Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Seeing Red

Recently I've found myself feeling angry a lot.

There are lots of contributing factors, some more reasonable than others.

Let's start with those categorically superfluous Minion things. They were mildly amusing in Despicable Me, but like a nauseating jaundice virus, these blobs of doom are now everywhere, at all times; taking over the television, the cinema, the supermarket, and my newsfeed. It's not the iRobot dystopia we need to worry about people, it's the iMinion one. And let's face it, most of the time, they're not even mustering mildly amusing anymore. In some places, they're even trying to be profound- as if a Homer / Mr Blobby mash-up might somehow make statements (and capitalisation ) such as - "Pretending to be happy When you are in pain, is just an Example of How strong you are as a person." acceptable. (This is a direct quote from "Minion Quotes", by the way.)

Or another current favourite, garden tools. The other day our landlord told us he'd like us to clear the garden. Initially a confusing request, it turned out that by "garden" he meant the wilderness out the back where the garbage-collecting fox lives.  He asked us to clear up the grass with a rake. By "rake", it turned out he meant a combination of a vaguely pointed stick and an entirely separate, severely rusted sort of comb-shape that's been disintegrating in the "garden" since we moved in. When I pointed out that usually rakes comprise of those two parts being together, he went away and, rather than spending the five pounds I assume it costs to buy a new rake on buying a new rake, apparently spent it on Pritt-Stick and "fixed" it himself.  To be fair it did work for about six and a half minutes, but then the parts decided they preferred living separate lives, and so I spent the rest of the time attempting to clear the fox wilderness with a severely rusted sort of comb-shape, while the stick went back to being a stick.

I feel angry about things beyond rakes and minions though, and here it feels more serious: mistakes of others at work that have a far-reaching impact that I can't change; circumstances of friends and beyond that seem desperately unfair and unsolvable; the relentless torrent of horrific news stories ; the response and 'solutions' to these stories often argued out superficially through provocative sound bites or trite memes; conflicts in priorities (at work, at church, at home) where the other party's point of view seems absurd or damaging; of course, there's more.

In all these things- from landlords to minions to terrifying examples of actual evil- life is essentially beyond my control: things are happening or have happened that I feel shouldn't be, or shouldn't have,  or they are not happening and have not happened in a way that makes no sense to me and yet I can't do very much about it... and I start to see red. And sometimes anger is okay.

But the other day, when I heard myself declaring, aloud: "cushions are the bane of my life!" I realised that I probably needed to get some perspective, and figure out a Biblical response to anger.

Yes, there can be legitimate reasons for it, but Ephesians 4:26 says loud and clear:  "Be angry, and do not sin,"  and "do not let the sun go down on your wrath". As my sister pointed out, moving to Finland or Alaska is one option- but in the meantime, if only for the sake of my soft furnishings, I need to figure out a better response on those days and in those moments when I see red.

So, here are some of the ways I'm trying to gospel myself in this area (you may have some tips yourselves- do share!), particularly with those things that make me angry that I cannot change or control.

As I have been known to say frequently to arrogant year nine pupils (otherwise known as year nine pupils): "You are not the boss of everyone in the universe. Thankfully, for everyone in the universe." And the same applies to me. It is fantastic news that I am not King. Gloriously, in all things, the Lord Jesus is Christ triumphant, ever reigning; He is the Creator of the rolling spheres and the Potentate of time; He is the Name high over all; He is the risen, conquering Son; He is the crowned Lion of Judah who sits victorious and reigns victorious at God's right hand. In my moments of anger I need to guard against saying, "I should be reigning instead!"

I need to get perspective, gratefully bow down low and joyfully say- there is a Lord who is reigning who is more wise and more good than I am. He is powerful and kind, and he does all he pleases (Psalm 115:3). There are ways he is working in the mess that I cannot fathom. He is always at work (John 5:17). He is the One who brought spoils out of the tomb and who has ascended with power and who is enthroned in splendour and majesty, and I need to cast whatever crown it is I think I have down before Him. This Jesus- this Warrior, this Healer, this Friend- has got the whole world in his hands. And this Warrior-Healer-Friend can make a difference: He is a helper of the helpless (Psalm 10:14) and He is mighty in battle (Exodus 15:3) and He can fight on your behalf (Exodus 14:14). He is not powerless to change things- so rejoice! And go, in all your helplessness to Him.

1 Peter 5:6 & 7 says:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

It seems that Peter is saying that casting your cares on God, and humbling yourself are connected. As I humble myself I say, "these cares are too big for me. My anger is too big for me. The world and all its brokenness and misery is just too big for me. But they are not too big for you: so I'm giving them to you." I love that the reason Peter gives for handing over our cares is that He cares about us. Humble yourself, he pleads, because your power is too small for your problems, but your care is too small too. Hand them over to one who is not only more mighty than you, but who also has a bigger, stronger, more robust heart than you. Not only does He have the whole world in His hands,  but those hands bear the scars of the love He has for it.

 In the midst of the red mist, I praise God for Jesus. Jesus never sinned in his anger. He felt angry, but it wasn't the self-righteous, proud anger of superiority. It wasn't him kicking out against God saying, "You're not reigning right!" He dealt with anger in complete and perfect righteousness- and the glory of the gospel is that He dealt with his anger perfectly in my place.

