Do you struggle with anger?
I had a bad temper for many years. I would explode over the littlest things at times.
Something I’ve learned on my grace journey over this past 4.5 years is that it’s impossible to get free from a problem if you don’t know what’s causing the problem. After all, I tried to get free from my temper for many years. In fact, so many years that I finally lost count. Since I tried and failed to get free in this area for 34 years, I think it’s safe to say that I clearly did not know what was causing my anger issues.
There almost always seemed to be something going on inside me (in my inner life) that left me feeling irritated. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but eventually came to understand that my wrong feelings were coming from wrong thoughts that were coming from my wrong beliefs about God.
Thankfully, when God set me on this extraordinary journey of grace, He began to unspool my wrong thinking. He then replaced it with right thinking, according to His Word. Of course, this is an ongoing process for all of us and it will continue until the day you and I see Jesus face to face.
Yesterday morning I saw that we had a large bowl of grapes that needed to be eaten in the refrigerator. I’m always keeping an eye on our food to make sure we’re eating everything before it goes bad as I’m not a fan of wasting food. In fact, you should see me when I go out to eat with my parents and my siblings. I often ask them if I can take home any leftovers they don’t want – ha!
While attempting to pull the glass bowl out of our frig. that held the grapes, the bowl slipped out of my hand and shattered into soooo many pieces.
I was ecstatic that I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t feel disappointed in myself. I didn’t feel like a failure. I didn’t feel like I was stupid. And I didn’t feel angry! Wow, what a great feeling that was, just to be able to get down on my knees and begin the lengthy cleanup in peace.
Not only is this a blessing for me, but it’s a blessing for my family as well because for so many years these were exactly the types of things I would explode over. I knew it was both uncomfortable and unfair for my husband and kids to have to live in a hostile environment, which is why I kept trying to free myself.
For the most part, I was mad at myself for failing to be perfect so my family knew that I wasn’t angry at them, but the way us humans are made up – especially kids – I think they still wonder if there was something they could’ve done to prevent Mom’s temper tantrum. I have been on the other side of this scenario as well, at times, and there was definitely fear and discomfort attached to the whole angry scene, even though I wasn’t (for once) the one throwing the fit.
So now we come to the main purpose for this post – answering the question as to how anger management can be attained.
Here’s what I would’ve told you years ago if you had asked my advice on how to get free in this area (even though I wasn’t at all free myself). I would’ve said something like: I understand. I struggle with having a bad temper as well. Just be more determined and try harder and I bet you’ll get a handle on your temper.
I guarantee you I wouldn’t have pointed you to Jesus or encouraged you to actually trust in Him to do the work in you by His grace. But back then, I sincerely thought I was living my Christian life the correct way by simply trying harder. Not sure why it didn’t dawn on me that, as a Christian, I should’ve been enjoying a life of stability and peace, but it didn’t. Or, when it did, I would just try harder to attain those qualities too.
Honestly, I believe what had to happen in my case and is the same with everyone is we just have to completely run out of self-effort energy before our great awakening can come. We have to be emptied of ourself before God can come and pour in His grace!
Thankfully, as a result of God’s grace in my own life, I have a brand new list of advice today for anyone who would ask me how to manage their anger problem.
Here we go…
Hang Out With Jesus
Hands down, this is the most productive thing you can do in your life. I have lost count at this point of how many things have gotten quickly solved as I have refused to worry about them and instead taken them to my Savior and held a normal conversation (just as if I was talking to a friend, because Jesus is my best friend) about my situation. Problem after problem has been solved as I have leaned into Jesus, trusting Him to do what I could not do.
There is nothing that compares to your relationship with Jesus. Having a close personal relationship with Him is fulfilling in every way! I am sad that I traded relationship for rules all those years as a Christian. I made my Christianity all about what I thought I was suppose to do for God instead of about my relationship with Him. I missed so much, but believe me, I am rapidly making up for lost time!
I’ll never trade my relationship with Jesus for anything… ever again. It’s too valuable. It means everything to me. There is nothing that compares to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ.
The Apostle Paul coined it perfectly.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him. (Philippians 3:8-9a – NLT)
Read and Study The Bible
Do this, but do not do it out of duty. This was something I did out of duty for years. As a result I went through a period of time at the beginning of my grace journey where God really made it clear to me that He did not love me because I read a certain amount of the Bible every day or because I studied it. He loved me JUST BECAUSE I was His daughter. He didn’t love me for what I did. He loved me for who I was. I remember there being a period of time for a number of months that God kept drilling this truth into me, whether I had days where I read the Bible or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it pleases God to see us pursuing Him and one of the best ways we do this is by reading and studying the Bible. But the reason He is pleased when we do it is because He already knows how much His love letter to us (the Bible) is going to impact our life.
