Angry Young Man?

I think sometimes I’ve become an angry person and it scares me how quickly I can rush to judgment concerning a situation or voice my direct and often harsh opinion without taking in all the facts and processing things.  Is it human nature?  Medication?  (For me, maybe)  True colors?   I’m not sure but this I do know, I don’t like me sometimes.  I know, I know, Scripture has a lot to say about anger.  It’s definitely NOT one of the fruits of the Spirit and it will consume you if you let it.  So why am I thinking about this subject?  Here are some musings…

There seems to be a lot of anger in the world today.  Folks are angry at one political party or the other, or angry about gas prices being too high, or the stock market going south, or angry because their favorite team didn’t win the national championship.  But lately I’ve been wondering if folks are angry just because they enjoy being angry.  I know that sounds strange, and the only reason I float that idea out there is because I feel like I’ve been there lately.  For whatever reason, being angry becomes an accepted state of being for a lot of folks.  It’s easier for them to live as an angry person.  It takes a lot less work to be angry than to be rational or easy-going.

Maybe it’s easier to live as an angry young man, or woman, because it takes less intellectual effort too.  You know it’s true, you’ve seen it in individuals you’ve had to deal with.  Rather than stop and try to reason, or think through their reaction they just get mad.  For many, it’s the path of least resistance because they know if they get angry most folks will leave them alone or won’t continue to confront them.  Of course the real problem arises when two angry people collide, then the sparks really fly.  So why choose to live as an angry person?

Perhaps it’s a shield, a defense mechanism, perhaps it’s human nature rising to the surface, unfiltered, uncensored, unchecked and unleashed.  Whatever the case, pure unadulterated anger is not pretty and is unproductive.  But is there ever a scenario where anger is healthy and needed?  Does God ever get angry?  Can anger be healthy?  Does good ever come out of being angry?

One example that comes to my mind quickly is Jesus’ clearing the money-changers out of the temple in New Testament scripture.  I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus was smiling when he was carrying out this act, he was angry at what they had turned his Father’s house into.  You can also read scripture after scripture in the Old Testament about God’s anger being kindled against His enemies, or even sometimes His people.  Do you think God ever gets mad at us?

I don’t believe anger is healthy at all, in fact there are scriptures that speak to this specifically:

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.  Psalm 37:8

He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, And the rod of his anger will fail.  Proverbs 22:8

And the Bible tells us to avoid anger:

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  Ephesians 4:31

But anger itself isn’t necessarily “un-Christian we just shouldn’t be angry to the point of sinning:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Ephesians 4:26

The short of it, in my opinion, is this, the emotion of anger is God-given but we, as sinful man, have distorted it and abused it.  We can’t control it on our own without the intervention of the Holy Spirit…we’re not capable.  Like most things, we tend to mess it up!  Yes, emotions are God-given but abuse of them can occur very easily and distort our reality of things quickly.

So, will I still get angry?  Yes.  For the wrong reasons?  Yes.  But I think I know now that righteous indignation, or I’ll call it righteous anger, when channeled properly and used constructively is not a bad thing.  I think we need more Christians who “get mad” at this world and the way people are thumbing their nose at spiritual issues, distorting the Truth of God’s Word, perverting our society with filth and shutting God out of every aspect of our nation.  But as for me, I know that I need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with Himself in order that I might live by the Fruits Of the Spirit and walk in the light of Christ and His presence!

Go ahead, get mad, get mad at sin, get mad at evil and get mad at wrong, just don’t make it your default mechanism for life!

Answers In the Midst Of Tragedy?

Today, Tuesday, May 11, a 16 year old female student at my daughter’s high school died from injuries she received in a car accident yesterday.  While I did not know this girl personally my heart is heavy and I grieve for this loss of life at such a young age.  My daughter did know her and once again, this tragic loss of a young persons life has brought the reality of death and the brevity of life into focus once again for many of those her age.

None us know the number of our days, the Bible says, and the events of the past two days has proven that truth yet again.

Life is short, the only thing certain is that one day, it will end.  While in the midst of grief for this student that may sound harsh, it is true.  And if you haven’t thought about that fact maybe now, even in the midst of sorrow and loss, is the best time to consider that statement.

We don’t know why this girl had to do die at such a young age, we’ll never know that answer while we’re here on earth, and that’s okay.  Why is it okay, you might ask?  I think the main reason is that it causes us to think beyond our own limited minds.  It makes us ask the hard questions and search for the answer in places we may not have thought to look before.  Let me lead you to one place I hope you will consider looking for answers, or at least comfort.

While life is short and answers are hard to come by one thing is true, God is still God even in the midst of very tough and painful circumstances. 

