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Anger Expressed God's Way

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                Anger has been a recognized and culturally accepted issue among many men.  Our culture is now defining “angry women” as a positive contemporary movement.  In my office, anger is one of the most destructive forces I have witnessed in marriage counseling.  We all have a certain image of anger that relates to outbursts, force and even injury.  But what if I were to tell you that even the most gentle people also tend to harbor and respond to anger in common patterns that ruin relationships?  What do we do with this anger issue we see tearing apart our friendships, homes, churches and even our nation?  I want to take a brief, general look at a complex issue, hopefully to prompt every believer to take steps to consider this critical subject of anger more closely in the days ahead.

 

                First, we need to understand our general personality or temperament makeup and how it affects anger.  Let’s start with a broad (and overly simplified) observation that people fall into two general categories: strong-willed/problem-solvers/leaders and compliant/people-lovers/responders.  (There are actually 4 recognized personalities types.)  Let’s focus more broadly into two general categories of people that we will call the goal-seekers and the people-lovers.  Goal-seekers are “doers,” problem-solvers, leaders, administrators, planners, conflict-solvers and accomplishers; think doctors and nurses, bosses, church overseers, business owners, coaches, administrators, workaholics and “fixers.”  People-lovers are gentle, relational, inspirational, merciful, supportive, servant-oriented and peacekeepers; think assistants, healthcare workers, workers with children and senior adults,  church deacons and those “everyone loves.”  Some well-known goal-seekers were/are Coach Bill Belichick, General George Patton, Martin Luther, Bill Gates and Donald Trump.  To bring it closer to home, in our church leadership and staff we would agree that Louis Simpson, John Gill, Larry Shields and I are goal-seekers.  Some well-known people seekers were/are Mother Teresa, President George W. Bush, Billy Graham, Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen. (Okay, I didn’t say I endorsed everyone on these lists. Haha).  In our church leadership and staff the people-seekers are Doug Burton, Mike Cowart, Justin Green and Paula Compton.  Understand that goal-seekers still love people and people-seekers still accomplish goals.  But we tend to be leaders or responders based on our personalities: strong-willed or compliant.

                Identifying our basic personality or temperament is the first step in understanding how we tend to express and react to anger.  The strong-willed goal-seekers often express and confront when angered.  They are naturally inclined to “blow up” through yelling, pushing, or aggression, or being opinionated, blunt, forceful, tactless, demanding and repetitive.  The compliant people-lovers often deal with anger by stuffing it down, leading to being taken advantage of, physical ailments, avoidance, resentments, withdrawal and eventually the super-sized blowup.  Other compliant people-lovers deal with anger by transporting it.  They do so by stuffing it down and transporting it either to another time or to other people by not keeping their commitments, being sarcastic and critical, making excuses, avoiding issues, playing the victim and acting out their anger on those more vulnerable or helpless.  These negative responses commonly see strong-willed goal-seekers “confront.”  The compliant people-lovers either “stuff” or “transport” their anger.

                EVERY HUMAN CAN NATURALLY RESPOND TO ANGER IN ALL THESE NEGATIVE WAYS.  But our personality/temperament makes us especially prone to respond in the ways I have described above.  Did you know that anger is generally a secondary emotion?  Anger is usually a response to primary emotions of hurt coming from 1) relational or emotional neglect, desires or damage, 2) unmet personal desires, goals or expectations and/or 3) personal insecurities, sense of failure, or a lack of self-worth.   I think it is healthy for adults to pray and identify those incidents in childhood or adolescence that were never resolved and have been used by Satan to “kill, steal and destroy” us.  Unresolved hurts and a lack of biblical instruction and wisdom often results in anger, especially toward those relationships closest to us.  This can easily become a pattern our sinful flesh turns to.  The Apostle Paul stated in II Corinthians 10:3-4 that we are to , “. . . demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  That means that when we are angry we are to look at the emotions/thoughts that are raising a “red flag” about something in our heart.  Then we are to take those thoughts captive to obedience to Christ.

                So should we ever be angry?  Absolutely.  Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  That instructs us not to sleep until we let God identify our personal unmet needs or longings, and then to take those captive to faith and obedience to Christ.  It means a husband or wife, angry at their spouse, controls their anger and then determines what they are feeling so angry about.  Do I have an unmet longing for respect from a parent/parents?  Do I have the unbiblical belief that my spouse is to serve me rather than walk beside me?  Do I have feelings of inadequacy at work or among friends that leads me to demand I am to be revered at all times at home?

                Anger is an opportunity to evaluate how I am responding to friends, coworkers or family who hurt my feelings or make me feel inferior.  Am I withdrawing, growing resentful toward others and more angry at myself?  Do I struggle with ulcers, headaches, depression, panic attics and such?  Do I procrastinate and delay performing tasks asked of me to get back at others?  Am I critical and slanderous toward people who I feel hurt me? Do I withdraw and clam up in order to hold a sense of power over someone?  Or do I take my anger out on my children?

                Natural anger is destructive, carnal and used by Satan to kill, steal and destroy relationships.  Spiritual and mature responses to anger start with stepping back and admitting the anger.  Then we are to identify the primary emotion and consider its cause.   And finally, we are to biblically respond by faith in Christ and obedience to His commands and instructions.  And by the way, when anyone is hurting the helpless, the innocent, or the child, Christians should feel a righteous anger and act on behalf of the victims.  If Christians see other believers mocking or disobeying God and not keeping His commands, those who are spiritual but experiencing anger should deal with their anger first, and then gently confront the other believer with their sin, show loving acceptance of them, and seek to restore them when they repent.  Jesus was angry toward the greedy leaders of the Temple and reacted strongly, turning over their money tables and throwing them out of the Temple.  Jesus exposed the godless religious leaders, publicly comparing them to whitewashed tombs, clean-looking on the outside while holding death on the inside. 

