This is the third week of this Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy . This week’s lesson, “Why Me?” was actually about anger.
This has been a hard study to do. For one reason, it has been an especially busy week. I spent several hours last Sunday that now seems to have been an utter waste of time, instead of preparing for the school week and doing this study. And it just set me back all week. (It looks like next week holds a lovely set of difficulties, too. We’ll see how it goes on Monday. I’m praying it won’t be as bad as I fear!)
Another reason for the difficulty of this study is that anger is a really hard thing to discuss. I’ve heard, in Christian circles, various statements from”We should not be angry” to “It’s okay to be angry, it’s how you express or handle it that is the problem.” I’m not sure which statement is true. Even after this study I’m still not sure.
There is the often quoted Ephesians 4:26-27, “‘In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Which I just learned is quoting Psalm 4:4, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” Interestingly, in the King James version it reads a little differently: “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” Hmmm. . . . interesting. I don’t get it.)
There is also the great passage about Jesus angrily evicting the money changers and sellers of animals in the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, John 2:13-16.) This also seems to imply that there is a proper expression for anger, some way that is not sinful. (Except, really, that scene in the Temple? The Bible says that Jesus never sinned; but I read this passage and scratch my head! Looks like sin to me! I think if I’d have seen it in person I’d have been a little hesitant to go to him with my child for healing or blessing. But maybe I’d have been thrilled to see him kick the wicked thieves out of the temple?)
On the other hand, we have such passages as James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” I guess it’s not technically saying “don’t be angry,” but “don’t be quick to become angry.” So maybe the problem with anger is if it is your first reaction?
And then there’s Psalm 37:8-9: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” Personally, I get really irked when I hear about injustices against people, especially those who are unable to defend themselves. So I like this passage that talks about the evil people getting what they deserve. It’s certainly a better attitude than getting angry about things I cannot change.
Another thing that makes this week’s study difficult is that I don’t feel angry. It doesn’t seem truthful to say “I am not angry about my miscarriage,” but I have spent a fair amount of time this week pondering this and praying and not coming up with who I am angry with, or what I am angry about. I feel very sad, horribly sorrowful, disappointed that what I wanted to happen didn’t come about. I know that I have a hot temper. I think it is accurate to say that I am easily angered. I have been known to deal yell when I am angry and some days it seems I yell all day long.
(Of course, it could be just that this week and this coming week are so difficult and sad that I’m in shock. Got some difficult news Monday and some downright painful news Tuesday. Check back next week, maybe I’ll be furious. :< )
One thing I have learned the past few years is that anger is often not a main emotion. Often a person feels hurt, frustrated, irritated, lonely, sad, annoyed, disappointed, afraid, unloved, etc., and this emotion is expressed in anger. I have seen this many times in myself! (As an example, if I am watching an emotional movie and one of the kids gets into trouble I may lash out against them. I’m not truly angry with the child. I am sad, afraid, irritated, whatever about what is happening on the movie.)
On the other hand. . .with whom should I be angry, anyway?
The biggest group of people with whom I have found myself angry this time around is the people who give stupid, thoughtless, and/or trite comments. Yeah, I know my baby’s in heaven; but knowing that doesn’t help my aching heart right now. Maybe I can have another baby, who knows? (I know: God does.) And yes, I am very grateful for the lovely children I already have.
(Honestly, though, after my first husband died I received such awful comments that I have severely limited the people I talk with about this miscarriage, so thankfully have not had too many nasty comments this time around.)
After talking about this topic with my hubby tonight, he pointed out that the regrets I have (wishing I’d not complained so much while pregnant, etc.) are a form of anger with myself. But as this week’s study pointed out, I had no responsibility with miscarrying. Neither did my husband or our other children. Even our son that I miscarried had no say in the matter (I did hear that idea, interestingly.)
The only one who had any control over whether or not my baby lived was the LORD Himself. I guess you could say this is His fault. And I suppose I could be angry with Him, except that I read and hear of His great love for us; of His plan to bless us; of His desire to see us grow and mature even in the difficult times. I don’t understand why He allows such painful things in our lives. But I know I’m not the only mother who has lost a baby and some stories I have heard just sound so terrible.
Besides, He is the one who heals us. Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Which reminds me of another verse: John 6:68-69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
One of the passages we read this week is John chapter 11, where Lazarus dies. Martha and Mary individually greet Mary and say the same thing initially: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verses 21 and 32.)
Martha, however, continues her statement. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I just know she’s asking Him for something, but I’m not sure what. I don’t think it’s to resurrect her brother right then and there, because of the discussion that follows. Maybe she wants the LORD’s assurance that Lazarus will live again?
Jesus’ reaction to each of the women is different; and I believe that it is significant that he rebukes neither of them, which I take as a statement of “there is no wrong way to grieve.”
With Martha, he discusses deep theological concepts like life after death.
With Mary? He weeps!
I have found myself weeping before Him; clinging to Him, as my Rock, the One who can make this all better. I know that nobody else can. Angry with Him? Yes, at times I have been. But who else can I trust?
Next week: “How Can I Go On?” I’m all ears for the answers because I have to continue with life here somehow, even though I’d much rather take a nap. 🙂