An ancient memory pictures an event that occurred when I was four. I was busily engaged in playing with grain stored in the spare bedroom of a farm home where my family lived. My small hands were spreading the grain over the floor. What fun! Then, my father called up from the cellar, where he could hear the grainy scratching sounds. Clearly, I heard him tell me to stop playing with the grain. I continued. He called again. Several times, this happened. Then, I heard footsteps approaching the door of the room where I was playing. Those footsteps sounded to me like those of an angry man ready to call me to account for what I was doing. I had no desire to take the consequences for my behaviour. Unhesitatingly, I moved to the door, with its unusual lock device near the doorknob, and closed the lock. My father could not enter. But now, I was trapped! I found myself in a bind because consequences awaited outside that door. I couldn’t stay there forever, so eventually, I unlocked the door and entered the hallway. It isn’t surprising to note that in short order, I was bent over my father’s knees as he applied firm correction to the seat of knowledge — the only spanking that he ever gave me. In my assessment of the situation at the time, I thought that he was justifiably angry at me.
Anger is a normal human experience. Sometimes, anger lasts but a brief time, but other times when the wound is deep and the hurt profound, we may find our minds captivated by angry thoughts from which escape seems impossible. The joy in everyday life is marred as these thoughts take over. What can we do? How can we rid ourselves of angry and vengeful thoughts? The Bible tells us:
“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26a NIV)
However, it is not healthy to just put a plug in the anger and stop it up. We need healthy ways to deal with anger. We first need to admit that we are angry, so that we can deal with it.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave us all the highest example of how to behave towards those who have caused us harm. He said to His enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
Forgiveness plays a basic role in ridding ourselves of anger. Distraction can also be a powerful ally. Engaging ourselves in mentally demanding activity can override the dark thoughts that cling persistently. When one’s thoughts are busy with productive mental work, the mind has no space remaining. Dark thoughts are ousted.
Ridding ourselves of deep anger is a process. We need time and patience with ourselves. As we redirect our thoughts into life-giving, productive channels, in time, this, too, will pass, and we will have been able to navigate successfully past the storm of angry thoughts without causing anyone harm. We will have heeded the wise words of the Bible: “In your anger do not sin.”
Prayer: Loving God, thank You for the amazing words of Jesus, when He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Thank You, too, for our wonderful minds that enable us, with Your help, to live lives that find their direction in Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Grimsby, Ontario, Canada
Reprinted from the PresbyCan Daily Devotional with the author’s permission