Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –
We look at the news and see how anger is all through our world. Yet often we’re rightfully angry about things – it was revealed this week that our deputy prime minister in Australia (Barnaby Joyce) has had an affair with a staffer, got her pregnant, and is now leaving his family to be with this new woman. We keep being told that the whole issue a private affair and not a matter for public discussion; yet the more we hear that, the more outraged we seem to feel. If we cannot trust a government leader about his private life, what can he be trusted with?
We can also be angry about more mundane and day-to-day things too, like the slowness of traffic. These things upset us in the present, but do we ever stop to think why some of these things bother us so much? Perhaps you feel angry about the government cutting the pension payment, and yet open displays of racism hardly affect you at all. Why do you get ropable about some things, but could casually care less about other matters?
I have been thinking this concerning myself, and what I have noticed is that what I feel upset about now in the present has some connection to my childhood past. For instance, I feel irate whenever I feel nagged by someone, since my childhood is littered with memories when my father would rush me in all that I attempted to do – and then cursed me when I failed to do things ‘quick enough’ to the standard that he demanded. Racism doesn’t affect me like it would somebody else, for instance, because I wasn’t personally a target of it when I was a child.
Anger is an emotion that is powerful in the present because, if it is not expressed in safe ways (like writing a letter, shouting under water, or hitting rocks with a stick in the middle of nowhere) then it will eke out in destructive ways and hurt the people who love you. Anger comes out with snide words, hurtful jokes, rude glances, cynicism, impatient sighs, or brooding silences that you can cut with a knife. It actually hurts us too because our bodies can suffer somatic pain and illness as a result of its build-up. And since our world discourages any expressions of anger and tells us just to shove it all down and pretend like everything’s OK, we wonder why people are so angry these days. Yet trying to curb our anger in the present without having reckoned with its roots in the past will be like putting cracking icebergs with a toothpick.
Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us something very revolutionary about anger: Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (NKJV). Notice Paul does not say “Do not be angry; that’s not Christian”. He says it’s OK to be angry, but not to start the next day having ‘done business’, keeping short accounts with God and others by forgiving.
The question is for you and I is: how many suns have set on our anger? It’s OK to feel angry when others have hurt us in the present, but where does that have its hooks in the past? Have you safe ways to express your anger at what happened in the past, so that you can forgive those who’ve hurt you from deep inside your heart? Have you taken responsibility for the hurtful things that you’ve done to others and said sorry? May we start today and take our anger and wounds to God, so that He can restore us. Let’s pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that I have so often been angry. I have been hurt by others and I have hurt others out of my own pain. My anger has eked out in ungodly ways, and that has hurt me too. Forgive me, Heavenly Father. Show me where my anger comes from in the past, so that I may forgive those who wounded me both in the past and in the present. Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me, so that You may forgive me as I forgive them. Forgive me for shutting out my feelings; help me to accept my humanity (including my emotions) and to be honest about my anger, so that I can be set free from it. Thank You for being patient with me, and please liberate me to love others from the bottom of my heart.
I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.
~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.