Amazing Wrath, How Sweet the Sound

When I was a kid, I thought anger was a bad thing.  The only anger I knew about was the kind of anger that said “You hurt me, so I need to hurt you.”  I thought the purpose of anger was to inflict pain.  Growing up, I didn’t like that the people around me were angry.  And I hated the idea of God being angry.

From a very early age, I coped with anger by ignoring it, by denying it and refusing to express it.  I became so good at suppressing my angry feelings, I learned to not even experience them.  Anger was inside me, but I taught myself to be blind and numb to it.

It sounded like a good idea at the time.  I never got mad; I thought it was a wonderful character trait.  I sometimes even found myself wishing that God could be as understanding and patient as me [Pause for lightning bolt to smite John].

But as I came into adulthood, I discovered that when anger is inside, it eventually gets out.  I looked at my life and saw a lifetime of passive-aggressive behavior that I hadn’t even noticed.  I had gone through life, spreading subtle unkindness wherever I went.  And sometimes it wasn’t so subtle.  My anger issues came to a head one day when, in the middle of a crowd of people, I assaulted a total stranger.

That is a day I don’t like to talk about.  But I want to be open about it because it was a turning point in my life.  That day I learned some ugly truths about myself.  I learned that I – “gentle, patient, long-suffering John” — had a serious problem with anger, that my problem was out of my control, that it was harming innocent people, and that I needed help.

In the years of therapy and hard work after that day, I learned that anger is supposed to be my friend.  Anger is my body’s biochemical way of telling me that my boundaries are being violated, that I am being harmed in some way.  That anger is an important part of any healthy relationship between free persons.  That anger can be expressed (and that my boundaries can be protected) without malice and vengeance.

I will spend the rest of my life coping with my anger issues.  I am learning to accept the fact that I can’t take back the hurt I’ve caused, and that my past actions have broken some relationships beyond my ability to repair them.  By accepting and confessing these unpleasant truths about myself, I have become able to experience forgiveness – receiving it and giving it.

The truth has judged me, saved me, and set me free.

Among the many freedoms I have gained, I have become free to know God more fully.  I have come to accept and embrace his wrath.  My Father’s fiery anger is part of who He is, a GOOD part.  He has claimed the human race as  his children, and he has drawn a line in the sand (a boundary) between his children and the forces that threaten to darken and destroy us.  And he has set the full weight of his infinite Being against anything that would violate that boundary.

His wrath burns against the darkness that caused some people to harm me when I was a kid.  His wrath burns against the darkness that caused me to pass that harm onto others.  His wrath burns against the darkness that haunts me every time I have to decide whether I will deal with my anger in healthy ways.

But I know the Good News:  Darkness has no future, because my Father’s wrath has prevailed.

~ John Stonecypher

9 comments so far

  1. Bonnie Fairchild on

    You have opened your heart, John, and in the process have helped me reflect on anger responses. Anger IS present in all of us at times. What do I do with it? How are my children learning to deal with it? Giving and receiving forgiveness is key. I will have to give this topic more thought. Thanks for your post.

    Bonnie

    • John Stonecypher on

      “What do we do with anger?” I am proud to say that after years of therapy, I’ve learned a little about how to answer that. Feelings are like little messenger-boys that ring your doorbell because your body has sent you a message. The message of anger is “Hey, my boundaries are being violated.” That may or may not be an accurate or even conscious belief, but the messenger-boy gives you the message regardless. The key is to open the door and hear the message fully. When the message has been properly heard, the messenger-boy’s job is done, so he eventually goes away. For me, hearing the message usually requires me to verbalize the feeling. Just saying “I feel anger” is sometimes all it takes. Or I journal or tell a friend about my feelings.

      Once I acknowledge and accept that I feel angry, it’s time to think about what it is I’m feeling angry about. Usually, it’s just that somebody did something I didn’t like, but they have every right to do it, and it’s my job to accept that I can’t control other people’s behavior. But if someone is actually violating my boundaries, it’s my job to do whatever is necessary to protect myself. I can say “Hey, stop that” or I can remove myself from the situation.

      St. Paul sums it up just fine: “Be angry, but do not sin.” I feel anger when I believe my boundaries are being violated. This belief can be conscious or unconscious, accurate or inaccurate. But when I feel the feeling, it’s my responsibility to DEAL with it. If my boundaries really are being violated, it’s my job to say “HEY, I don’t like what you’re doing. Please stop.” Or sometimes the only thing we can do is talk to a friend or journal about it. The key is to feel the feeling, and let it pass when it’s ready.

      The BIG thing that I’ve learned is that anger does NOT mean that I want to hurt the other person.

  2. John Geerlings on

    Hi John
    Thanks for your transparency!
    Out of this blog flows further questions and thought!
    Was anger part of creation and redemption?
    Was there anger in the Garden of Eden? (Satan was there)
    Did anger come as result of the fall?

    God is Love! This stands on its own apart from what we believe and in this Jesus became “flesh” and immersed in our anger and displays a righteous human response so that we may come to see Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s forgiving love dimly in our healing souls in space/time.

    His reality of love becomes wrath for me as I stumble, fall, kick against the finished work of Jesus in my own disobedience and unbelief. jg

  3. Ben on

    Thanks for this openness John. My issues with anger and impatience are becoming more obvious as well, especially as a house-husband. God’s peace is becoming a more meaningful and desirable reality, although it’s often elusive.

  4. Boyd Merriman on

    John, that is what confession to one another is all about. If only we were that open, that honest.

    Many things in our lives we think we have control over, is only us hiding the truth that is in us and pretending in the eyes of others to be “good” and “perfect” and “without sin”. “Whoever says they are without sin, is a lier and the truth is not in them.”

    We do a lot of things that appear to be righteous, and the unrighteousness speaks so loud, the righteous cannot be heard.

    Thanks for the pointed reminder to look into our LIEves and let the Truth speak it out, and reveal it. Then and only then will the truth set us free.

    (Even as I write this and agree (amen) with it, I still fear and hold back truths within me. Oh wretched man that I am…)

    Boyd

  5. Michael William Smith on

    One of the best blog posts I have ever read! That is no joke. Thank you brother!

    • John on

      Wow, thanks! I find that the more open I am about the things I’m ashamed of, the less hold shame has on me.

  6. Kimberly Spyker on

    I so agree with Michael. It is wonderful to see such honesty and authenticity! Thank you, John for sharing! Cloud and Townsends’ books on Boundaries have really helped me with my anger over the years.

  7. tim parker on

    I really don’t see what the ‘fuss of anger’ is all about, for if we get angry, as long as we have the righteous anger of Jesus and ultimately let him deal with the darkness causing us to anger, then we can maintain control. The key is not to loose it, so we have that marvellous apparently contradiction in terms,situation of controlled anger. Just let it be..with Jesus, thus, as and when, …no problem eh?


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