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My husband was away overnight for an interview, and I was alone with our two-month-old—who was freaking out. I started to count how many hours straight she was fussing. 3 p.m. 4 p.m. Still crying. 5 p.m. 6 p.m. Never sleeping. 7 p.m. 8 p.m. Just wailing.
I was hungry, it was dark, I was tired, and my chest was blistered from 25 attempts to nurse her. So I’ll go ahead and say it: I had the urge to shake the baby.
Sometimes we come face to face with an anger that lives in us, and it can be scary. When we reach our limits as pastors, parents, or just plain people, we discover there is something festering in us we wish wasn’t there.
Even returning to church work after maternity leave brought new levels of anger, to my unpleasant surprise. Sometimes it stemmed from noticing sexism I’d never noticed before, now that I’m tasked with raising a girl in this culture…and other times it came just from irritation (perhaps due to sleep deprivation?).
There are a hundred reasons we might feel anger, but not all of them serve us well. The good news is, there is no place off-limits to God’s influence. There is no mood or energy that the Spirit can’t breathe new life into. What if this place—this festering, inner place—is just the place God wants to touch?
Read: Jonah 3:10-4:4
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish…for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
And the Lord said, “Does your anger serve you well?”
Reflect: What are my current sources of anger? Are they mostly based on ego (not getting my way) or revenge (after an injury)? Where might I channel a healthier kind of anger—righteous anger—into creating a more just world?
Take Action: Print out, write out, decorate the question “Does your anger serve you well?” and stick it on your bathroom mirror or your car dashboard. Better yet, put it as the background of your phone! Whenever you find yourself ruminating on your anger, let God’s question echo in your mind.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to the Rev. Sarah Swandell for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements. If you are interested in contributing to a future issue of Encouragements, please email email@example.com.
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