Anger and Action

maya-angelou-anger-quote

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

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 of God. James 1:19-20

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,and give no opportunity to the devil. Eph. 4:26-27

I’ve been angry before.  I was angry at an injustice committed against another person. Surely this was the most noble anger.  From my point of view, injustice seemed like too tame of a word for what had happened. Surely such anger was worthy. Yet, instead of following God’s wisdom, I was angry and sinned.  I used anger to fuel hate. I used that hate and anger to pray for a man’s eternal condemnation instead of his salvation. I used that hate and anger to tell the Almighty Master of the Universe that he had no business going against that request. I used that hate and anger to elevate myself as the judge for who was worthy of heaven and hell.  I used that hate and anger to make myself God.

People are angry.  I took a semi-hiatus from Facebook this week and forgot just how angry people are. The anger is many times directed at injustice.  Even self-professed believers are sharing the quote at the beginning of this post to justify their anger. But, as with my anger, it quickly becomes a habit and is used for sin. Singing, dancing, talking, drawing — doing everything — with anger and about anger makes a person a slave to that anger. We may begin using anger as an instrument, but then we become an instrument of that self-same anger to accomplish its purposes. This flies in the face of the Word of God concerning how a believer is to act.

King David was against injustice. And he wrote songs addressing it, but his songs were not about his anger. His songs rested in God’s vengeance and justice being carried out.

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. Psalm 7:6

7Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

More often than not, David’s remembrance of anger in his writings were about the Lord’s anger, which had been kindled against his own people, even David himself.

So what to do with anger, then? Anger is a way to bitterness, not an alternative. Just as bitterness poisons life, so does anger when it is allowed to thrive in our hearts. As believers, we are allowed to be angry, but not cling to it even as the day ends. We are to put away anger — not make a habit of it (Eph. 4:31, Col. 3:8).

If I speak anger, I spread anger. If I speak justice, I spread justice. If I spend my breathe and pen for tearing down, I will have nothing left for building up.

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Being slow to anger is neither proof of blindness or weakness. True wisdom sees injustice, acknowledges it, and opposes it. But true wisdom does not act out of anger. May the people of God be seen and spoken of as those to cling to good and advance justice, not those who exalt folly.  May our anger at injustice not blind our discernment.  May our anger go down with the sun, and so give way to faith in God and his justice. May our anger give way to the love that builds up.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

In the end, I felt the rebuke of God toward my bitter anger.  For my anger had poisoned me so much that I did not know how to forgive. I remember praying and asking for prayer. I remember that it did not go away quickly, but over  months of daily praying and repenting and giving up the part of myself that was still clinging to that anger.  In place of that poisonous anger, God caused the healing balm of faith in his justice and love for mercy to grow.

What would happen if the last part of that famous quote were rewritten and taken to heart? So use that love. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. You never stop talking it. 

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

To love with all

Fall break means more time for reading!  This week I started Dr. Helen Roseveare’s book ‘Living Sacrifice’.  In the preface, Dr. Roseveare expounds on what it means to be “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12) and show love for God (John 14:21). At the end, she writes thoughtfully about what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

To love the Lord my God with all my heart will involve a spiritual cost. I’ll have to give him my heart, and let Him love through it whom and how He wills, even if this seems at times to break my heart.

To love the Lord my God with all my soul will involve a volitional and emotional cost.  I’ll have to give Him my will, my rights to decide and choose, and all my relationships, for Him to guide and control, even when I cannot understand His reasoning.

To love the Lord my God with all my mind will involve an intellectual cost.  I mist give Him my mind, my intelligence, my reasoning powers, and trust Him to work through them, even when He may appear to act in contradiction to common sense.

To love the Lord my God with all my strength will involve a physical cost.  I must give Him my body to indwell, and through which to speak, whether He chooses by health or sickness, by strength or weakness, and trust Him utterly with the outcome.

The sum of these apparent costs… could be considered as the sacrifice that I am invited to offer Him as the response of my whole being to His love for me in that one “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” (pgs. 27-28

How counter this seems to our culture that places emphasis on seeking personal fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy, whether they be in relationships, jobs, or even the church.  This is also contrary to our too highly prized personal autonomy, even where God is concerned.

Dr. Roseveare’s writing prompted me to asked some questions to examine how I view and live out the call to love with Lord my God with all:

1.) How have I loved the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the past?

2.) How am I loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the present?

3.) In what areas am I unwilling to love the Lord my God with my all? Is God calling me to sacrifice my affections to be obedient to Him?

4.) How do I see others loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? How can I encourage them in that?

