By Michelle Pang
There is a direct correlation between our emotional and spiritual health. We cannot begin the process of healing and spiritual growth when we are unaware of our emotional wounds. What we are unaware of, we will continually get stuck in. I want to talk about how unresolved anger in my own life almost ruined me.
I didn’t think I was an angry person until I got married and had kids. My husband and I are like night and day when it comes to conflict resolution. He, the avoider; I, the confronter. On our big move to Giheung three years ago from Suji where we had been living the past six years, we ended up throwing a lot of stuff away and bought new stuff for the apartment. The few items we had agreed on getting new were a couch, a tumble dryer and a bed. When other non-essential things arrived at our apartment without my knowledge, like a robot vacuum, I got upset. The thought, “Care to discuss these things with me, first?” flashed through my mind. I ignored the thought and buried my feeling. A few days later other things showed up at our door, a portable dish-washing machine, an electric mop. Resentment started building up on the inside of me. When my husband and I sat down for a talk, I voiced my displeasure and the reasons for why we didn’t need these appliances. He reasoned “it would be nice to have them”; however, that was not enough to justify for these big purchases. The thought that perhaps I was not a good wife and mother is what drove my husband to buy these things. I learned my interpretation was far from the truth.
You see, anger is an emotional response to either a real or perceived injustice. When I am angry it is when I think that I deserve something that I am not getting or that I do not deserve something that is happening to me. In this case, I felt justified in my right to be right and the right to be heard. Pride works hand in hand with anger. It has a way of manifesting its ugly side in and through us when left unchecked.
Other times when I brought up an issue of parenting with my husband, it was met with resistance and defensiveness. What I was unaware of at the time was that my words, spoken in passion, came out as hard and harsh. Not very loving. I would justify in lashing out, “I am not angry.” Most of the times our disagreements followed the same pattern. Me, bringing up the issue. He, feeling like it was his fault and didn’t want to talk further. Both of us upset. Unresolved anger and issues build resentment. Don’t give resentment any type of foothold for the enemy.
I am so thankful, as God’s children our stories do not end there, in overblown emotional reactions that leave conflict unresolved. I have learned that God is not necessarily going to immediately fix my feelings, the situation, or my husband, but He is going to change me, to expose the errors of my thoughts and my ways, so I can turn to Him and His perfect ways. What this means practically is to be quick to listen, quick to forgive, slow to speak, and slow to anger, just as our good Father is in all these loving attributes. But did you know that the flesh is also capable of performing these? Healing of emotional pain must not come from a place of doing more for God. It must start with being with God more. Being with God gives us eyes to see deep within ourselves any offensive ways previously blind to us. The Holy Spirit wanted me to face up to something much deeper. Underneath the surface and deep in the recesses of who I am, the Holy Spirit showed it is equally important to heal through my emotional pain. Not just for my own sake, my husband’s and our kids’, but the whole of our church and beyond. When I harbor angry feelings about my husband, my thoughts were accusative, “He is so…. etc.” The angry feelings won’t go away. The anger will manifest itself differently in different situation and with different people. Like a virus, it grows and infects others. In addition, how can I teach my kids to express anger in a healthy way when I am living the opposite and how can I lead others if I am living in anger? I don’t want to sin against God and others with my anger. I have learned to take a lot of steps back when the anger button hits and to process other emotions connected to it.
I am convinced that whatever the issue we are fighting about is not really about the issue at hand as it is more about the issue of our hearts. While we may sometimes be “right” about something, giving anger total control of our response to a problem will always be destructive and sinful. The enemy has a goal to destroy and separate us and an easy way he can do this is through offense. I have learned there is a difference between offense and offended. An offense is what happened – offended is our reaction to what happened. The will to choose is a gift from God. I can choose to not stay offended. God does this through the renewing of my mind by His Word. I can choose to not see my husband as the enemy. I can choose to surrender my desire to control him. Choosing to be offended is the perfect soil for the seed of anger to grow inside of me and it can build to the point of destruction, if I let it. On the other hand, choosing to live unoffended, by the power of God, will keep me in perfect peace (self-control) and pushed me into the purposes of God, for which He created me for.
If anyone had reason to be offended, it is Jesus. The One who sat at God’s right hand, participated in the Creation of the world and shared in the glory, honor and power of God, came to earth, and was scorned, mocked, ridiculed and ignored. The Pharisees continually found fault with Him and His work. But Jesus did not try to justify Himself or make people respect Him. He simply spoke the truth about God’s plan. For Jesus, ministry was never about His rights as the Son of God. His heart was to do God’s will. He was too busy doing God’s work to be offended by personal attacks.
By God’s grace, I have experienced joy through the perfect love of Father God. In His love, I can live fully loved and love fully. Joy and anger cannot co-exist. When I choose joy, I am no longer a slave to anger.
Discussion & Prayer Points
1a) What were you brought up to believe about emotions and spirituality?
1b) When you do get offended, how do you typically respond? Do you tend to express your frustration or hold it in? How does holding an offense impact our relationships?
2) “Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together” Ephesians 4:2-3 (VOICE)
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God” 1 Peter 2:21-21 NLT
3) What do you have in your heart to pray for in light of today’s devo and discussion?