Because of the grace and kindness of God, my raging against God and others, my battle for his throne, my ugly frustration with others for not conforming to my will, in all- my sinfulness in anger was credited to the account of Jesus- and he paid the penalty for it. And because of the grace and kindness of God, the gentle patience of Jesus, his limitless forgiveness and forbearance with those who sought to usurp his throne, his complete trust in his Father in exasperating circumstances, in all- his pure righteousness in anger has been credited to mine- and I reap the benefits of it.

Sometimes I feel the anger rising and I worry it's going to consume me- and that's when I need to rejoice in Jesus: my angry, dark, selfish heart is no longer under a curse. The penalty for my sinful anger has been paid. I am free from its condemnation and from its weight- because Jesus got anger right, and now I am in Him. And gloriously, His Spirit is in me.  So that together we fight- in His power, side by side, against my sin that will one day be completely swallowed up in His glory.

As I praise God for Jesus, for the wonders of his perfect humility and for his unshakeable trust in God, my heart begins to be humbled- and I begin to see something other than red: I see One whose reign is loving and surprising and wise; I see One who I am united to, in all my mess, that I really can trust and cast my cares on, and I can begin to quiet my heart and calm down.

But I think it is also imperative that I stay away- as far as is possible- from those pesky, pesky minions.  


  1. Thanks for this post hun.

    Anger is a feeling I don't know how to handle well. Because in the last 10 years or so since I became a Christian I've rarely got angry. But since I've been back living with my family it's like the old me rears its back (and foul mouth), gets very susceptible and wants to be very very mean. Maybe I wasn't aware I had very old unresolved anger issues and should've addressed them a long time ago.

    Oh well. But like I said I don't often get angry. I'm not afraid of conflict, that's not the issue, I've just realised that when I get frustrated to the point that it makes me want to cry and squeeze the person's neck then it IS turning into a kind of anger that is nowhere near, erm, godly. Often I've chosen to do nothing about it for a while, hoping it'd go away after a little prayer before going to bed, bottle it up until one day another comment gets thrown at me and the cork pops open! And, well, if you happen to be anywhere near me in that moment my friend you are in for a treat!! I lash out and snap at folks for no reason. This sucks. And I'm not proud of it. Thankfully it doesn't happen very often and anti-anxiety pills aren't the solution, so with time I've been trying to learn from experience and my stupid attitude.

    How do I stop myself from crossing the line? Sometimes frustration is just frustration about stupid things or stupid things people/I do. Sometimes it isn't. So I try to recognise the kind of frustration that has potential to turn into anger. For some reason I get angry feelings towards people (usually in my family) who say insensitive things about my health or the way I dress/eat/live my life (the latter sounds very teenage-like right!!). My instinct is to choose the passive aggressive attitude, give the person "the look" and say nothing, not because I'm afraid of conflict (on the contrary it's what every bone in my body is asking for) but because if I don't let my words be few, as the bible wisely recommends, I might and WILL say things I'll regret afterwards.

    More than often this incapability of reacting in 'godly' anger makes me hate myself and so I cry a lot (as in, with tears and puffy eyes etc) to God and say sorry and ask for the grace to go to the person and apologise if I snapped at them, even if I think they deserved it... but like you said, I'm not the king and I certainly am not judge. Occasionally, before confronting the person, I pray and listen to this song which I find super encouraging. Hope you like it too!

    So anyhoo, tthank you for this reminder to stay humble and remember where our justice comes from. And just so you know I despise those minions too. Stay away, friend, stay away from them. :)

    Again, thanks again for sharing. x

    1. Sando, thank you so much for commenting and for being so honest!

      On reflection, I think this post could be a lot clearer- because it really only covers one particular type of anger- frustration with things you can't change- rather than the wider scale of things that anger can cover. Probably I should have spent longer clarifying because anger is just so vast and scary, and it could have been tackled more concisely and wisely in places; I think probably my extended rants about minions and rakes, though fun to write, slightly detract from how terrifying anger can be!

      But I definitely empathise: anger makes me despise myself for being so frustrated with other people and in it the worst kind of meanness rises up in me too! And although not being in control is a CAUSE of anger, I definitely think it's a consequence too. When it gets bad I can feel my emotions escalate and I really fear what I'll do if I totally lose it! I think what helps me here is knowing that a) the Spirit is our helper, but b) even if I completely miss his guidance and grace, there is nothing my anger can accomplish to overcome the Lordship of Jesus. This helps to tone down the fear that comes from feeling like all our actions are "epic"- but actually, we can't out-epic Jesus: His capacity to redeem is mind-blowing.

      But I do think point 3 applies. Because of Jesus, even in our guiltiest moments we can praise Him for his righteousness in our place. THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION still applies, even after the ugliest outbursts.

      Finally, I think that it's harder to keep cool with people who are close to you, and people who see you up close. I don't know if this is what you mean- but sometimes I feel when there are people poking about at the things I feel most insecure about, they are most at risk at being throttled by me. So I guess in the long term maybe we pray that God gives us peace about those comments that can most rile us or provoke our biggest insecurities. Maybe this isn't the case for you at all, but all the same- but I do think often when we see red at its most bold, our biggest need is to somehow, see Him more. The anger maybe justified- but even anger needs to be seen in the light of who Jesus is and how He's at work.

      Friend, I'm so encouraged that you're battling! The grace of God is at work in you- and will continue to be, I'm sure of it. Love to you, friend.


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