5.) Am I putting my sacrifices in perspective by meditating on the great love of the Lord my God abundantly displayed on the cross and throughout my life?  Do I consider it a privilege to share in Christ’s sufferings? Do I consider the sacrifice not worth comparing to the weight of glory waiting for me?

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Buying a House (part 7 of 8)

It was seven years ago and February had quickly rolled around again. Year one of graduate school was barely half over, but it was time to think of next year’s housing.  This was a university town, and rentals went quickly. One roommate was moving out and the leasing office was raising the rental prices. My remaining roommate and I had to sift through decisions: stay and find another roommate? Stay and downsize? Move somewhere cheaper? But where?

I’ve had nine roommates and nine different living spaces in the eight years since graduating from college. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, our housing situations changed rather more frequently those first few years than I had anticipated.  Every year my roommate(s) and I had to decide if we wanted to keep living together, if we should renew our lease, or if we should seek another rental.  There was always the desire to lessen the financial burden.  The apartments in the “safe” parts of town were quite expensive.  Another lack of permanency is the changefulness of roommates.  They may back out of commitments. They can sign a lease, and then decide to leave early.  They may get married, as four of mine did.  They may take jobs out of the area.  I believe many other single women (and men) also sense this lack of permanency inn housing situations.  When my living conditions are in a state of flux, I often feel that the rest of my life is, too.  At those times, marriage seems like the ideal solution.  If nothing else, at least the roommate would be permanent.

While housing can be an annual issue for singles, a single woman does have a lot of freedom when deciding where to live.  For example, there are no husbands or children to take into consideration.  Be that as it may, a single woman can feel the pressure of those around her when picking a place: “Why do you need a house, you’re just one person?” “So-and-so would be great roommate, you should ask her.” “Why do you want to live alone?” “Why don’t you live with your parents and save money?”

One of the scariest decisions I have made was the decision to buy a house.  I had always thought that I would buy a house, but I never meant to do it alone.  While I knew of a handful of single women who were homeowners, I didn’t think I had the courage to do it.  I was still encumbered with the philosophy that if a woman wanted to marry, she had to present herself as marriageable.  I was afraid that buying a house as a single woman in her late-20s would send one of two messages.  The first message I was afraid to send was that I was too strong to need a man or that I’d at least be difficult to lead.  The second message was that I had resigned to my singleness by giving up and buying a house. Buying a house seemed dauntingly permanent.  I was afraid that I would be cementing my singleness as well.  I was afraid of the stigma I might attract.  I was also afraid of this new change in plans that didn’t seem to lead to marriage.  Just like grad school was a change in my original plans for my life, buying a house while unmarried was another great change.

As deeply as I felt these fears, I also knew that apartment living, even in “nice” apartments can still be rough and downright expensive.  I was tired of my upstairs neighbor who banged mercilessly on the wall when I practiced piano (with headphones) at an hour he deemed too early.  I was tired of throwing money into the rent vacuum.  I was tired of the apartment pool drama outside my window and my neighbors’ intoxicated/high shenanigans. I had also just “lost” my roommate to marriage (She is still a sweet friend and I don’t regret this ‘loss’ at all).  I was looking at a single rental, which, in a safe apartment complex would cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment on a small house. I planned to buy a few years later when I was in my 30s, but I had also been keeping my eye on the market to see what was available and the prices.  I found a home I liked on Zillow (it was the kitchen) and e-mailed a realtor who also “happened” to be our music deacon.   I’m not really in the market for house hunting, but I have just one I want to see and since I don’t know what I’m doing, would you show it to me, please?  I spent two hours looking through the house and several conversations with my realtor and my dad regarding the finances and logistics.  Logistically, the process was smooth and simple. I had a real estate agent I knew and trusted.  All the inspections and negotiations went quickly.  Emotionally, however, the process was more difficult.  I remember praying through the process.  Several times, I would panic and think, “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  What makes me think I can buy a house?” I would often remind God (as if he needed it) that I was going to buy a house since that seemed like a wise decision and an opportunity he was giving me.  If it wasn’t from him, I begged that he would take that opportunity away from me. Long story short, I wrote a really big check and bought the house.  Three years later, I still really like the kitchen.

There are many lost hopes that I could regret.  I could regret that I didn’t save, dream, and buy with a husband.  I could regret that when I walked through the house, I didn’t have a family of my own to envision living in these spaces.  I could regret that I didn’t have a husband to lean on for making the decisions.