Okay, you might be thinking, “Oh, don’t go playing the “God card” now, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t believe in Him,” and you’re probably about ready to close the window to this blog.  Let me ask you to just hear me out for a little bit.

You see, no matter what you believe, or what religion you are, there is an eternal God who loves you and desperately pursues you.  Yes, bad things WILL happen in this world, and good people will die, young people will die.  Life is not fair that way, but God has a design, a purpose and plan to everything.  We’re human and we won’t always understand it, but that’s okay, because God does and there are some things in life, not just big tragedies or big events, that we just have accept by trusting.

Beyond the life-events that we don’t understand there is also a call by God to trust Him with your life.  You don’t have to be confused, hurt or alone.  He wants to walk by your side, He has already expressed His love toward you through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  All you have to do is accept, by faith the gift He offers you.

No, accepting God’s gift of love won’t make life easier all the time, it won’t take away the hurt and pain of death, loss, or tragedy.  Those things are a part of life here on earth.  There will be a day when all of those things will be taken away and replaced by pure love, a day where there will be no more night, no more tears, no more pain and no more sorrow.  God is in charge of when that day will come, again, we just need to trust in Him.

So are there answers in the midst of a tragedy like the death of this young girl?  The short answer is no, the bigger picture is that by believing that God is who He says He is, trusting in Him and looking to Him, the parts of this tragic puzzle begin to fall into place a little bit more as we see things through His eyes and listen with His heart.

Celebrating Two Mothers, For Two Very Different Reasons

One thing some people don’t know about me is the fact that I’m adopted.  Until recently, I really didn’t know anything about my birth parents, but due to recent health issues I have opened up some of the adoption records through the state of Tennessee.  There was a lot of information contained in those records that helped me gain a clearer picture of what happened in the early days of my life.

After reading through the information that was available one thought occurred to me, “I am very grateful to my birth mother for deciding to go through with the delivery and not opting for an abortion.”  Okay, I know that this might sound real “Tim Tebow-ish” but that’s okay, because for me, it’s real life.

Even though abortion was much more taboo when I was born and Roe v. Wade was many years away, it was an option and after reading through the adoption records, I noticed it had been considered.  My birth mother would have no thought of it and for that, I am grateful.  It probably would have been more “convenient” for her, given the circumstances to have taken the abortion route.  However, God in his providence and sovereignty, made a way and directed her path otherwise.

Even though I don’t know her, nor do I know where she is, I want to celebrate my birth mother today and thank her for choosing life and allowing me the opportunity of a lifetime!

I also celebrate my adopted mother.  Thank you for being moved by God to adopt and for preparing your heart and home for me long before I ever arrived.  For loving me before you ever saw me, for raising me in a godly home, instilling in me godly principles and living out a godly life in front of me.  Thank you for pouring your life, time and resources into my life that set me on a course where I could succeed.  You gave me opportunities that you never had and loved me with an unconditional love that I will forever be grateful to God for.

So, I would like to wish Happy Mother’s Day to two Moms that I love, for two very different reasons.

The Root Of Selfishness In the Midst Of Suffering (or Why We Whine When Things Aren’t Fine)

We are human, humans suffer, for that matter, all creation has been “suffering” since the fall of man.   You know, that split second in the Garden of Eden when man (Adam and Eve) thought they were smarter than God.  Was it Satan’s (the serpent) deceit or man’s curiosity, or maybe a combination of both, that led them to take a bite of the fanciful fruit on the Tree Of Knowledge?  At what point did Adam and Eve actually become “sinful man” and give in to temptation.  If everything “pre-tree” was perfect and without sin then how were they tempted to sin?

Those of us who believe that God is a god of grace, long-suffering and willing that none should perish, also believe that He gives man free will, the freedom to choose good or evil, the freedom to accept Him or deny Him.  Adam and Eve had that freedom in the garden…except for that one tempting little tree.   So again, was it curiosity, which I think is not necessarily sin when handled properly, or was it the pure allure of Satan’s seductive slithering?   Or, could it have purely been a selfish desire to have the same knowledge as God or to want more; to have that which was out of reach?  Man wanted what he couldn’t have; he wanted “yes” when God had said “no.”

So it is with us now.  It starts as little children and continues until death.  The “I gotta haves” and the “latest and greatest” syndrome is in full control of our lives at every turn.  While we know this is true with most everyone when life is just hummin’ along, I’ve discovered another time when this self-centeredness rears its ugly head and that’s in the midst of trials or suffering.   As odd as it sounds I believe we can be the most selfish during those times and not even mean to be that way.  It creeps in slowly but undeniably, it’s there.

