Friday, April 27, 2012

If You're Angry and You Know It

Yesterday was a rough day. Ask Harry. I yelled at him for hovering around my feet as I went in and out of the sliding door to the deck in order to grill the chicken for dinner. Of course he was hovering--he's a dog, and loves grilled meat. Any kind of meat, really. Heck, he'll even munch on paper and tissues out of the garbage, if we don't empty the wastepaper cans right away.

I don't normally yell at him. Then again, Safety Bill doesn't normally snap at me when he comes home from work. He's normally very slow to get angry and long on the patience and love. And then our daughter was acting like a belligerent teenager yesterday, and got her feathers easily ruffled when normally she's very mature and sweet with me. She's 17, and we still haven't hit a stage where I wish she would go off to college and mature.  I don't want her to ever leave home. But yesterday I could actually envision it.Yesterday I wanted everyone to leave home, the dog included, and leave me alone.

Pressure. Frustration. Disappointment. Anger.Oh, I felt all these things yesterday. There was a lot going on under the surface too. Everyone is dealing with challenges and decisions to make. Each one of us is facing important decisions that have to be made. And we've all been praying. A lot, really. We've all been seeking God, seeking His will, trying to step out in faith, trying please Him with our actions of faith.

But remember, if you're stepping out in faith, then you're stepping out of your comfort zone. And there's only so long that you can deal with being out of your comfort zone before you realize you are, and you freak out a bit. Sometimes we've been trying so hard to please God, and going that extra mile, and then we hit a wall--it's a wall that we know God could have easily removed for us. We feel almost slighted by God. It's like we're a child that gets up early to surprise their parent by cleaning up the kitchen, and the parent walks out into the sparkling clean kitchen and....merely nods. Doesn't say a word. Oh, it's a pleasant nod of acknowledgement, but we were expecting so much more than that!

Well, I'm that child. And I felt close to a throwing a tantrum yesterday. I was frustrated. Bewildered, a bit.
 How much more could I show God that I was trying to change and grow in Him? I felt dejected. Angry, really. I didn't want to be angry with God. It's not a good feeling. Most people aren't even sure that you can be angry with God. 

But every healthy relationship includes an honest sharing of emotions and feelings and thoughts, one to the other.Actually the healthiest of relationships have a "safe zone" where each person can share their feelings without fear. With "safe" people, we can afford to let our anger out. We can risk being vulnerable. We can say, "I feel so angry with you right now."

Of course, there are healthy ways of expressing anger, and then there are dysfunctional, abusive ways of dealing with anger. Let's be clear on that. Let your anger out--but don't shoot it out. Don't shoot it out like an arrow with a poisonous tip!

"BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger," Ephesians 4: 26 tells us.
Would somebody care to explain how that's done, I always used to think the minute I'd read that verse. Because I don't know about you, but I don't know many people who know how to be angry and yet not sin. Getting angry, and not sinning, is like getting on and staying on a balancing beam that's a 1/4" wide-- would you know how to stay on perfectly and not fall off??

I really don't think, though, that God would tell us something that's impossible to do. I wonder if we've misunderstood what the sin is, in anger, and what's acceptable, when angry.

Anger builds up the more we've felt slighted, frustrated, misused, ignored, hurt.....The point is, that Anger builds up. And maybe we shouldn't let it. Maybe we should learn to quickly acknowledge the first sign of it and admit it, right away. Of course some of us are more prone to getting angry at the first sign of anything, and some of us have to be prodded to express our feelings. You know which one you are.

Here's the GOOD NEWS: God is the very first person you can safely go to, when angry. In fact, He is the best one to go to when angry so that your anger doesn't grow volcanic and explosive and out of control. Because, you see, you can tell God what you're feeling and you can talk it out with Him. Even if HE is the One you feel angry with, tell Him what you're feeling.

But here's a warning that you need to be aware of when you feel angry with Him: Don't curse God, or accuse God, when you're angry. Just tell Him how the situation looks to you, how it feels to you--don't malign Him, though, and attribute evil motive to Him. Be very careful with what you indirectly are saying.

That's what Job understood. That's how Job prevailed through one of the worst trials a person can go through. Job experienced an unexpected series of losses, when he'd been living right with God, and he didn't understand why. In fact, Job had been going out of his way to show God that he respected His ways. He even made sacrifices to God on behalf of his partying children who apparently didn't worry about living right with God like their father, Job, did.

And when faced with unexpected, horrific tragedy that Job didn't see coming, he still refused to accuse God of evil motive. "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."(Job 1:22)

Oh, Job was hurting! He was frustrated and angry. He was in shock, almost, astounded at what God had apparently allowed, or caused, to happen to him. You see he didn't know what God had in mind or why this had happened but he knew one thing, for sure: that though it looked like God was out to kill him, Job would still trust God's motive and plan for him.(Job 13:15)

Can you do that? You can if you have really come to know God, know His heart, know what He was willing to do in order that you could be made right with Him. You see, if you truly understand that God loves you with a sacrificial love, a merciful love, a love that says "Come unto Me all ye that labor and I will give you rest," then you would never accuse God, or curse Him, or charge Him with wrong doing.

Instead, you would say,

"God, I don't understand!"
"Lord, it feels like you're ignoring my prayers"
"God, I feel so angry!"
"Lord, it looks like You are not with me!"
                              and God would say, "I can see why you say that. Tell me more. Let's talk about it."

We will not always get a Birdseye view of what's going on, or why God is allowing something in our life. We will not always get a clear answer from Him, even after hours of tears and prayer and journaling and petitioning and sharing of our feelings. What will we get is the knowledge that He hears us--and cares. "I love the LORD because he hears my voice, my pleas for mercy," the psalmist writes. He bends down, and listens to us. He's willing to hear your heart. He wants to answer you. And He is... answering you.

Job kept his trust in the Lord, even though it looked like he had no reason to. It almost looked like God was out to get Job, that's how bad the situation was. Why trust someone who's out to hurt you? Can you trust someone who doesn't have your wholeness and well-being in mind? Exactly.

You see, the reason why Job did trust God is that he leaned on something more than circumstantial evidence: he knew the motive of God's heart. He knew the God of Covenantal Promise, the God who would send a Savior to earth that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. That's God's motive.That's His heart. That's why He's trustworthy. That, and so much more. He's the number One most Trustworthy Being I know.

Now go back to your anger. Wait, you're not feeling so angry and frustrated? Yeah, me neither. Do you now have a bit of quiet hope that your situation is not shrouded in retributive punishment--but in grace? Do you see, now, how God desires to turn your situation around, to turn your mourning into dancing? To turn your anger and frustration into chortles of delighted laughter at how big He is, how much He loves you, and how NOTHING will ever stop Him from being the God of the Universe, your Heavenly Father, the One who truly cares...for you.

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