CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
How Christ's Atonement Helps Us with Anger
By Christopher Schwinger
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Continued from Page One
Whoever you're angry with may not want to reconcile with you, and if you were close to that person, you probably are tempted to invest yourself less in future relationships. God made us keenly aware of our struggles and desperate for a solution, but He didn't make it hard for us to find the solution. Rather, it is our sin nature which does that. First, you need to evaluate yourself as to whether you want to punish the other person. If you feel a desire to punish the other person, what are the reasons? Do you think it's just a matter of civic justice or personal hatred? When you think about the other person, what goes through your head? Do you actively wish harm upon him? Have you come to understand why that relationship deteriorated and whether you had a part in it? The attitudinal choice to forgive does not automatically remove the feelings of helplessness and anger, but it is the foundation, because you're saying "I give up my right to punish you" (as I heard once on Christian radio — the perfect definition of forgiveness). Reconciliation is impossible without agreement from the person who hurt you, but healing is not. God brings healing if you take your struggles to God in prayer, continue to go through the Bible, and pursue something healthy that really makes you feel good. I believe God can help anyone find hope for the future if they let Him.
Part 3: A change of outlook
Situations are very hard when you can still communicate with the person you're angry with but aren't able to have that emotional transparency because there's a divisive issue or unresolved pain which they (or you?) won't be humble about. Even if you understand why the other person (or you) acted wrongly, it doesn't allow reconciliation if the other person is too defensive to open up and work through the issues. The positive way the Apostle Paul looked at his times of greatest struggle is that Jesus went through those kinds of struggles and triumphed. But it's not necessarily going to make the struggle easier just to think and focus differently. It's going to take time, and sometimes an unbiased mediator, to help you move on.
For me, feelings of resentment pass within a day after I've been hurt, because it's just my body's way of processing the pain, but if I had become poisoned by hate, it would've made me self-destructive. Some temperaments handle anger differently. You might internalize it more, like I naturally do, or externalize it more, and those who externalize it seem scarier. People who are depressed are often internalizing either anger or fear. For me, it was fear rather than anger which fueled depression in the past. After God helped me understand the causes of certain family members' lack of compassion toward me, which were rooted in their own upbringings, it helped me not feel the confusion about "Why" very much anymore, but I continued to feel fearful because I didn't see a path to my own well-being away from them. Since then, I have come to realize that even if I was free from them, I would still eventually have to deal with other difficult people, even if not necessarily as much. We all have our crosses to bear.
The thing that has helped me not resent God for it is that I see that even Jesus couldn't change His situation, but still won in the end. He couldn't redeem the world without dying, so you could say even God has limits on what He can and can't do. I break from Calvinism in that I think we have an equal part in choosing whether to be saved; I think He can't force someone who's unwilling to believe in Him. Individuality and God's provision for people who believe are the most amazing mysteries I know of. How does God give someone individuality and yet also work through them or fight against them? What was so satisfying to Him about giving mankind freedom to choose good and evil when He knew He'd have to kill Himself and temporarily fracture the relationship with Himself ("My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?") to redeem us? Those kinds of things will help you if you think about them, because they'll give you hope about a better ending to the story and get you focused more on God's love.
Image Credit: madstreetz; "anger"; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Personal-Life | Personal-Relationships | Sin-Evil
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Published on 7-11-16