Every person has spiritual battles. For many, their primary battle is with intense anger. Anger enters our lives through many doors. How long will it stay? What will we do with it? Let the fire die down, or stoke it?
As local counselor Dr. Daniel Reese reminds me, anger often stems from grief, loss, fear or frustrated ambitions. It also arises when we feel someone has done something to hurt us or those we love.
We may be justified in being angry. If your brother or sister steals your inheritance, you have a right to be angry. If a friend betrays a confidence, you have a right to be angry. No one can question that right. But even when we are justified in being angry, the problem is that anger makes for a bad house guest.
The intensity of the feeling can grow until it becomes rage. If we repress it, then it eats away at our souls. It is like a tapeworm absorbing our vitamins. If we express it (and we will!) then it usually wounds the people who live around us.
Depression is one form of anger: anger directed against the self. Aggression is anger directed toward others. Either way, angry people are not fun to be around. Not only does anger hurt the one who holds it, but it damages fellowship with friends and family.
We can ignore our anger and repress it. Or we can cling to anger as we once again go over the details of a past insult. In either, case anger can grow beyond our ability to control or put away.
Youth speaker Les Christie tells of a National Geographic television special that showed how eagles catch fish in lakes. They fly high, spot the fish, and zoom down at speeds of up to 120 or 130 mph. When they contact the water, they spread their wings and reach for the fish with open talons, grab their meal and fly away.
This special showed a young eagle that swooped down and grabbed a fish in its talons. But the fish was too large for the young eagle. It could hardly fly above the water level. It tried to open its talons and let go of the fish, but the eagle's talons were too deeply embedded and it could not pull them out. The film showed the eagle slowly descending into the lake and drowning.
Les Christie adds, "Many times in life we grab on to something that can be dangerous. We feel we have control and can stop holding on any time we like. It becomes a habit, and one day we try to get out, and discover that we no longer have ahold of it, but it has ahold of us."
Anger is dangerous like that. We can nurse our thoughts of grievance, and think that some day we will stop, be free, and be happy again. But over time the anger can grow. Then, like the eagle that thought it caught a fish only to find that the fish had caught it, we discover that our anger has a hold on us and we can't let go.
To keep from repressing anger, we need to acknowledge how we feel. And we need to ask for God's help.
Even if we are justified in feeling anger, we need to ask God to help us give it up before it grows. The quickest path to freedom is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often very difficult, and sometimes it seems humanly impossible. Yet Jesus' victory over death shows that all moral victories are possible where he is welcomed to heal and help.
Ask the Lord for the strength to give up your right to be angry. Ask God's Spirit to help you forgive and be free to feel joy again.
You may need to ask every day until you receive that freedom. Keep asking! I think these are gifts God delights in giving to us.
The Rev. Mark Koonz is pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 628 Lincoln St. He can be reached by e-mail at emmanuelcharterinternet.com.
Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.