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Triggers: Exchanging Anger for Gentle Biblical Responses

For years, I have been praying for the Holy Spirit to give me patience, but what I have come to realize is that it’s not patience that I need, but rather I need to rid myself of anger. When I wasn’t seeing the change I desired, I took a good long look inward at my heart and saw that what I wanted was patience, but what I was unwilling to deal with was my anger. Because when you rid yourself of anger, the end result is patience.

Throughout the Bible, it warns us to rid ourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language (Colossians 3:8). James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry (1:19).  In my anger, I am not to sin (Ephesians 4:26).  The Bible refers to people who are quickly provoked (Ecclesiastes 7:9) and give full vent to their rage (Proverbs 29:11) as fools.

Throughout Proverbs we see patience and anger go hand-in-hand.

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control rather than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32 

A person’s wisdom yields patience, it’s to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18 

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14:29

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus instructs us to address issues of the heart before coming to the Lord with our requests. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, then your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you do not forgive others of their sins, then the Father will not forgive you.” Matthew 6:14-15

Why do we always see heart issue so easily in others, but not so easily in ourselves?

The more I examined my heart, I realized anger was a very real sin that I needed to address before I would ever see the fruit of patience.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It comes when we submit ourselves to the Lord and allow Him to work in us and through us. If we are unwilling to address our sin, then we are living in a state of rebellion rather than submission. When I finally decided to lay my anger at the Lord’s feet and ask for forgiveness for my past behaviour, only then did I truly begin to see His Spirit at work in me.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit” (7:17-18). What I was wanting in my life was to produce good fruit, but I was unwilling to deal with the bad fruit in my life. It was only when I pruned away the bad fruit in my life, that I began to produce good fruit.

So, how do we begin to prune away our anger?

In the book Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Responses for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake, it outlines two separate categories that trigger our anger- external triggers and internal triggers. The external triggers are the things our children do that cause us to respond in anger, such as, disobedience, disrespect, lying while internal triggers are the things that affect us directly, such as, fatigue, depression or stress.

The first half of the book identifies fifteen external triggers that trigger us to anger and examples of gentle biblical responses to those triggers. I have found it incredibly helpful to have a pre-set script to use when facing these external triggers on a daily basis. Instead of justifying my anger, I am choosing to set it aside and respond biblically. In turn, my relationship with each of my children has improved and the tone in our household has changed for the better. Some of the frustrations I was addressing in my own children’s behaviours have dissipated because they are no longer mimicking my anger or allowing their emotions to get caught up in the heat of the moment. We have had a lot less blow outs, tantrums or meltdowns and the time it takes to move past a negative situation has significantly decreased.

I have learned though that just because I am addressing my anger, it does not mean my children will no longer act out or rebel. They are human just like me and struggle with their own sin, but now I am teaching them a healthy way to respond. Wendy Speake said it best when she wrote:

“Our little gifts are darling little babes, complete with a sin nature and a personality that tend to rub us wrong at times. God uses them like sandpaper in His tender hands. Back and forth against our spiritual lives, He rubs them purposefully, to smooth out our own sin tangles, to even out the selfish bumps, to smooth away our anger as we lean into God’s rhythmic, loving refining” p. 127

Addressing sin in our lives is never easy and it never comes with a quick fix. It is something that takes time and thankfully the Lord is gracious and patient with us. God has given us the imagery of harvesting throughout the Bible to teach us that fruit takes time to produce and cultivate. And with it, He has given us a promise:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

So, put your trust in the Lord and His promises. He says, that in Christ we become a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come (1 Corinthians 5:17). Let’s lean into this today, and not dwell on our past faults. Allow the Lord to transform you into His likeness, producing good fruit to fulfill His good purposes. May your diligence be evident in your children’s lives as they see the good fruit come forth from you.

 

Many Blessings!

 

SHARE: Is the Lord smoothing away your anger and evening out your selfish bumps? How can you choose to respond biblically next time you are triggered?

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