It’s been good to confess my anger. Even to strangers. Why? Because there is growth that comes even in the confession. And I’ve been blessed and touched with those who have contacted me to say thanks because they, too, struggle with angry thoughts and actions. Again, there is comfort in knowing we’re not alone in our struggles.
Confession isn’t enough, though, and doesn’t mean change will come. Additionally, just because we know others struggle we can’t become lazy in our participation in the process of change. If I am going to resist the temptations (which will come) to rant again, then I have to prepare my heart now.
17th century church leader and theologian, John Owen, exhorted the Christian with these words: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” While outbursts of anger isn’t one of the sins I deal with on a consistent basis, it’s one that has damaging affects on others. I want to think, “Oh, that was my first angry outburst to my husband in a really long time. I was just stressed and overwhelmed. I’m sure it won’t happen again.” But the Bible clearly teaches that sin doesn’t just go away. It has to be killed. (The theological term for this is mortification — the putting to death of sin.) Plus, I’m finding there’s a reason why people talk about aging people being “old and crotchety.” As I age, I’m finding some temptations to increase rather than decrease.
John Owen taught me something years ago that has been helpful in the weakening of certain sins in my life. He suggests that one of the ways we can resist and kill sin is to anticipate it.
After a seafood fest in our mid 20’s, Benny broke out in terrible hives. Because he had eaten several kinds of seafood he didn’t know exactly what had caused the reaction. When we were invited months later to another seafood meal, we anticipated the possibility of him reacting again, so he was careful to only his favorite…crab meat. We had purchased various products “just in case.” Sure enough, later that night he was miserable. No more crab meat for my husband.
Anger (or greed, self-pity, lust, bitterness or whatever sin we are battling) can become an “allergen” that causes us to react in wrong ways that make us and others miserable. Owen encourages us to anticipate the circumstances that could likely tempt us to sin, then prepare ourselves to resist and fight our sin. In the past week or so I have been making notes about the topics, situations and “hot spots” in my marriage so I can anticipate becoming angry at Benny again. When I am tempted to react sinfully, I will have armed my mind and heart with “just in case” truths to help me to resist that temptation.
Our part in the process of change is important. But today being Good Friday is a timely opportunity to remind ourselves that while effort on our part to mortify sin and grow in godliness are required of us, the most important contribution to change is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus Christ took our place on the cross — dying for every single sin we will ever commit and then rising again as proof that God accepted His atoning sacrifice — those of us who have repented of our sin and turned to Christ have been made new. We no longer have to sin! But when we do, we can run to a throne of grace and ask God (then others) to forgive us!
I will get angry again. But by the power of the risen Christ I can anticipate my temptations, gird myself with truth to resist them, then run back to the throne of grace for forgiveness again when I sin.
Thank God for (good) Friday!