Anger Games

Anger - just the word itself invokes a vision of red, an increased heartbeat,  sweaty palms and a racing mind. One medical website describes anger this way: “Anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance or disappointment. It is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage.” As I contemplate the word, I am rehearsing various conversations and situations from my past. I have been angry at a chair as I walked by and stubbed my toe.  I have cursed cars that cut me off in traffic. I have shaken my fists at gray skies as I headed to the beach and found sheets of rain pounding into the sand. While each of those occasions has been annoying, I would  not classify them as fits of anger so much as moments of irritation. It is one thing to be aggravated at things – cars, furniture or the weather. Anger is entirely different because it typically involves human conflict. When I think about anger in my own life, I can point to specific instances that always involved people. Have you ever said, “That’s it, I’m done with that person”? Has there ever been a time in your life when someone has so devastated your heart to the point that you just could not take it anymore? Feelings of hurt, betrayal and disappointment are so strong and real that they take over and consume you and, before you know it, they collide together and explode into an angry outburst or an emphatic response. Sometimes the response is your own, and other times you are on the receiving end. I remember one occasion when it hit me, literally. I was walking home from school with friends laughing and talking about stopping for ice cream. There she was – Lynn Pinkowski. She was angry and everyone knew it. I don’t remember what I had said or done to make her so mad, but she walked up to me, looked me in the face and with all the force she could muster she punched me with her fist. It was not some flimsy openhanded slap. It was a tight-fisted full throttle jab to my throat. I thought I was suffocating – I could not catch my breath. Now that is anger in all of its glory!

Anger’s Full Effect
Several years later, anger crept back into my life; only this time, I was the perpetrator. I was disappointed over my parents failed marriage, I was bitter towards my father’s inability to meet my expectations, and I snapped. Pastor and author Paul David Tripp comments: “Harboring bitterness against people is actually confessing their sin to myself, over and over again. Anger is akin to confessing their sin to God; dissatisfied that he hasn’t done something and placing myself in his position as judge.”  I had done exactly that – placed myself in God’s position as judge. I said in my heart, “My father has no part of me anymore.” My anger had won and it would last for 20 years. I subsequently experienced seasons of sadness and regret, moments of intense sorrow and hours upon hours of unexplained heartache ands tears. I’d had the last word and as a result, anger hardened my heart. I thought I had won but, in due season, the anger I unleashed on my dad had delivered its full effect. The promise of freedom delivered to me a truth of bondage.

Getting Burned
I had played with fire and experienced the flames’ scorching heat. Years of “guarding my heart” had taken their toll. I had successfully protected it from further hurt, but I had unwittingly sealed it off from love and healing. I thought I had won, but all I had really gained was more scars and more bitterness. A rescue was the only way out – a merciful intervention was my only hope.

20 years after that fateful whisper of my heart, “You have no part of me,” God intervened. His divine rescue mission began and, in His kindness, He granted me repentance (Romans 2:4). God broke through the years and layers of anger and bitterness. He swept away the pain and blurred the memories. Anger is a funny thing – it can seem so appropriate, so right and so good. Sometimes we call it righteous. I suspect that most of what we call righteous anger is still just that…anger. Only One person truly gets righteous anger right – Jesus.

A Game Worth Losing
Only God delivers people. Only God could have turned my anger into sweet repentance. Only God had the power to redeem a broken relationship and restore years of bitterness. All of my disappointments and unmet expectations paled in comparison to my heartless act carried out in a fit of anger. God had His way. I wrote my dad a letter shortly thereafter. I told him I was sorry, sorry for shutting him out of my heart. God’s kindness had overpowered me. He put back together what my anger had torn apart. I had played the anger game. God won, I lost, and I was glad.

Lori Harding is the Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, as well as a small group leader and Bible study teacher. She counsels and speaks to women of all ages. Lori has a passion for communicating the glorious truth that Christ came to set captives free. Check out her blog, Set Free, at lorileighharding.blogspot.com  or email her at lori@crpc.org.

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