This past week I hid about a dozen people and stories from my Facebook newsfeed–and not for anything obscene or vulgar or scandalous. I have simply realized that my feed was displaying a litany of complaints and grievances from the minor to the severe–and all of it was from my Christian friends.
- One friend was angry that a nursing mother’s area was in the bathroom. Gross.
- Another was mad at World Vision policy change.
- One was perturbed with county school’s redistricting plans. Driving nine miles to school is the worst EVER.
- Someone was irritated with the healthcare website. Slow and painful.
- Some were peeved with those who were mad at World Vision.
- Another friend was annoyed that her chatty husband tried to talk to her while she was doing her devotions.
- Then evangelicals, liberals, gays, and poor people were “grieved” at everyone who wasn’t mad at someone involved with World Vision. (Because of children and poverty and stuff. You know.)
- Several more friends complained about weather (too cold, polleny, or rainy) and a few had some miseries related to vomit or ear infections.
- A couple foodie friends decried some offenses of the pesticide and GMO variety.
Most of the posts or shares were sentiments I’d felt or expressed myself, but for some reason, taken as a whole, I was just struck by the following impression.
Sometimes we Christians look like an ANGRY, miserable, disagreeable, and whiny lot.
I’m not saying that Christians actually ARE miserable and disagreeable and disunified. A few Facebook statements don’t accurately reveal what Christians are all about; however our prevailing anger, bitterness, and complaining words expose a lot about us to those watching.
Admittedly, I have written some whiny, complaining things in my day (ahem . . . potty training!), so I’m not in a position to stand in judgment of a gripe or a vent. Moreover, I don’t think we need to be dishonest about our struggles or lacking in transparency. Some of the conversations above were legit attempts to deal with important subjects.
So what, then? What’s my problem? A couple Scriptures kept rattling around in my brain all week as I thought about anger.
James 1:19-20 (NIV) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Did you catch that last line? Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (Jesus’ anger was DIVINE, so not in the same category as ours.)
Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
And again. Get rid of all . . . ANGER.
How do I feel when I’m angry or irritated or annoyed? I feel RESTLESS. UNSETTLED. Without peace. My study on rest taught me that God has designed us to crave peace and rest, which we’ll find in heaven, while Satan likes to needle and provoke the emotions that prevent it so that we’ll become hopeless and defeated. We give up on our quest for heaven when we don’t experience any of its richness here on Earth. Anger prevents rest. That must be why Scripture says in
Ephesians 4:26 Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
God knows we won’t be able to find rest for our bodies, minds, and spirits when we are tossing and turning with anger–or its prettier country cousins, ANNOYED and IRRITATED.
Now, I’m sure that a few of you are asking the same questions that I was asking myself. What about righteous indignation? I mean, Jesus got angry, right? He got out whips and overturned some tables, right? Right. And that’s not the only time Jesus was angry. Here’s one passage that really struck me.
Mark 3:1-5 NIV
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in ANGER and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
What I noticed was that, in this instance, Jesus DOES NOT act on his anger. He felt anger. He felt distress. But in his anger, he went about his Father’s business of restoring and giving life. Jesus’ actions confound the accusations against him. He doesn’t defend himself or even express his anger at them.
- How often do I swallow my anger, my complaint, my irritation, or my annoyance, choosing instead to simply act out of a heart for love, peace, and restoration?
- When there is a question in my mind whether or not my anger is “RIGHTEOUS,” do I opt to stay silent or do I opt to “get it off my chest”?
- Do I justify all my angry moments as temple-clearing events?
- Do I forget that God avenges himself, asking me to live righteously in quiet humility?
While there are dozens more verses on anger in Scripture, I was ultimately struck by the juxtaposition in my mind between ANGER and REST. Basically, that while we tend to focus on worry and anxiety as preventing rest, we might not acknowledge the barrier that anger, unforgiveness or even just plain old irritation can be to rest. One final verse, and then you tell me what you think of all this . . .
Proverbs 30:33 NIV For as churning cream produces butter,and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.
In my search for REST, I saw WORRY as an early enemy, but this week I think God wanted me to notice how STRIFE in my life comes from accepting, tolerating, and justifying negativity and an anger that DOES not bring about the righteousness that God desires for me.
What do you think? Could you relinquish any human anger to the Lord in favor of the rest and righteousness He desires for you?