Anger: Nowhere To Run

“I buried my anger, and then it buried me.”

I want to tell you about my friend. He’s still in jail; guilty of laundering money. He’s got another seven years left. Before it all crumbled this guy had more money than I will probably have in three lifetimes. He didn’t launder money because he wanted money. There was something deeper going on inside that it took a jail cell to unlock.

Until the day they placed handcuffs on him and then drove him away in a police car, my friend was always in church. He would sit there sincerely giving his “Amen!” He believed in everything he heard. He had an ability that I think we all do to one extent or another to live truth out in his mind. But there was some kind of blockage between his head and his heart.

He was raised in a Christian home, but what he came to view as Christianity was a gross perversion of the real thing. He was patted on the head as a little kid, always rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. And he came to believe in his heart that to be a Christian meant you were to be: good, kind, polite, and … docile. Human beings were never designed to live this way! God has built into us passion, holy anger, emotion and intensity to be lived toward a purpose: God’s glory. But my friend never learned how to process his emotions and experiences through the lens of God’s Word. So he stuffed it all down deep where even he couldn’t see how it was destroying him.

Thank God my friend was caught. God knew he needed a prison cell.

He didn’t realize it at the time but anger had cut a subterranean channel in his heart through which deep rage quietly rushed. When one of his coworkers got the position that he thought he deserved and became his boss, all of this rage began to surge toward this new authority figure. My friend came to hate his boss and was looking for any way that he could find to hurt him. 

So, like the devil who so often looks for sneaky cracks in a person’s system to try to quietly destroy them, my friend decided to undermine his boss by laundering money through the business … right under his nose. Every illicit dollar that moved in and out of the books, while his boss stood by completely ignorant, was a quiet way of taking revenge.

But in God’s world hate can never be aimed well; it can never be managed. Like chemical warfare the winds will finally and unexpectedly change, and the death intended for your enemy will leave you nowhere to run.

Thank God my friend was caught. God knew he needed a prison cell.

A number of years after his incarceration I visited him in prison. Looking at him through the thick bulletproof glass I saw a man who was in important ways more free today than many of us, because he was living as a man who’d finally surrendered. As we spoke, I was reminded of Jesus’ words that, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”(John 12:24-25). This once highly professional and successful man who had all sorts of things going for him finally broke, and in that brokenness he found resurrection because that brokenness pointed him to God.

This story can help us as parents. We can, by God’s grace, help our sons avoid a life dominated by anger. A boy who screams in anger is nothing to be afraid of. Learn to enter into a conversation with him, post-anger, in order to help him reflect on why he got angry, to coach him: “Did that anger spring from jealousy?” “Do you feel out of control?” “Are you hurting?” All of which can be the deeper source of our anger.

As you begin to help him understand the source of his anger you can then begin to help him learn the right ways to respond by asking questions like, “Does that honor God?” “Is there a way that you would like to respond to this feeling differently in the future?”  “Can I help you do this?” “Let’s ask God to bring the change that we need.”

Your child may not know how to talk about these things in the moment, he may not understand the deeper questions, but you are planting seeds that will bear resurrected fruit in the hope that he will one day know how to understand and respond to what he’s feeling in a way that will finally glorify God.

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