|Being Angry With God|
Elisabeth Elliot: "A fool," it says in Proverbs, "gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man turns away from anger." Has anyone ever called you a fool because you gave full vent to your anger?
Lisa Barry: Do you know someone who acts as though it is their God-given gift to confront everyone on every little thing? Unfortunately, there are plenty of those people around, and we all have a tendency to be that way at times. What things make you angry? Is it noisy kids, careless drivers, incompetent salespeople or maybe school teachers who aren't meeting your children's needs?
Whatever our bent, we have those times when our anger seems to take over. So what should we do about that? Today on Gateway To Joy, Elisabeth Elliot begins a great series on this volatile topic. It's my prayer that we each come to God with open minds, willing to obey what He shows us. Here's Elisabeth.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, broaching the subject today which probably touches all of us in greater or lesser ways-the subject of anger.
We had a very angry woman in our church. Have you got one of those in yours? Maybe you are the angry woman or the angry man. Well, I trust that the Word of God will have something to teach you.
But this put people off. She seemed like a tigress in a corner. When people would try to approach her, somehow or other she would manage to lash out in a way that just made them back off very quickly. That lady was so angry that she was even angry at inanimate objects. I remember sitting behind her in church one time and she had put her coat over the back of the seat. The coat fell off. Well, she picked that coat up as if it were a naughty child and almost literally spanked it when she threw it back again over the back of the seat.
My heart went out to her and I thought, "If only there was some way to approach this lady and help to relieve her of this tremendous burden of bitterness, whatever it was." None of us ever found out. She left our church. I have no idea where she is now.
But the Lord tells us in Ephesians 4:30,31,32, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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."
I find it astonishing that people get angry at God. That just, well, shall I say, it really blows my mind, because where else can you turn? There really isn't any other refuge, is there? It is of very greatest importance to know what are the occasions of our sin-this sin of anger. What is it that makes you angry? You need to put your finger on the way in which it shows itself. To know the occasions will put us on our guard. To know how sin shows itself gives us the means of stopping it.
So as regards these occasions, one is made angry, for example, if he is found fault with roughly, or even at all. We get angry if we're slighted or spoken slightly of, or laughed at, or kept waiting, or treated rudely, hurt even intentionally or unintentionally, or if our will is crossed, or if we are contradicted or interrupted, or not attended to, or another is preferred before us, or if we can't accomplish what we set out to accomplish.
These sound like little things when we speak of them in the presence of God and in the sight of eternity. But these, and such like little things, make up our daily trials, our habits of mind, our life, our likeness or unlikeness to God, who made us in His own image.
You want to be like God, don't you? Surely you wouldn't be listening to Gateway to Joy for very long unless you had a deep heart hunger to be like Jesus, to please our Heavenly Father. So we need to discuss the things which hinder us from growing in grace.
I think I said that I find it astonishing that people get angry at God, but let me take that back. It wouldn't be astonishing, I guess, if they didn't really believe in God. Of course, if they were atheists, they wouldn't have a God to be angry at. But so many who profess to know and love God and seem to be true Christians, so far as their confession of faith is concerned, they nevertheless admit that they are angry at God.
Many radio listeners have written to me to tell me that they were angry with God, and they put it exactly in so many words. "I'm angry at God because of this and this and this which happened," or this and this and this which that person thought God should have done and God didn't do. It's a dangerous position to find ourselves in. Surely there is nowhere else in the whole universe to whom we can turn.
Let me read from that book written by the preacher called Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 5:15-20 he says, "Naked, a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This, too, is a grievous evil. As a man comes, so he departs. And what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him, for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work, this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart."
Which category would you put yourself in? An angry person or not? "A fool," it says in Proverbs, "gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man turns away from anger." Has anyone ever called you a fool because you gave full vent to your anger? Well, God's Word tells you that that is exactly what you are. "A wise man turns away from anger."
Well, suppose you just say, "But it's my nature. I can't help it. I guess I was born angry." What can I say, but to give you God's Word again? 2 Corinthians 12:19-21: "Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ. And everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder."
Well, now there's a description of every church, isn't there? I'll read that list again. I think that you would probably tell me that your church is just like mine. "Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder." Paul says, "I am afraid that when I come again, my God will humble me before you and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged."
That's a list of the sins of church-goers. It sounds very familiar, I think, to all of us. How far are we along the road to Christlikeness? To sanctification? Alas, most of us will say, certainly not as far along as we would like to say. But if anger is one of your besetting sins, may I urge you in the name of Jesus Christ to give that to Jesus?
Get down on your knees. This may help you-just a simple, little, physical act. When you have given way to anger, shown anger toward someone, hurt someone by your anger, or if you're just plain angry at God and not at anybody else in particular, I think it might be a help if you would simply get down on your knees, lift up your two hands and put that anger right there in that two hands. God can see it. Just say, "Lord, You know I can't handle this. So I hand it over to You who can handle it. Take this anger from me, Lord. Give me a gentle and a quiet spirit. Enable me to conquer this with the power of Christ."
That has helped me. When there's any unruly emotion that arises in me, not necessarily anger, but any other unruly emotion that I know I cannot handle by myself-fear, perhaps, jealousy, discontent-get down on your knees, put that thing in your hands and say, "Lord, I can't handle this. I hand it over to You." It's amazing how the Lord helps us if we're willing to be helped. The Lord God will help you.
Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger, do not sin." It may be perfectly legitimate to get angry about certain things, but let's be very careful that we don't cross over the line into sin.
Lisa Barry: And it's only when we come humbly before God that He can reveal where we are in relation to that line. For me, sometimes anger is just the building up of a little issue I haven't dealt with. Or sometimes it's asking too many questions when I should simply be still and wait on God.
If waiting patiently is your problem, then let me suggest Elisabeth's book ON ASKING GOD WHY. I think you'll find comfort there and a reason to trust. Here's where to write for purchasing information: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
We'll take another serious look at anger next time, so make it a point to join us then for another Gateway To Joy.