We can change our actions faster than we can change our feelings. Love is not just feelings it is also actions. John 3:16 does not say, For God so loved the world that He felt good about us. God so loved the world He went into action regarding our need by giving.
John 3:17, perhaps not as well known as 3:16 supports this problem-solving tool. “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
The following scenario illustrates changing actions faster than feelings and may have been experienced by some reading the following illustration:
Feuding, fussing and verbally fighting
Two people are in a heated conversation – feuding, fussing and verbally fighting. The telephone rings. The party answering the telephone says calmly, “Hello.”
Changing our feelings faster than our actions is possible if we master God’s solution as stated in Ephesians 4:26: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” To which many protest, “Easier said than done.”
True. But God does not command we do something He will not make us sufficient to perform. Then why is His admonition so difficult to enact?
There is a dynamic aspect to anger that renders us seemingly powerless to conquer anger. Identifying this aspect gives us the upper hand in our human struggle to practice God’s precept. Before explaining it, let’s examine anger as a subject defining it intellectually and operationally.
Webster defines anger as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong; wrath.
Dr. James Dobson describes five levels of anger: mild irritation, a dripping faucet; indignation, reaction to something unfair or unreasonable; wrath, never goes unexpressed; fury, suggests violence, strikes out against another; rage, most intense level of anger, brutal acts committed some times without conscious thought.
The sleeper in Dr. Dobson’s list is indignation. In 35 plus years of counseling, including 12 years in the correctional chaplaincy field, I see this level highly operative in the form of unresolved anger. Simply defined, these are anger and resentment issues people choose to hold on to.
All the above definitions, elements and actions attached to anger miss the reason anger is difficult to control. Note, I did not say eliminate.
Anger is present in our life-experiences in the range Dobson states. Our manner of handling anger has been an element of human behavior immediately following the fall of mankind.
However, as noted above, God gives us the where-with-all to channel anger – His grace sufficient for our needs. Knowing the dynamic of this one inherent factor in anger allows us to control our anger. Here it is:
Anger has an agenda; anger wants someone else to pay!
To illustrate this I offer the following description: If anger could be removed surgically, as many of our internal organs can be, and placed on a tray it would be in constant motion.
Anger figuratively says, “There is a debt due and payable to me; I will not subside until I am paid in full - plus interest.”
This is why I see it as unresolved anger. No payment will suffice as long as anger is allowed to run it’s insatiable course. Anger is never satisfied. If it is active it is operative.
Webster’s defining of the word also gives valuable insight wherein it states “…anger is sometimes aroused by a real or supposed wrong. Regarding this aspect of solving anger as an issue, I say, “It is funny how two people see the same thing differently – funny peculiar not funny ha-ha.”
Think back several lessons when we learned there is always a certain amount of right and a certain amount of wrong on both sides of every issue.
The negative effects we feel physically, mentally, emotionally and Spiritually regarding unresolved anger should be motivation for controlling anger. Following is a truism both biblically and medically speaking: A bowl holding acid (anger), is eaten by the acid (anger).
Hebrews 12:15 warns: “Looking diligently lest any fail (Greek: to be inferior, i.e. lacking God’s grace because we do not appropriate it) of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness* springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”**
*Webster: …aroused by a real or supposed wrong characterized by or showing intense hostility.
**Life Application Bible Commentary, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: “Like a small root that grows into a great tree, bitterness springs up in our hearts and overshadows even our deepest Christian relationships. Bitterness comes when we allow disappointment to grow into resentment, or when we nurse grudges over past hurts. Bitterness brings with it jealousy, dissension and immorality. When the Holy Spirit fills our lives, however, He can heal the hurt that causes bitterness (TCL: anger).”
Rev. Thomas (Tom) C. Lacy, Advisory Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance and Founder and Director, of New Hope Counseling Service.