Getting to the Bottom of Anger
Has anyone in here ever been angry?
Anger is a fascinating emotion. Anger is a fascinating emotion because anger is always a response to something. It’s not an original emotion, it is only a reaction, and what’s fascinating is that whatever it is to which our anger reacts, it tells us something about ourselves. Mainly, it tells us what we really love.
Many have said, even, that anger is just a defense mechanism to protect the things we really care about. We only get angry when the things we value and cherish and love are put in danger. Any time what we love is threatened, we get upset. This is why anger is not necessarily sin. There are some things that we love that are good to defend. For example, in the summer when my kids are playing in the front yard and a Jimmy John’s delivery guy comes speeding down my street, I get angry about that because I love my children. My anger is that situation verifies my love. That is a good thing.
Anger, because it is a reaction, is always doing that. Anger is always exposing what matters to us. And most of the time, if we are honest, what our anger tells us about what really matters to us, it is not so pretty.
Where Was the Love?
According to reports it was January 3, around 2:30 in the morning, that 21 men were awakened from their homes at gun point and captured by the Islamic group ISIS. The terrorists had entered an Egyptian village looking for any men with a traditional tattoo on their hands that identified them as Christians. After the night of their abduction, weeks later, last Sunday evening, as we all now know, these 21 Christian men were beheaded in Libya.
You all have seen the coverage of this story in the media. I remember last week when I first saw the news spreading on Twitter. I clicked through a couple places, read what people were saying, I felt sad about it, and then put my phone away. But I don’t recall feeling angry.
Maybe an hour later, after the kids were in bed, I walked downstairs to their play area and it was a disaster. They had toys strewed everywhere and couch cushions pulled out. And as I saw the disorganized spread of legos all over the floor, my blood began to boil. My heart rate increased, and I started huffing around, visibly bothered. I was experiencing the emotion of anger. I tend to love order and neatness and control, and in that moment, the order and neatness and control that I love was under attack. I got angry about that. Because I love a clean basement, I became angry.
But what about my love for the brothers and sisters in Egypt? Does it matter to me that 21 families have now lost husbands and dads because they bear the name of Christ? Where is that love?
When I saw the image of 21 grown men in orange suits on their knees on a beach in Libya, why did I not feel as upset about that as I did Legos on the floor?
See, if we were to look at our lives — even a simple self-assessment from this past week — I think we will find that most of the time we get angry about stupid stuff, and very seldom do we get angry about the things that anger God. That is sin.
And therefore, we should confess our sins. Let us pray:
Father, have mercy on us. We confess that we become angry when we should not be angry, and that we do not become angry when we should. This, Father, is because our loves are broken. Instead of loving you exclusively, and loving the truth and righteousness of your ways, we love ourselves in a disordered fashion. We prize our peace above the peace of others. We value our convenience at our neighbor’s expense. We mourn our own discomforts but shed no tears for the calamity of our brothers and sisters. We are sinners, Father, and we need your mercy.
You must have mercy on us, Father. And so now we come to you, we come with confidence to the throne of your grace, and because of your great love for us in Jesus, because his blood has atoned for the guilt of all our sins, we confess them to you now in silence.