I believe this is a disease within a disease, an erroneous error within a trial, a jagged way of looking at life during the most difficult situations.

Okay, by now you might be starting to think I’m being hyper-critical but bear with me and I’ll give you some concrete examples that hopefully will open your eyes to some of the same things I’ve seen through my journey.  Maybe, the Lord will convict you, as He has convicted me, of some of these same selfish motives and ideas.  If not, then just let me share with you my perspective and you can move on, I promise there will be no hard feelings.

With all of the “qualifying” out of the way, here it goes.

How many times, in the midst of a crisis, trial or some other calamity has your first thought been, “I wonder if anybody knows about this?”  Or maybe, “I’ve got to let everyone know about what’s going on!”  Yes, we do want those who love and care about us involved and informed about our situation so they can pray, or minister or bring some food by, or just be there.  However, I believe there are degrees or stages to this and sometimes “getting the word out” can quickly turn into “Hey!  Look at what I’m going through!”  “Remember me, poor little ‘ol me!?”

The Bible says the following about how to handle our concerns and anxieties when we are in the midst of a trial or tough situation.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  [I Peter 5:7 NIV emphasis added]

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[Philippians 4:6-7 NIV emphasis added]

When we’re in the middle of a crisis we all tend to start to panic to have the “what if” thoughts, or the “is this the end?” thoughts.  It’s only human to think of yourself, your situation, your issues, your disease, your comfort, your needs…you get the idea.  But I want to propose something, what if during our crisis or trial we focused on the needs of others while at the same time turning our focus to the Lord Jesus Christ and what He wants to accomplish in our lives through whatever it is we are facing?  Radical?  To quote Sarah Palin, “you betcha!”  Needed?  Absolutely!

Nothing can hone in your heart in to the presence of God quicker than taking your eyes off your needs and looking after the needs of others, even when you might have even greater needs.  I heard a friend of mine the other day say, “no matter what you are going through someone is facing something greater somewhere.”  And they were right on the mark!  What made my friend’s statement even more poignant was the fact that they were walking through a very tough time themselves!

So I’m laying around the other day in the hospital having some of the same thoughts I mentioned earlier and God cracked me over the head as if to say, “Wake up!  Who gave you permission to whine and moan and be selfish about what you’re going through?”  Sure, you’re hurting but so are a LOT other people.  What good does have a little selfish pity party accomplish?  Minister to them I heard Him say.  Encourage others in the midst of what you’re going through.  After all, aren’t we all pilgrims going through this journey of life together?

I believe we have a Biblical mandate to come alongside those who are hurting and help them stand up.  We can draw strength through each other.  The Bible says when we are weak, God is strong, that His strength is perfected in weakness.  I think the horizontal version of this is true too.  We can provide strength for our fellow brother, or sister, by sharing our journey with them, by not being selfish.  Provide encouragement, share heartache, share disappointments, don’t dwell on them, and always point to the hope that Jesus Christ and Scripture offer, but be there for them!

Don’t back down or shy away from trials, the bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  [James 1:2-3 NIV]

And that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  [2 Corinthians 4:17 emphasis added]

You know, as strange as it may sound, I’m actually starting to come to the place where I welcome trials and crisis.

I read a portion of a devotional book I’m using the other day that said this about trials in our lives; “I (Jesus) can bring good out of everything I allow in your life, but much of what I do is far beyond your understanding.  When you are suffering and your troubles seem endless, remember I am tenderly present in your afflictions.  Instead of lamenting the way things are, search for me in the wreckage of adversity.” (From Jesus Lives, Sarah Young, Published by Thomas Nelson, 2009)

Another passage in this devotional book that “sealed the deal” for me concerning this paradox of selfishness in the midst of suffering is the following;  “Another way to expand this capacity is to let My Love flow from you to others.  I am so pleased when you do this that I flood you with more of My living Presence.  As you continue this blessed adventure with Me, I fill you with ever-increasing volumes of unfailing Love.”  [From Jesus Lives, Sarah Young, Published by Thomas Nelson, 2009)

Which I believe these ever-increasing volume of Love God fills us with are meant to overflow into the lives of others, to be shared as we continue along our personal journey.

We, you and I, can be agents of God’s grace during suffering rather than asylums of selfishness.  Accept and receive the prayers of others with graciousness and thanksgiving.  Let others minister to you with food, or other acts of kindness, but don’t forget to go the extra mile and reach out with all you have to others who are walking through the valley of darkness or facing the harsh winds of adversity.  Let whatever it is that the Lord is pouring into your life flow freely into the lives of others.  Be a pipeline, not a cesspool!

You’ll never know what one glimpse into the light of your situation might do for someone else who is walking blindly through their darkest night.