Today I am furious. Not ticked off, upset, annoyed, indignant. Nope, I am furious, as in wanting to lash out and hit someone. Wanting to yell and kick and break things. The more I think about this, the more outraged I become.
What in the world has me this mad? Someone I care about has been attacked with mean and heartless words. Stinging, brutal, unfair words. But, they were written, and written anonymously. I don’t know who wrote them. Even if I did, what would I be able to do? It wasn’t about me. It’s actually not my place to step in.
But, oh, I am so furious for my friend. What has happened is completely unjustified and unfair. It has hurt this person and there is nothing I can do. I feel helpless. I can say kind and reassuring things, but that doesn’t take away the impact of this.
What am I supposed to do with this anger? What is the right way for a Christ-follower to handle feelings of outrage? This situation is bad, but my friend is secure enough to know the comments were exaggerations. Has good enough self-esteem to not feel completely worthless.
But, there are situations where the person may not be able to handle it. I’m heading into a place in the D.R. where the voices don’t just put someone down, but can include physical threats to safety. Where one after another tells a young woman that she is worthless. Where a child is not fed each day. Where the systems and structures are inherently stacked against the poorest of the poor.
What do I do with this all? I can become bitter, lashing out against those who oppress. Is that the best way to handle it? Probably not. I can become so overwhelmed by the enormity of it all that I become numb to it, ignoring it to try and protect myself. Also not good. The unrelieved anger can turn inward, depressing me into inactivity. Yeah, not good, either.
If this relatively small matter has me mad, how will I be able to function in a world full of large-scale unfairness, when I am helpless to make much of a difference? It worries me, and I know it is something I need to wrestle with.
How did Jesus cope with these feelings? He saw systems like the Roman Empire and the Pharisaical Laws which trapped and abused people. He saw sickness and disease and death striking men and women, beloved friends a widow’s only son. Some of these He healed, others He did not. The Gospels record His terse and often confrontational words with the religious leaders who were oppressing people but He didn’t seem to say much about the abuses of the Pax Romana.
I think of His Father watching His Son being arrested, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, deserted, nailed to the cross. All by those He had created. Did God feel anger at those who caused His Son to cry out “Why have You forsaken Me?” God could have stepped in and stopped it. Could have sent His angels to rescue the One, the only One, who was innocent.
I am humbled once again at the colossal love of God. For His willingness to allow His Son to go through such horrors. My small feelings of outrage for my friend are so tiny compared to God’s justifiable anger. And yet, for our sake, and for the sake of His glory, He allowed Jesus to be crucified.
So, what am I to do with my fury today? The answer isn’t to pretend I’m not feeling these things. It’s also not to act like these feelings are bad. Scripture is full of the righteous fury of God. If I am angered at one of His children being mistreated, perhaps that anger is being birthed from above.
Perhaps part of the problem with the Church today is that we’re just not mad enough about injustice. When we see people and systems and situations which are broken and bleeding, do we give a holy shrug, offer up a sanitized little prayer and pass on the other side? Or, do we allow the One whose fury burned against those who exploited the poor to fill us.
Clearly, we must be careful here, as we are fallen, and so our anger can be quickly turned into something not of Him. Of course, for that matter, so can love, but I think we’re generally okay embracing the idea of love coming from God. We don’t seem to spend a whole lot of energy fretting over whether we should love in His name! But being angry in His name, well, that’s different!
I come out of a tradition where anger is frowned upon. This makes it doubly hard for me to appropriately express it. But, in studying the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I am coming to believe God does not teach anger is a sin. Any reading of the Psalms and prophets shows God angry, and also men like David, who was ‘a man after God’s own heart’ angry words and all!
No, I think the problem isn’t anger itself. Instead, it is how I handle this emotion that can be the problem. Flying off the handle, being hurtful and spiteful, are not okay. Feeling genuine rage at God’s beloved children being treated like disposable refuse, I think that’s not simply okay, I think it is the most ‘Christian’ thing to feel!
Anger all alone is not worth much. Anger born out of God’s heart for His children must compel us to action. This part gets tricky and will require lots of prayer. It will also require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which is often discerned through community. As the Body of Christ, we must seek together to hear from God in this.
It’s not enough to just be outraged at children trapped in sex trafficking. It’s not enough to burn with anger at families starving to death right this second. It’s not enough to shake our fists at the injustice of fellow ‘believers’ who are cruel and un-Christ-like. We are not called to observe, we are called to activity. Again, the 'how' and 'what' need careful discernment! But, just because it will take work to figure out doesn't mean it is not worthwhile!!
So, again I wonder, what do I do with my fury? And, I’m still not really clear. I do know, I need to spend time with Jesus, pouring out my heart and my anger to Him. Then, I need to seek wise friends to help me confidentially process this.
All the while, I need to be praying. Praying for my friend, and yes, praying for the anonymous person. Praying for the courage to step out, if that is what God calls me to do. Praying for even more courage, if He calls me to not address this particular situation.
Oh, Father, I’m still pretty angry. Thank you for the reminder that anger is okay, and that a whole lot about this broken world angers You, too. Please keep me seeking Your guidance in how to handle these situations. Thank you that at times You have acted in powerful ways. Thank you, too, that at times You chose not to act. Not because the situation was just, but because there was a larger purpose behind it.
Thank you that You allowed Your Son to be mistreated for our sake. Please continue to teach me how to live as He lived. Holy Spirit, I am giving You this fury. Not my will, but Yours be done.