Welcome to part two of a three part series on temptation, specifically Stress, Anger, and Lust. If you want to read more about Stress, then check out part one in the this series. Here is a brief introduction and an excerpt from Stress.
Check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation. Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!" No. On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing. The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.
Anger. Gary Chapman is wonderful author whose works continue to help scores of people grow and mature in their relationships with one another and with God. The Five Love Languages was ground breaking in its contribution to romantic relationships, family relationships, and even friendships. He has another exceptional work exploring the emotion of anger. Listen to what he says in Anger, Taming A Powerful Emotion.
"Anger is a cruel task master. If you struggle even a little with anger, you know how it feels to get mad too easily. To lash out at someone you love...to hold onto frustration. You might even notice others seem uneasy around you. You know anger is hurting your life, but you don't know how to fix it. There is hope. When you understand why you get angry and what to do about it, you can change the course of your life for the better. Whether your anger is quiet or explosive, if it's clouding your judgment and hurting your relationships, it needs to go. Learn to handle anger in healthy ways, starting today."
If you feel like anger is something of a temptation for you or if you are way beyond temptation because this emotional trap has a grip on your life, then Chapman's book would be a great start for you!
People have always struggled with the temptation of anger. Consider Cain and Abel. The first children of the world, Adam and Eve's two sons, record the first murder of history...anger. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find guidance for how to deal with this ancient temptation. I love Paul's encouragement to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, "But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." (NLT)
Paul knew that Timothy would be tempted by anger, especially in the face of brutal persecution. His instruction to "keep a clear mind" was a warning to not capitulate to the emotion of the moment. And Paul's directive here is not a list of miscellaneous tasks. Paul is teaching Timothy and us there is a causal relationship between having a clear, calm mind and being diligent in pursuing our assignment! So many times, the anger that is manifesting in a situation is born out of frustration with ourselves because deep inside we know we are neglecting something that God is asking of us. Too often, the anger of the moment is bleeding over from a separate circumstance. Paul is reminding Timothy that life is going to bring enough temptation for anger. And that if he becomes negligent in his calling, his assignment, that internal frustration will make him even more vulnerable to anger.
Verses like these are an opportunity for us to examine our lives and see if we are truly submitted to the authority of Scripture. I can believe the Bible is true. I can value the wisdom I find there. I can feel loved because of the great many promises God speaks over me in His verses. But at some point I must reconcile my life to the boundaries of God's Word. Scripture is instruction, sacred instruction from our perfect God. And here in 2 Timothy, we find a profound insight for dealing with anger. Ask yourself, "Am I neglecting anything that I know God expects of me?" If you can answer yes to that question, you are vulnerable to the temptation of anger.
There is no easy fix to dealing with the temptation of anger, especially if this has been a struggle for you. Temptations can become patterns in our lives. Our humanity can grow familiar with certain temptations like anger to the point we become accustomed to acquiescing instead of resisting. But there has to be a starting point for your counter attack! And I believe that for many, that starting point is to find your resolve to recommit yourself to whatever expectation from God you have been forsaking!
In 1991, my first year as a devoted follower of Jesus, I began to read the Bible in earnest for the first time in my life. I began to read with a heart that was ready to embrace the authoritative voice Scripture must be for us all. And I remember coming to Exodus 34:6 and I can't recall the version I was reading that day but I memorized this rendering about God, "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and truth."
May we all be a better reflection of His character to our world...slow to anger.