As much as I could focus on regret and resent that my fairy-tale plans weren’t actualized, I have much more cause for thanksgiving. I had a wise real estate agent who was a trusted friend. His wife was a constant source of enthusiasm and encouragement through the buying process.  She even gathered several of my close friends to host a shower with other ladies from the church.  She lovingly planned and wrote prayers and scriptures to be prayed through my house by ladies in our church.  God gave me a wise father to walk through the house and be a sounding board for ideas.   God gave me a supportive and encouraging mother who never reproached my singleness or suggested that I was ruining my chances for marriage.  A close single girl-friend went through the house-buying process at the same time, which provided a listening ear that understood perfectly the emotions I felt through this process.  I also had a dear single friend who had owned her own home for a while who graciously shared her thoughts and prayers she had recorded from that experience.  God gave me everything I needed in the way that he knew was best.

I’m not saying that single girls have to buy their own houses, but that is what God planned for me.  He gave me the experience of making a major life decision that was “all on me”.  I could get advice, but in the end, it was my call.  God provided: the finances, the timing, the support I needed to get through the process and stay sane, and faith in the truth that He is sovereign.  And in that experience, he showed me that the decision was technically mine, but it was really on His authority that the door was opened or closed.

As a note to married friends of singles: One encouragement during the home-buying process – and I want to say a repeated thank you to the ladies at my church – was a first-house shower.  I still use the gifts I received with happiness, but the prayers of the ladies all as we walked through my home and their encouraging confirmation of my work in the home were the biggest blessings I could have asked for that evening. So, please encourage the single women (and men) in your acquaintance that their work in the home is important and glorifying to God.  Give encouragement and confirmation of their homemaking, and don’t dissuade them from taking the steps of obedience God has called them to.

To single women, don’t be afraid to live the life God has called you to, whether in an apartment or your own house.  You have the Creator of the Universe who delights in you and fulfills your request for wisdom (James 1:5).  You may not be planning with a husband, but you can seek the will of and plan with the the one true, sovereign God.  During our walk though, my realtor asked if I was afraid buying a house would mean I’d always be single. “Because it doesn’t,” he added, without waiting for my answer.  Don’t make decisions based on whether or not it hurts your chance for marriage later.  Keep your focus on God himself.  He, not marriage, is your only hope and the only ultimate goal.  The Proverbs 31 woman considered a field (discernment) and bought it (strength).  Don’t shy away from practicing discernment and making business choices because you might appear too strong.  Do not be afraid to exercise strength and discernment that is completely dependent on God.  However, do be afraid of worldly, self-empowered wisdom and arrogant, independent strength. Walk in faith remembering that the days of your life are written in his book, even before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6

Saturday Song: Grace by Laura Story

This song is one of my all-time favorites.  It is powerful to me on two fronts.  First it echoes the promises found in the Bible concerning God’s generosity with His grace.  There is never a time that a child of His has come asking for it that He has not freely given it.  Second, these words also echo the cry for grace in a way that resounds with the heart of the listener (at least, this listener).  The video (click here) has the words with the music, so I didn’t include them in this post.  Instead, I have listed some verses about God’s grace that speak clearly and truthfully about God’s unchangeable grace.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  — John 1:14, 16-17

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. — Romans 5:2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 1:3

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. — 1 Corinthians 15:10

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. — 2 Corinthians 9:8

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will… — Ephesians 1:2-11

Firm in Faith

I love when readings from two different sources on two different days speak in unison.  Last night during Bible study, we read Isaiah 7:9.  Today, the morning devotional (though on a different verse) from Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening series continued the discussion we had last night.

If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.

— Isaiah 7:9

Where lies the secret strength of faith? It lies in the food it feeds
on; for faith studies what the promise is-an emanation of divine grace,
an overflowing of the great heart of God; and faith says, “My God could
not have given this promise, except from love and grace; therefore it
is quite certain his Word will be fulfilled.” Then faith thinketh, “Who
gave this promise?” It considereth not so much its greatness, as, “Who
is the author of it?” She remembers that it is God who cannot lie-God
omnipotent, God immutable; and therefore concludeth that the promise
must be fulfilled; and forward she advances in this firm conviction.
She remembereth, why the promise was given,-namely, for God’s glory,
and she feels perfectly sure that God’s glory is safe, that he will
never stain his own escutcheon, nor mar the lustre of his own crown;
and therefore the promise must and will stand. Then faith also
considereth the amazing work of Christ as being a clear proof of the
Father’s intention to fulfil his word. “He that spared not his own Son,
but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also
freely give us all things?” Moreover faith looks back upon the past,
for her battles have strengthened her, and her victories have given her
courage. She remembers that God never has failed her; nay, that he
never did once fail any of his children. She recollecteth times of
great peril, when deliverance came; hours of awful need, when as her
day her strength was found, and she cries, “No, I never will be led to
think that he can change and leave his servant now. Hitherto the Lord
hath helped me, and he will help me still.” Thus faith views each
promise in its connection with the promise-giver, and, because she does
so, can with assurance say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life!”