I wish I handled situations with grace.
…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… [James 1:19]
I think a good way to describe me in times of stress and conflict is the exact opposite of this verse. I am QUICK to anger, and QUICK to speak; and I really don’t want to listen or reason with anyone or anything. I have always known this is an “issue” for me, but I had never thought of it as a “spiritual issue,” until today.
I went on a college campus today to meet with a few college students. I had never been on the campus before, so I had absolutely no idea how to get anywhere. All of the students I was meeting were freshmen, so they had absolutely no idea how to help me. I finally found a parking spot, only to discover that it was on the opposite side of campus from where I needed to meet students ten minutes ago, and I still had to get a parking pass. It was 90 degrees outside, I couldn’t find my license, and got denied a parking pass. I’m running my sweaty self all over the place for nothing!
To the normal person, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. And looking back, it wasn’t really a big deal at all. But in the world of anxiety, there’s a thing called “cycling.” People like me tend to take one small, annoying situation and turn it into a snowball rolling down a hill, growing bigger and bigger every second. My mind becomes clouded with everything that has ever gone wrong in my life, not just forgetting my license on a random college campus. Can you imagine how angry you would be if your mind was flooded with every annoying situation you’ve dealt with…ever?
For some reason, when I was going through my “angry cycle,” James 1:19 popped into my head. I think I literally laughed it away. I did not want to think about that dumb verse. I was too busy focusing on the very colorful string of curse words that I was screaming (in my head, of course). Later, though, I looked up the verse. Turns out, there’s a little more to it than that:
…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. herefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. [James 1:20-25]
well crap. My anger isn’t just a personal issue, it is a “separate me from the righteousness of God” issue. It is impossible to abide in Christ, the law, and the righteousness of God when I am allowing my mind to be overcome with anger. In my quest to understand what “biblical wisdom” is and actually practice healthy discernment, I am now face-to-face with one of my biggest obstacles. God calls me to be slow to anger, to be quick to listen, and to probably not curse as much as I do (woops!). When I complain day after day about the weak relationship with God I have, and he turns around and throws this in my face, how should I react? I should fall on my face in worship. Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes to sin. I do not want to look at myself in a mirror, only to forget what I saw as soon as I look away. Part of practicing biblical wisdom is learning what the Bible has to say about specific issues in my life. Will learning Scriptures like this cure my problem? Probably not. But it will show me how to overcome my struggle with sin. When my mind starts to cycle into a big ole angry snowball, I can remember what God says about anger.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. [Proverbs 14:9]
And I can’t help but think, “why?” Why does anger have such control over me? Why do I need everything to go my way, lest I fall into a pit-o-despair? There must underlying insecurities and internal conflicts about my “need” for comfort on earth, and the eternal comfort that God promises instead. When eternity is not a reality, then eternal comfort is not a very big deal. God’s gift of righteousness is not a big deal. Today, I think I would have traded eternity for a free parking pass…WHAT? There is something far more important than finding my way around NCCU’s campus, and that is a righteous standing before God the Father. The more I focus on finding comfort in the world, the more anger will build up in my soul. It’s hard to care about a silly annoyance when you have been promised an eternity in heaven with Christ. Unfortunately, remembering that promise is not a natural occurrence for me. My natural instinct is to build up worldly expectations, and explode with anger when my plans fail. I must remind myself, daily, of my end goal.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [Romans 8:18]
The world sucks. Our sinfulness causes us to suffer. Our pride causes us to fail. But when we can get a mere glimpse of the glory that is to be reveleaed to us, nothing else matters. It’s time to quit trying to take control; it’s time to quit letting annoying situations take over my soul. It’s time to focus on the eternal glory that will be revealed to me, through Christ Jesus. His righteousness has become mine, because my sinfulness, my anger, my pride, my control issues…those became his. I am reminded of a song that is so close to my heart:
you are good, you are good, when there’s nothing good in me.
Thank you for that.