appropriately deal with it from a biblical perspective. But I remind myself daily that I have not arrived and nor have you friend. Our sanctification started the moment of regeneration and renewal by the Spirit of God (Titus 3:5) but we are still very much “in” the process of sanctification. So we continually look to Christ who bore our sins and placated the wrath of the Father through the cross and three days later rose victoriously over sin and death and we proclaim “I’m covered by the blood!” Christ’s blood covered my anger and a whole host of other sins. Praise be to Christ.
It is my prayer and hope that this post has served you in some capacity.