through His Word
by Ron Gallagher
Katy here. This post on overcoming anger is our 11th post in the Breaking the Chains series. Ron Gallagher uses humor and Scripture to show the affects of anger and its causes. This is the first time he has guest written for me, and I believe you will be inspired to give anger a second thought.
Among the many things that this contentious political season has revealed is the uniquely bi-partisan nature of anger. Voters are angry, politicians are angry, party leaders are angry, and even pundits and news commentators are angry. A news story earlier this week about rescuing an escaped Chimpanzee fit in perfectly. It followed a report about a political rally featuring clips of angry people inside an arena making speeches, while a crowd of angry protesters outside were holding signs, chanting, and shouting their disapproval of everything supported by the people inside. Next up, the chimp—screaming from the top of a power pole, showing his teeth, waving his arms, and shaking his head. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Now, is he a Republican outsider, or a liberal Democrat?”
Anger’s an interesting phenomenon. When I think about anger, memories of fictional characters come to mind. I see Rocky Balboa’s face being pummeled into a bloody pulp by Apollo Creed as Pauly and Mick look on. “He’s getting killed…” somebody says. “No,” Pauly answers excitedly, “He’s gettin’ mad!” Then Rocky begins to unleash a devastating attack on Apollo’s midsection. It’s as though Rocky is OK for Apollo to beat him in the head for three or four rounds, but eventually it starts to get really irritating, and once that happens, it’s a whole new world.
Other fictional characters, from ‘The Incredible Hulk’ to ‘The Tasmanian Devil’ to ‘Popeye the Sailor’ have cashed in on the idea. Anger has consequences, and when it shows up, people change—some to the degree that the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory folks would have to invent a whole new section. In any case, it’s an area that God takes special interest in, because some of our lives seem to be controlled by it, instead of the other way around.
It may be arguable that Jonah’s recent experiences had given him reason to be irritable, but God didn’t give him a pass on it, and decided to give him a lesson or two in anger management. The problem emerged in connection with the astounding exhibition of repentance and faith in Nineveh following Jonah’s preaching. It was a spiritual awakening of historic proportions, and instead of praising God for it, Jonah sulked in anger. The account of his response is brief and to the point. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1 NKJV). The Hebrew makes it clear that he wasn’t just mildly upset, either. Jonah was infuriated, and declared to God that the kind of response going on in Nineveh was exactly why he didn’t want to go there in the first place. The outpouring of God’s mercy and grace on them, was not what Jonah wanted to see, because they were unspeakably evil and didn’t deserve it.
When Jonah didn’t get his way, he went off into the hills to pout. God miraculously caused a large plant to grow up so that Jonah would have shade him from the sun’s oppressive heat. With the arrival of the plant, Jonah took some time off from whining. The KJV describes Jonah as “exceeding glad” for the plant (4:6b), and the NASB says he was “extremely happy.” To say the least, Jonah got a major uptick on his attitude meter and became the antithesis of his former self.
Then God sent a voracious worm to feast on Jonah’s newfound little ‘happy bush.’ He followed that by turning up the heat even more, and blowing some scorching wind Jonah’s way. It’s not hard to feel a bit sorry for the guy, in spite of his petulant response to the joy going on down in Nineveh, but we need to pay attention to the lesson, because it isn’t just about Jonah. Some of the rest of us have a hard time dealing with life when things don’t go our way.
Like pressure that builds prior to a volcanic eruption, there is always some kind of pain underlying and preceding our anger, pain that demands to be expressed. Whether it stems from physical distress, relational betrayal, some kind of oppression, spiritual frustration, or something else, pain brings the message it always brings, ‘Something isn’t right—do something to fix it.’ Pain and anger’s instinctive response is to take over management of the whole system. Its preference is to declare its message by lashing out to replicate itself in those seen as its cause. Allowing anything that powerful to take over can blind us, and disrupt God’s purpose for both us and the emotion He built into us.
God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” He might well have added, “Does it fulfill My purpose, or only cater to the impulses of your fallen nature?” Jonah’s response might have felt easy and natural, but it led him to impulsively hand the reins of an emotion loaded with energy over to people and circumstances beyond his control. He yielded to its power and blamed others for the consequences.
When Jonah hiked up to the mountains, he only elevated his physical point of view, not his spiritual perspective. The energy in anger is powerful. It can consume and shackle us altogether, and the question God chose to ask Jonah is appropriate when anger arrives and we’re confronted with our natural inclinations. “Is it right?” Am I looking at this from God’s perspective? Is what I’m doing/thinking/planning, etc., what He would have me do? Is my response going to alleviate the pain, or simply multiply it? After all, a monkey on a light pole can be angry and make a spectacle of himself, but it doesn’t accomplish much.
© Copyright 2016 by Ron Gallagher
Ron is a freelance writer, speaker, teacher, and blogger (www.gallagherspen.com). His objective in all his endeavors is to illuminate God’s Truth in a way that stimulates the mind, encourages the heart, challenges the cultural norm, and promotes ‘right side up’ thinking in an ‘upside down’ world.
anger, Pain, healing, Ron Gallagher, Breaking the Chains, Don’t Be a Mad Monkey on a Light Pole