                Christians, we should all seek to understand how anger can lead us to righteousness and growth in Christ.  “Be angry and yet do not sin . . . !”  (A great book on this topic is “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy” by Chip Ingram and Dr. Becca Johnson.)

Craig Lile
Pastor

        

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When Tragedy Strikes

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Sooner or later, tragedy comes to us all.  The Apostle Paul instructed a young Timothy that all who desire to live godly will suffer persecution.  At the end of His Sermon on the Mount Jesus told of two groups of people (those who build their houses on solid ground and those who build on the sand) and warned that the storms of life will pound all our houses.  It is crucial in this life to build our foundation on Him.  We also face our ultimate enemy, Satan, whose desire is to kill, steal and destroy us.  He roams about like a lion seeking whom he can devour.

Christians should be aware of these dynamics.  But the mocker of God becomes embittered against Him and the child of God can become more perplexed when tragedy strikes a person or family that loves, worships and serves God with all their heart.  Is it possible for a godly person’s wealth, loved ones and even their own health to be destroyed within the will of a loving Heavenly Father?  Yes, it was exactly that scenario with Job.  He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1).  His ten children were killed by wicked invaders (chpt. 1).  Then he completely lost how own personal health (chpt. 2).  To top off the devastation he was enduring, three of his closest friends and his wife mocked and questioned him.

Job was like many Christians after a great tragedy or loss.  “He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life.  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord (1:20-21).”  While his friends insisted through misguided theology and arguments that all pain is the result of sin that angers God, Job defended God’s goodness and that his life had been lived to please God.  Job showed great humility, wisdom and faithfulness to God. . . but...

Over time grief, despair, anger and questions about our loss torment our souls.  Ongoing pain began to build a demanding spirit in Job.   “I am disgusted with my life.  I will give vent to my complaint and speak in the bitterness of my soul.  I will say to God, ‘Do not declare me guilty! Let me know why you prosecute me.  Is it good for you to oppress, to reject the work of your hands and favor the plans of the wicked (Job 10:1-3)?’”

Full-blown anger can lead us to both worship and test God.  Look at Job’s surrender to and his defiance toward God.  “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.  I will still defend my ways before Him.  Yes, this will result in my deliverance, for no godless person can appear before Him.  Pay close attention to my works: let my declaration ring in Your ears.  Now then, I have prepared my case, I know that I am right (Job 13:15-18).”

Finally, ongoing pain makes us feel as though we deserve to be heard.  It produces an arrogance in the created toward our Creator.  “If only I knew how to find Him, so that I could go to His throne.  I would plead my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.  I would learn how He would answer me; and understand what He would say to me.  Then an upright man could reason with Him, and I would escape from my Judge forever (Job 23:3-7).”

Wow!  Job goes from total faith and surrender to God to wanting to actually believing he can defend his ways, saying that if he could find God he would present his case, anticipate God’s response, argue with Him and be found just.  Can you hear those heated words flowing out of Job as he shook his fist while wet tears ran down his face, his whole body shaking in indignation?

Job indeed was indeed granted his demand: a hearing before the throne of God.  In fact two hearings.  God begins the first one with these words.  “Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words?  Get ready to answer me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me.  Where were you . . .?  Have you ever . . . ?  Have you traveled . . .?  Where is the . . . ?  Who put wisdom  . . .? 

After God’s series of questions from His throne Job replied, “I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this who conceals my counsel with ignorance?’  Sure I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wondrous for me to know. . . Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes.’ (Job 42:2-6).”

What Job didn’t and couldn’t see was that God was using Job’s pain and sorrow to show Lucifer (one of, if not the most brilliant, most beautiful and powerful archangels God ever created) that a lowly and yet godly man often chooses to humble himself and ultimately worship God though he loses everything.  Lucifer had known the most blessed heavenly role, position and gifts God had ever given and had rebelled against God, refusing to humble himself and worship God.  In the end God used Job’s earthly loss and sorrow to teach all of heaven and earth God’s great power and glory.

As Job stated, life is short and full of troubles.  But God and His desire to offer us relationship and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ surpasses all that we will experience in this cursed and fallen world.  Earth will eventually be consumed by fire and recreated.  Christians will one day judge angels, rule the new earth and be co-heirs with Christ.  Our pain, sorrows and losses in this life all serve a higher purpose that we will one day understand.  We are permitted by a loving Heavenly Father to ask our questions.  However, in the end, we must remember that the sufferings of this present day are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to come in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Life is hard.  Our losses are great.  Our experiences with pain, sorrow, loss and helplessness accumulate through the years.  But our salvation in Christ Jesus has secured our future.  God’s perfect wisdom, sovereignty and mercy can and do sustain us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  And one day will come the final act of salvation.  “So also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:28).”  Theologians call this the Christian’s “glorification,” an act of salvation which is in the future.  It is the ultimate salvation from sin, its effects and its curse.

So when tragedy strikes, worship God, focusing continually on thanksgiving for His perfect love that offers us salvation from sin’s ultimate penalty.  Through the process of grief with its intense regrets, hurt, denial and anger allow God to continue His work of salvation.  Great pain often nourishes sanctification and the opportunity to overcome the power of sin that embitters and believes man has the right and position to find, approach and question God about what we deserve and receive from Him.  Finally, embrace the peace of knowing His plan is to ultimately save us from the very presence and consequences of sin and its devastating blows upon our lives.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us as we walk through the joys and pains that a perfect Father has ordained for us in this life!

Craig Lile
Pastor            
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