I learned that I have a maniac inside of me on February 3rd, 2002. Six years into our marriage we were still living in the “15 cent dinner, ramen noodle years”, where you have no money at all. But we’d splurged on a TV. It was the first major purchase of our marriage and we’d sacrificed a lot to get it. The beast was about 17,000 times heavier than current TVs, but we’d purchased the best of the best.
I was trying to enjoy the Super Bowl (Patriots vs.the Rams) and things had turned around for the Rams as they tied it up 17 to 17. But when Vinatieri kicked the field goal to win the game for the Patriots I exploded. I took the remote and threw it as hard as I could and completely destroyed that TV. It felt good in the moment. A very short moment. In flooded regret, embarrassment, and shame. I mean, I was a pastor of a small church seeking sincerely to care for my people and I thought, “What is this inside of me?” God used this terribly embarrassing moment to begin my journey toward healing.
Maybe you can relate. If so, I want to convince you that anger is not something to be feared, it is something that can actually be a gift from God and that if you can embrace it you will actually find yourself being rescued from it because you will start to deal with it rather than hide from it.
So why does anger make me smile?
It’s my warning light
A warning light is designed to awaken you to a problem. In my experience as a pastor I’ve discovered that anger is never the primary emotion. It always points to something deeper going on in us. I’ll give you a great example. Let’s imagine my wife and I plan a long awaited romantic dinner. I’m supposed to be home at 6:30. That night I’m near the end of a really close basketball game with my buddies, so I text her and tell her “Honey, I’ll be a little late.”
Her response via text? A simple “K.”
Her response when I walk through the door? A plate of spaghetti goes flying by my face.
Yes, she’s angry, but what’s the deeper issue? She’s jealous. She’s hurt. She feels betrayed, lied to, and like she’s second to my friends and our ball. The anger, and the flying spaghetti, warn me there’s something inside her that I need to deal with.
It identifies my maturity level
Anger is not just a feeling, it’s a choice. Events don’t make you angry. We could take two people, in the exact same circumstances, and one comes off like an angry lunatic and one completely relaxes and stays calm. One chooses to deal with angry feelings in a mature way, the other chooses to foam like a toddler at the checkout line. Immature people don’t think and analyze the situation. They just feel what they feel and then they explode.
The truth may not be pretty or feel good, but Christians do not need to fear the truth. God promises that he can transform us. I learned in 2002, “You’re still a twelve-year-old brat.” That’s a good place if you see it because then you can finally say, “I need help Lord.” And anger can help you see where you need to grow.
It exposes my lack of power
God helped expose my powerlessness, and therefore my need for Him in 2002 when I threw that remote. And since then, step by step, I’ve been shown my powerlessness through: a gut wrenching failed adoption, a devastating miscarriage, years of heartbreaking barrenness that followed, and then the birth of our son who, though adorable, is deeply deeply hard to care for because of his special needs. I was trying to control everything and that only produced rage, until I finally realized through these tragedies that I’m powerless.
It was only when I finally accepted that I am totally powerless that God could finally use me. And that’s when a lot of the anger finally subsided.
It awakens me to action
This is my favorite of the four. Anger makes me smile because there is a holy kind of anger that we can fully embrace. It shows me that there are passions inside me that God wants me to see so that I can take action! Some of the action this anger will produce will be to compel you to get help in your own life.
But another anger is what we call, “A Holy Disturbance.” Many world changers were compelled to action because of this righteous anger. A girl in our church, filled with anger at human trafficking, launched a nonprofit organization to help end the tragedy because of the rage God stirred up in her. One of the greatest tragedies would not be that you died too young but rather, that you died with one of God’s dreams buried with you. God has wired you to live for his glory in dramatic ways. “Dramatic” might be that you mentor one kid who needs to come alive. Holy anger could be a catalyst for God glorifying, world-changing action!
God doesn’t call us to a passionless life. Rather, he calls us to evaluate our emotions, such as anger, in the light of His Word so that we can kill sinful anger and can cultivate the anger that will bring Him glory. As The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”