I’ve always been a competitive person. Some of that serves the kingdom well as healthy motivation, but way too much boils inside as anger that does not come from the King. I’m sneaky. I hide my anger behind a calm, quiet, evangelical niceness. I don’t let it boil over, but I keep the pot simmering on a back corner of the stove, just in case. One of my outlets has been running. On some of my long runs, I have had imaginary, scathing, courtroom cross-examinations that leave my adversaries simpering for mercy. I expose their obvious contradictions and dismantle every one of their false premises. I win every time!
But in the real world, the paper cuts just keep adding up, with salt rubbed into those cuts every day by the sickness of our culture. This simmering pot of anger can so easily dominate my thoughts and my perspective, draining my energy like an app running in the background on my computer.
It Was Time to Confront and Confess My Anger
Recently I confessed to a men’s group I lead that I had been carrying a low-grade fever of crabbiness, frustration, and inner argumentativeness. I was talking back to the radio and TV. I was amassing evidence for my view of things and wishing I had someone to yell at to convince the world to align itself with my brilliant solutions.
I had just a few items of concern: riots in the streets, organized terror groups, defunding the police, Black Lives Matter, the cancel culture, politicians supporting Marxism, the sinister moves of China to take over Hong Kong, the viability of the NFL, the militance of the NBA, the mask mandate, the opening of schools, and the economy. Just a few issues! Oh, and then there is, as the apostle Paul said, my concern for the church.
Then I took my own advice. I remembered that anger is a secondary emotion. It arises as a defensive mechanism. My anger is there to protect me from intrusion, injury, and attack. Anger rises up to guard what is valuable. Used properly it provides God-given energy to give courage and cause action in the face of threat. So, I had to ask myself what lies beneath my anger? Where does the anger come from? And the answer is fear.
What Was Lying Beneath My Anger?
I had to admit, and confess to God, that I had allowed my spirit to become a holding pond for all the toxic run-off from the media. I harbored concerns about all kinds of things, from my 401k to the trajectory of the food supply chain. I was worried about the burgeoning national debt, and the self-imposed paralysis of our economy. I stewed about the attendance, offerings, and future viability of the churches.
Fear has many offspring, and it seemed like all the distant cousins had come for a family reunion in my backyard. I wasn’t paralyzed in panic or losing sleep. I was not experiencing quaking knees or sweaty palms. It just felt ominous, like a distant thunderstorm. I felt surrounded by issues I couldn’t directly solve or even address.
The Lord Set Me Free from Anger and Fear
Then the Lord gave me two verses that have been an anchor for my soul.
“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6 ESV).
Two things happened when I immersed myself in these truths. I confessed my pride in thinking that I was here to solve the problems of the world. And I realized that fear, once named and outed, loses its power under the strong hand of the Lord, who alone is our Savior.
Those of us who are alert tend to be collectors of problems. We scan the world to be aware of the terrain. We want to be informed in order to walk in wisdom. We also collect other people’s burdens and listen with empathy to their wounds. But we often fail to recognize that we retain some of that tension. We carry it with us. We start owning some of the concerns. We worry and fear. And, it is always too much for us. We need to regularly offload the worries and fears imposed on us by the noise of the media and the ominous trajectory of the world. Only the Lord himself can bear it. The great news is that he is on our side! He can set me free.
Care for yourself. That’s not selfish. It’s as essential as putting on the oxygen mask for yourself first before you try to help another passenger. Lighten your load by examining the weights you have accumulated and calling on the Lord for help. Then we can really say with confidence, “What can man do to me?”.
Read more about where we find the hope that sets us free from anger and fear, and how we can pursue a ministry of reconciliation.