How Can I Avoid Anger’s Trap?

What is a trap? Something that collects and keeps something else that eventually may or may not be released.

I believe that anger a problem because it could lead to some damaging words or actions. However, it is also a problem if it is stuffed down deep into our souls. I believe there it can cause deep and lasting damage. Eventually, the anger may surprise us with how heavy it has become. Much like a stone that is weighing us down.

There is nothing like sitting on hard plastic chairs for hours waiting for my turn in a line moving like molasses to bring out the very best in me. Recently I spent most of a Monday assisting my eighty-year-old mother with renewing her driver’s license at a local office of the Department of Public Safety. I had made an “online appointment” three months earlier but arrived and found two very long lines snaking out into the parking lot. We waited in these lines for about twenty minutes and discovered we were missing a document. We got back in the car and drove home to find it and just over an hour later, we returned to begin the process again. This time, after the thirty-minute wait outside, we gained access to the building and found our way to those hard plastic chairs. We waited there for two more hours. As we sat together, I began to notice more and more people were processed through and all the while my mother’s name was not called. Finally, frustration was boiling over in my heart and mind. My inner advocate propelled me up from my seat to ask, as politely as I could, how much longer we might have to wait. The receptionist went to go check and I found out that my mother’s name had never been re-entered into the queue. We were then assured that we would be the very next customer.

Honestly, when I realized an error had been made, harsh words almost spilled from my mouth. An hour earlier my mother had tried to advocate for herself with this receptionist, and she had been dismissed. I swallowed my frustration hard as I sat back down to wait about twenty more hard-plastic-chair minutes, which I believe should count twice. When I finally arrived back home, about eight hours after I had initially left my house, I did not process all that anger and aggravation. Those strong feelings turned into hard rocks that weighed me down for weeks. Good soul care requires that I be proactive and find healthy ways to process anger, fear, shame, and guilt. While the employees of the DPS are not my enemies, my disappointment with mistakes made can operate like strategic plots by an enemy power that seeks to keep me away from my Father’s business. What happened was a minor inconvenience, but I know it caused a great deal of stress for my mother. She now dreads ever having to return there.

Last week on the blog I wrote about the first half of Psalm 5. Click on this link to see the post.

This week I am going to look at verses 7-12 to see how I could have handled my anger better.
In the second half of Psalm 5 (verses 7-12), David continues to pour out his angry heart to God. He reminds himself of God’s character and asks God for what he needs.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

Psalm 5:7-8 ESV

Keep me in fellowship with you in your house. I thank you that I can approach you this day because of what you have done for me in abundance. I praise you this day for your mercy. Your love is my compass and provision. Please, don’t let my enemies, mistakes others make, or the unfairness of everyday life distract me from living out the life you have for me. Keep me on track with you and in step with you. I entrust you with all my disappointments and trust you to make these situations work out for my benefit, and for those I love.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction, their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
My enemies speak fluent deception, and even their compliments tear down. Please settle the score on my behalf and send them away. While they seek their own counsel, help me to always seek your wisdom first. You are my advocate.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:9-12 ESV

Running into your safe embrace is worthy of celebration. In your presence, I can sing and praise you in peaceful protection. There is always enough room for me in your presence. I choose to give thanks for all you are doing for me and those I love. I will take time today to hide with you.

Last week I talked about my granddaughter throwing a tantrum. One of the most tender moments I have witnessed is when my tall son-in-law bends down to the ground and looks into his tiny daughter’s eyes. He says, “I can see that you have some big feelings right now. Please use your words and tell Daddy what you need.” Psalm 5 is my heavenly father’s message to me to come to him and use my words to let him know what I need. He longs to hear from me and for me to express my anger and hurt with words, cries, and groans. He alone is always a safe place to run.

Lord, thank you. You are my Jehovah Jirah and you have everything I need. You are always ready to hold me in my angry moments and help me process through all my big feelings. Only you can help me avoid the trap of anger that leads to sin. Amen.

How do you process anger in a healthy way?

How Can I Be Angry and Sin Not?

Sometimes my two-year-old granddaughter’s entire body displays her displeasure with life and or a directive from me. Her tiny balled-up fists jerk about, her bottom lip protrudes, as a steady stream of “no, no, no,” alerts everyone to her frustration. As a toddler, her vocabulary might be limited, but her feelings are made crystal clear.

Flashpoint anger flares in my heart. Sometimes it catches me by surprise, but other times it is been on a slow simmer for hours or even days. As a child, I was trained in the ways of emotional suppression. Anger was never acceptable, and all unpleasant emotional responses were to be squashed down post-haste.

So how do I “be angry and sin not?” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV) According to the rest of this passage, I’m not even supposed to let the sun go down on my anger. So much for sleeping it off!

I believe that God provided the psalms for soul care. Each one is designed to help process difficult emotional reactions like sadness, fear, anger, and joy. Today I’m looking at Psalm 5.

King David knew a little about anger and frustration. He opens Psalm 5 by begging God to hear him.

1Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
(Psalm 5:1-2 ESV)

David asked God to hear not only his words but also his feelings expressed in groanings and cries. He pours out all of his frustration directly to his loving heavenly father. Processing anger with God is a healthy option for David and for me. God may already know everything, but he longs to hear from me even when it’s negative. I can afford to get real with God. Psalm 5 provides a liturgy for me to use to process my anger with God.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (Psalm 5:3-4 ESV)

Thank you, LORD, that I am truly seen and heard by you. As I wait for you, I lay before you my life and beg for your intervention. Life is hard right now and things seem very unfair. When I spend time with you, God, I can take a break from the evils of this world. In your presence are peace, joy, and light.

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:5-6 ESV)

Lord, thank you that you will level the playing field and it is not up to me to fetch justice for myself or my loved ones. You will handle all those who frustrate me or cause pain. Lord, guard my heart against becoming deceptive especially towards myself. Help me to have an accurate view of myself and others based on your truth. Only you can help me to acknowledge my anger and sin not. Amen.

The first half of Psalm 5 provides so much that is needed to process through anger. Next week, I’ll be looking at the final six verses to see the completion of this process.