Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time
before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000.
Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.
Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire
her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she
earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.
Son of Fits of Rage
Jim Wilson's book How to Be Free from Bitterness is one of the best things ever to appear in print. I hope that overall opinion mitigates my uppitiness in finding some fault with it: in that book he wrote a little chapter called "Fits of Rage," which was not very helpful to me. It was great for diagnosing, but not particularly useful for curing. It's not that the chapter wasn't all good and correct in and of itself, but I couldn't figure out how to apply it. I just couldn't latch onto the how-tos of fighting this sin. I needed more detail and direction.
So...I here present my attempt at a sequel: "Son of Fits of Rage." I'm going to try to fill in some practical approaches to dealing with habitual rage. A few caveats, though, before I start:
I'm still in the process of learning to apply these things. I haven't gotten sinful anger 100 percent locked down -- committed a humdinger of an explosion yesterday afternoon, in fact -- but I have seen more significant progress in the past few months than in the past two decades of warfare.
To quote Jim Wilson's son, "Sins are like grapes. They come in bunches." And they are like grape vines, too, entwined with one another and with everything else they can get their greedy little tendrils on. So you will likely find yourself confronting putrid produce and vicious vines on every side when you attempt to rid yourself of this fleshly flora. I'm not entirely sure, but that probably is a good sign that it's working.
Your mileage may vary. I don't know if what worked for me will work for you. But I know that it is working for me, and that has been a very, very, very amazing grace from God, and I find myself pressed to share these thoughts a) to boast in Him, b) to perhaps be of use to others who struggle with this sin, and c) to keep reminding myself.
Consider that your legal fine print. Now on to the substance. The list is ordered, but it's not exactly an orderly process I'm going to describe. The list is not grammatically parallel, because I'm mixing principles and experiences and imperatives. So it's a bit messy, but battlefields rarely look like the pictures in home decorating magazines:
Hate your sin. Grieve over it. Despise it. Cry out to God for relief from it.
Yes, there's such a thing as righteous anger, but you've got no business trying to express it if you're plagued by unrighteous anger.
Understand that every sin is based in unbelief -- either disbelief of what God has said to be true, or belief of what God has said to be false.
Find out what kind of unbelief your anger is based in. My anger is based in a disbelief of God's promise to protect and guard me (ergo I felt I had to defend myself and fight my own battles) and in a false belief that circumstances should occur and people should behave according to my will and convenience. Explore your own motives in search of these and other forms of unbelief.
Be brutally honest with yourself re what your unbelief is. Mine is slander (i.e., calling God a liar) and rebellion (i.e., trying to usurp God's place as Lord of the universe).
I was able to get to the point where my most violent expressions of anger were reserved for circumstances (particularly those involving technology and gravity) and self (particularly when I couldn't control my anger...yeah, I tried to fight fire with fire...no, it wasn't the least bit effective). I suppose that was a step better than ripping other people's heads off, but it was still a flagrant display of my unbelief.
Redefine rage. Jesus said that if we look at our brother with sinful anger, we've murdered him in our hearts. I'll stretch that principle a little farther and say don't let yourself put sinful anger on a sliding scale. Recognize every annoyance, irritation, frustration, peeve, vexation, etc. as rooted in the same unbelief that fuels your rage. The little, petty forms of anger may seem less egregious, but they're like baby dragons -- never, ever safe at any age or size.
Start repenting of every instance of every sort of anger in the same way -- confessing the unbelief and throwing yourself on your face before the throne of the Almighty in recognition of the high treason you've committed and the damnation you deserve.
Recognize that the only escape from that damnation is His mercy. Read that quote from Lewis that I posted a few days ago: You cannot change your temperament. You cannot make yourself stop being the vile, blasphemous, angry person you are. You are utterly dependent on His grace to make that change happen.
Grace is real. The gospel is true.
Believe it, believe it, believe it.
Give thanks for it, give thanks for it, give thanks for it.
As often as you confess the sinfulness of your sin (see #8), confess the graciousness of His grace.
The whole process might look/sound something like this example (though it might not be so coherent and explicit): "Father, I am so sorry for getting irritated at the computer for running slowly. I confess that I have been expecting my circumstances to conform to my will and convenience. I confess that this is rebellion against You as the sovereign Lord of the universe. I confess that I have not recognized Your good and kind providence in ordaining this circumstance; I have not submitted to it and I have not been grateful for it. Father, please forgive me. Please do not treat me as my sin deserves. Please grant me mercy for the sake of Your perfect Son, my Lord Jesus, Whose blood has paid the penalty for this and every sin of mine. Thank You, Father, for seeing me in Him...for accepting me in the Beloved. Thank You for removing my sin as far as the east is from the west. Thank You for Your faithful promise to sanctify me completely. Truly Your lovingkindness endures forever! I love You, Father, and I gratefully rest in Your love for me. Amen." Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary -- probably about a thousand times a day.
Notice that I repeatedly addressed God as "Father." That one word sums up the whole thing: It admits the rebellion, and it trusts in the remission. It humbles me before Him, and it makes me secure in Him. It helps me to seek refuge from Him in Him, which is my only hope.
For a really good explanation of father hunger, which likely plagues you if you struggle with rage, listen to the recordings from this conference. Just be forewarned that, like Mr. Wilson's chapter on rage, it's heavy on diagnosis and light on cure. I wept through six of the seven lectures as the speakers vividly painted the causes and effects of father hunger. But the lectures are addressed to pastors and elders, and there wasn't much I could apply for myself. So I gave the CDs to my pastor, because I think I'd have despaired if I'd let myself listen to them again. Not that I'm any kind of expert on helpful tools for shepherds, but I've never come across one that I thought would be as helpful to church leaders as this one...at least when it comes to the difficult job of ministering to a hard case like me. ;-)
Well, I think I've been writing for the better part of three hours, and I think I've managed to download most of my thoughts on the subject. Perhaps I'll come back at some time and add more or organize better, but for now this is what it is. A gold star to anyone who's managed to read all 1,300+ words of it!
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 5:41 PM
On July 6, 2009 10:48 AMAmandawrote... Thank you for doing this work, Valerie. Anger is my most grievous sin (at least of what has been revealed to me right now!), and of course, it all boils down to idolatry.
May God grant us grace to truly believe Him and to live out of the power of the shed blood of His Son.
Running the race, Amanda Ewer (One of Tim Bayly's sheep)
On August 24, 2009 11:52 PMEmilywrote... I have wanted to check out the conference recordings on Father Hunger ever since they first came out. Maybe after this school year is running on full steam (we homeschool), I can finally take the time to listen.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on anger, and I especially like the C. S. Lewis quote!
And if I may be permitted to gush, I love your comments over on Femina and Blog&Mablog. You put things so well! :)
On August 30, 2009 4:07 PMLarry Whitewrote... Good to see you blogging again, Valerie, and thanks for mentioning it on Douglas Wilson's blog, which I recently returned to reading after a couple of years in churchless confusion. This is a helpful post indeed, as I am sure that anger lies coiled and entangled with all my other deadly sins, from which Christ is the only salvation. Sounds like that Father Hunger Conference belongs in my shopping cart.