To lick your wounds,
to smack your lips over grievances long past,
to roll over your tongue the prospect of better confrontations still to come,
to savor the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back –
in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.
The chief drawback is that what you
are wolfing down is yourself.
The skeleton at the feast is you.
Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words.
Anger is consuming. It consumes from the inside. If it breaks out, anger manifests itself in bursts of harsh and brutal words or, evenworse, in a deep unrelenting black hole of silence that absorbs joy and love and leaves nothing but emptiness and isolation.
Does the Bible have anything to say about anger? You bet. One story is about Jacob and his beloved and cherished wife Rebecca. They got into anargument because Rebecca could not get pregnant. She yelled at Jacob, blaming him. He yelled back, “Oh no, Honey, don’t you look at me, this is between you and God.” She fired back, “Fine, if that’s what you think, take my servant and see if you can get her pregnant.”
And he did. (Genesis 30:1-5)
The first Christian martyr, Stephen, was killed because of anger. He spoke to a group of Israelite leaders and they became so angry they rushed at him and struck him with stones. (Acts7:54-58)
Jesus talks about anger in a parable about the sower of seeds. Some seed didn’t grow because the “cares of the world” choked the word. Another way to look at the “cares of the world” is to say anger that the world produces will suffocate your awareness of God’s presence and all that is holy in life. (Mark 4:19)
Anger choked a civil conversation between Rebecca and Jacob. Anger caused some religious leaders to choke out the life of Stephen. And, I’d bet that unreleased anger is causing you some harm, too.
Frederick Buechner wrote that anger is the most fun of the seven deadly sins. I’d say that it may be the most deadly, as well. It strangles spirituality, it suffocates relationships, or, it burns like fire and consumes whatever is in its path.
How does God want us to deal with anger? I’d bet that since we are not created to handle anger well, God wants us to release it. I think we are designed with the need to unload anger. If so, God certainly has given us an outlet.
At the end of Saint Peter’s first letter, it iswritten that we are to give to Jesus all our anxieties and anger because he cares for us. (1 Pet 5:7) The anger that suffocates God’s word, and an awareness of the holy in our life, is what we are to give to God through Christ.
Instead of feasting at the table of anger, and finding that it is we ourselves who are being eaten, we are to give it to God. If you areready to give it over to God, try saying this prayer:
forgive me for my anger against you and others.
I have angry memories that are grieving me,
the pain my anger has caused others is dreadful
and the burden of my anger is intolerable.
In your mercy and love, release me from all my anxiety, fear, and rage.
Let your Holy Spirit wash me, cleanse me,
and fill me with your joy.
This I pray to you in Jesus' name.
May the peace of God be with you today,
- Fr. Dave