Everyone- everyone, has sin struggles.
If you’re like me you often look around and feel amazed by the apparent “goodness” of other Christians that you know. Are they always this happy? Are they always this kind to their children and their spouse? Do they really trust God as much as it seems they do? Are other people’s sins as ugly as mine?
But then I realize it’s quite possible people might think the same thing about me if only judging by small glimpses of outer appearances. In which case I’m afraid they would be wrong on several accounts.
Now, I realize as Christians we should not be comparing ourselves to others. 2Corinthians 10:12 says “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” I’m not saying its right- but I admit that it happens, and can be very misleading.
I need to remember that my standard of righteousness is Christ, not other people. When Christ is the measure, then I realize we all fall absurdly short.
When I look at Christ I see that all sin is incredibly heinous. To sin against Him to any degree or in any form is offensive, foolish, and destructive. We all too often view some sins as far worse than others. Often times we consider sin we never (or rarely) struggle with to be far worse than the sins that plague us personally. We hear about Christians falling into certain sins and say things like “I could never…” or “How can he even be a Christian?”
When we judge by human standards we judge some people to be impossibly righteous and others to be irrevocably sinful. What we need to do is look at the holiness, kindness, and majesty of Christ and then humbly examine ourselves- not so that we may quickly condemn or justify ourselves, but rather to be applying the gospel of grace in our lives.
My Sin Struggle
My particular area of struggling with sin is anger; quick, fuming, and ready to blow anger. I’ve noticed there is plenty to read if you struggle with lust, pride, materialism, etc. But I rarely see an article about anger, so I thought I’d write one based on my experiences.
Galatians 5:19-20 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
Reading this verse one day I felt my heart leap into my throat as I saw “fits of anger” listed among some of what I’ve considered to be more atrocious sins. Memories flooded my head of some of my not so flattering fits.
Really? Fits of anger listed alongside things like sexual immorality, sorcery, drunkenness, and orgies? In my head, it really wasn’t so bad.
Especially in the moment, the particular sin of angry ranting feels highly justifiable. Especially when you’ve been wronged, you’re sure you’re right, that person deserves to know etc.
Haven’t we all been encouraged at one point that if we are angry we should at least vent our anger to someone we trust? Maybe it’s wrong to lash out at someone, but at least venting to a “neutral” (not for long) party should be ok with God.
But then I discovered another troubling Bible verse that smacked me between the eyes.
Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
This verse really troubled me. Isn’t holding back going to cause your anger to sit and stew and simmer and eventually boil over into some kind of murderous rage? Is God saying that it’s wrong to experience the feeling of anger, and that if we do we should just ignore it?
Praise God, that’s not the answer either.
Ephesians 4:26-27 says “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.”
This verse teaches us that the feeling of anger does not immediately mean you are sinning. That gives me hope. It is possible to be angry and not to use your anger as an occasion to sin. God wills that the anger be dealt with by the end of the day, which means that God isn’t promoting long-term anger stuffing and suppression. In fact, if that’s what we do we give opportunity to Satan to lead us into further sin and destruction.
So how should I deal with anger? Exercise? A good ol’ punching bag? I have the feeling (and I know from experience) that using physical means to burn off anger is nothing more than a tidier guise for a hissy fit.
What Can Happen When We’re Angry
Oftentimes our emotions run ahead of us, causing one offense to bring to remembrance 500 other offenses and a long list of reasons why we don’t deserve to be treated this way. When this happens we assume the worst of whoever has offended us, and view ourselves as the innocent victim.
When let loose to run, our angry feelings and thoughts are often far out of touch with reality.
Sometimes we can even find ourselves ruminating on negative events in our lives that have nothing to do with the original cause of our anger, only adding fuel to the fire. We think so-and-so should be aware of our financial difficulty, chronic headache, irritating neighbor etc, and now on top of all this, they have heaped further strain. Somehow in that instant of quick and erratic anger, that person becomes the source of all our problems.
It’s in this instant we need to remember the Word of God.
James 1:19-20, 26 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires… If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
I suppose the way people experience anger differs. I’m not one to harbour anger for long periods of time, slowly building it up until it explodes and causes irrevocable destruction. My particular kind is quick, all to assuming, all too ready to rant anger. With it comes that unbridled tongue James is talking about. Growing up, this is how I dealt with anything that made me mad. Make sure the person knows every single thing that ticks you off, have a good fight, then forgive and forget about it, and everyone will be better off.
In and of myself, I am the total opposite of God (surprise, surprise): quick to speak, quick to anger, slow to listen. This does not produce the righteousness that God requires. It should also be mentioned that though I might forget about the nasty things I said and move on feeling great relief, the poor person I just hammered with my words may experience deep and long lasting hurt.
One last thing to mention is that sometimes we are not angry with people, we are angry and frustrated with our circumstances and with ourselves. If we really examine our hearts, we must admit that beneath the surface we are angry with the God we know is in sovereign control and is so easily able to take our problems away. That could be a whole other article, but I simply want to acknowledge this area as well.
*see part 2 for some biblical helps for dealing with anger.