Anger is somewhat like alcohol. To some it’s always wrong and arguably a little used wisely can be good. But, used unwisely or excessively almost always causes trouble.
Ephesians 4: 26 says “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Meaning anger in and of itself isn’t bad, it’s how we react to it that can make it bad. And, it’s important to deal with it swiftly and not allow it to fester and give it an opportunity to grow and consume you. Satan hates our relationship with God and others and he is all about messing up relationships. We play into his hand when we are angry with someone but don’t go to them immediately and get it resolved.
Anger is one of those feelings I’ve struggled with most of my life though it was usually a cover for fear. When I was fearful, I often responded with anger.
While grieving my anger was more striking out against the unfairness, injustice of Shaun being taken from us. True anger, not a covering for my fear though there may have been a little of that as well.
I know that doesn’t make logical sense because the cause of Shaun’s death was ultimately Shaun himself. But if you believe in a sovereign God, then surely He could’ve stopped it. Especially since we saw God work in so many miraculous ways the three years prior and just when Shaun seemed to have his life together, he’s taken from us. 3 years of God preparing Shaun and then instead of turning him loose to minister, God calls him home. That made no sense to me and made me angry though at the time if you’d asked me if I was angry with God over Shaun’s death, I would’ve said absolutely not, I’m just angry with the situation. I either wasn’t being honest with myself or hadn’t thought it through, because, ultimately, if you believe in a sovereign God, any anger at circumstances is anger at God.
What amazes me looking back is more often than not I truly had no reason whatsoever for being angry at the people, activity, event that I was angry with at the time. For you see, my anger was generally directed at someone.
And I wasn’t just angry, I was spring-loaded to the angry position. I could get angry at the drop of a hat and at times, looking back, for no apparent reason.
Someone at the beginning of the grieving process told us that it was okay, actually natural, to be self-focused while grieving. This may have been the wrong thing to say to someone who’s been pretty self absorbed his whole life. Now I had a good excuse to be self-absorbed and the language of self-absorption is anger. If you are reacting to life on how it impacts you, then more often than not you are not going to be pleased with what happens. The death of a son coupled with a self- absorbed personality and you have an explosion waiting to happen.
The challenge as indicated above is to handle and process anger appropriately. We fortunately had some dear friends that were willing to listen to us vent and seemed to know when to gently correct/refocus our thinking when the need arose. More often than not, they simply listened and empathize with us.
I’ve often thought that some of what counselor/therapist do is what true friends used to do, listen to you, correct you when they thought you were wrong and encourage you when you were right. Those kinds of friends are vanishing as we become more and more technological and less and less relational. The shift is subtle. For example, social networking is good for staying in touch with people but if we are not careful, we will discover that we have hundreds of social networking friends but very very few real friends that are willing to invest in us and us in them. Now we text people so we don’t have to talk with them on the phone. We are becoming a people that are to busy for friends and settle instead for acquaintances. One day you wake up and notice that you are very much alone.
And the problem is pervasive, we are becoming a people that live our lives alone and vicariously. We don’t really experience life through our own personal journey but rather live it through the movies we see, books we read and music we listen to. All these great technological advances are good but if we aren’t careful, they start controlling us and not us them.
In many respects I’m still in the angry stage, it’s just not as often, as severe are long-lasting. My anger now shows it’s ugly face when I sense Shaun is being forgotten. We don’t want people to forget Shaun and I respond unkindly, a milder form of anger, when I sense they have.
The challenge for me has been and still is to, as a counselor friend used to tell me, stop, think and act differently. To alter that slightly with respects dealing with anger, the goal may be to stop, think and direct my anger towards correcting societal wrongs. In short, to follow Jesus’s example which was to use his anger as an opportunity to glorify God and advance His kingdom. Not to use it to promote ourselves or our own selfish goals and agendas. Dr. Martin Luther King used his anger from being discriminated against to right the civil rights injustices of his time.
Anger is a great warning system that something isn’t right. If there’s a pattern in our anger, perhaps there is something wrong in the world that God wants us to channel our anger towards changing.