Here’s a fun topic…ANGER. Who wants to talk about that? I do! Not really, but we’re gonna give it a shot anyway. We’ve all felt it…the sudden rise in our blood pressure, the feel of our face getting warmer, our muscles tightening, our breathing accelerating until we finally explode. Anger, it’s ugly. Sometimes very ugly, but we’ve all felt it. There are those moments of anger where self-control gets lost and we explode due to the circumstances. The pressure is released and we begin to pick up the pieces of what’s left in the wake of our storm of anger. But that is a whole other blog topic.
There is another type of anger that isn’t always talked about. It’s not momentary, but rather, long lasting. It’s the type that sticks with you, hardens your heart over the years and changes you. This type of anger lies to you. Makes you believe relationships and decisions don’t matter. Before you know it, you’re living a life of justifications and bitterness towards life circumstances.
Last weekend, I met a couple whose journey and pain touched my heart deeply. During our Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat (a retreat for those struggling with the emotional, mental and spiritual effects of abortion), the retreatants participate in an activity to help them explore and identify with their anger. They might be angry with themselves or someone who took part in their abortion decision. They may not even know why they are angry but through the activity, we get to drill down and work on these strong emotions. This is where my experience on the journey with this couple took a turn I will never forget. The husband…successful in his career, big and strong, loving to his wife, and ready to deal with emotions he’d stuffed for years, broke my heart and gave me hope as we walked through this activity together.
The goal was to release the anger, to give it to God and find freedom from chains that have held him hostage for so long. He was asked to pick three people in the group and express his anger to each of them. He hesitated as the awkwardness of this request set in. As trust took over, he began to move to the first person around the circle, said his piece and moved on to the next. The third person was me. I stood up, looked him straight in the eye and took it as he delivered his message of pain and anger, “Why did you help me kill my babies?”
I felt the anger, the bitterness, but I also felt the deep regret of this man’s heart, the pain of living years with sorrow for a decision made out of fear and haste. A life with questions that have gone unanswered, “What if…”. It was a punch to my gut. My eyes could not hide the pain I felt for this man. I wanted to look away in shame and guilt, but I held my gaze into his eyes for just a few more seconds until he made his way back to his seat.
But it wasn’t over…he was now asked to go back to those same three people and release them. Again, he started one by one, and as he reached me once again, I stood up and looked him in the eyes as he said, “I forgive you.” With all gentleness, pureness of heart, and love, he said, “I forgive you.”
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
We live in a world angry about a lot of things. We are fed anger by the media and through other social experiences. God has asked; required us to let go of such things, even when we feel justified. For bitterness grows in the soil of justification and it will poison our souls. It gets in the way of God’s plans for your life. Therefore, anger must be released and dealt with in a Godly way. What would happen if…
- we focused more on forgiveness than judgement?
- we chose to forgive rather than live in justification?
- we allowed ourselves to experience the vulnerability of forgiveness and grew in hope, love and peace?
That is what forgiveness did for this man. After blessing each of us with forgiveness, he was asked how that practice made him feel. With tears in his eyes he looked up and said, “I feel free.”
Lord, I pray that this message speaks to the heart of anyone living with anger in their hearts. That they hear your voice calling them to freedom from their anger, bitterness and hurt. Lord make us vulnerable to one another, allowing our hearts to reveal compassion and safety for each other. We cannot live the life you created us for holding on to anger. Lord, heal us and help us. In your name, Amen.