Still, I had to get to the point where I totally separated my who from my do – who I was as a child of God as opposed to what I did for God. I began to see over this period of time how I had, for most of my life, equated being righteous with doing right things. I sure wasn’t receiving God’s gift of righteousness based on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. In fact, I didn’t even understand fully what it meant… yet.
Look at this good news:
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17 – NLT)
Also, check out Romans 4:1-5 about Abraham and how he became righteous.
Trust me, when you get this settled and begin to believe that your righteousness is not based on what you do or do not do because it is a gift of righteousness and is solely based on what Jesus did for you, you will not be able to stop reading and studying the Bible. I guarantee you! But I just wanted to take the time to explain to you that, for me, there was a transition period since I was very legalistic and mixed up about where my true worth and value came from and how God truly felt about me.
It was pretty nerve racking for me at first, going a day, or more, without reading the Bible and feeling like I was still ok. It took time, but it sure proved to me how entrenched I was in doing good works to feel right with God.
So absolutely read and study your Bible, but let God show you that His love for you would never ever change, even if you never picked up your Bible again. This is grace. It’s God’s unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor and you must learn to receive it, even and especially when you have done nothing to earn or deserve it. Otherwise, it’s not truly grace that you’re putting your trust in – it’s yourself and your own works.
I read something just the other day that someone had written to make the point that others should read the Bible, but it was written in a condemnatory type of way that would cause most people who read it to become fearful that they better read the Bible… or else.
This is not the proper way to encourage others to read the Bible. Even though people may be scared into doing it after reading a statement like that, their actions would not be coming from their heart. They would merely be doing it out of duty in an effort to “keep God happy with them.”
This is one of the reasons I spent almost all day yesterday writing this post – so you would see God’s true heart toward you and not get under condemnation when you read books, articles, statements, posts or hear messages that try to put you back under the law.
Once you start truly living by God’s grace alone, you’ll quickly know the difference, like I did when I read that statement. Right away I said to myself, “No, that’s not true.” I don’t just believe anything and everything people say anymore and swallow it hook, line and sinker (like I used to) and you shouldn’t either.
Reject Guilt and Condemnation
When you fail, I highly encourage you to reject any and all feelings of guilt and condemnation. Here’s why. Guilt and condemnation serve no productive purpose. Receiving it actually weakens you and pulls you into more sin, more often. I know. I lived in this cycle for years and it never did me one bit of good. It never freed me from my bad temper or helped me with anger management. But making the decision to forever reject guilt and condemnation was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The day I realized that by freely accepting guilt and condemnation I was saying that Jesus’ finished work was not really good enough to pay for my sins completely, I cried and cried. I saw how I had been dishonoring Jesus for so long by saying, in essence, that I needed to add my own sacrifice (of guilt and condemnation) to His sacrifice to make it complete. Once my eyes were opened to the deception I had been living in I knew I would never want to mess with guilt and condemnation again.
Now, I do feel a godly sorrow when I sin and a need for repentance which literally means “a change of mind.” These two things come very naturally when a person lives under grace because a revelation of grace causes us to love Jesus more and more every day! But for the most part, I’m thrilled to say I do not allow the devil to bury me under guilt and condemnation any longer.
Instead of focusing on my sin, I turn to Jesus! I focus on Jesus and His finished work on the cross and how He perfectly paid the price for my sin. God is helping me grow in grace and He is more than willing to help you too!
And believe me my friend, when I say that growing in grace will take you light years (spiritually) beyond any place that guilt and condemnation could ever take you, I am not kidding.
Continue in God’s Grace
Another really important thing that I have learned since my grace journey started is how grace works, practically, in my everyday life. I believe this is one of the major reasons I could remain in peace yesterday morning when I dropped those grapes and shattered the glass bowl. I have learned that even when I fail I still need to receive God’s grace.
I have a lot of personal stories as well as stories from many of my friends in my book, I Tried Until I Almost Died, about how we found that God’s grace very practically applies to our everyday lives. But for the purposes of this post I’ll just say that when I think of grace I always think of God’s unconditional love, God’s gift of righteousness and the truth that, as Christians, we have complete forgiveness for all of our sins – past, present and future! (I also go into great detail on these three aspects of God’s grace in my book, with lots of scripture references)
When I continue to receive God’s love, righteousness and forgiveness, even and especially when I have failed, I have discovered that the very grace (unmerited favor) I just chose to receive is what changes me from the inside out.
After I began this new journey in January of 2012 I had to make the tough decision to begin receiving God’s grace right in the middle of my failures. It’s not hard for me anymore, but it was difficult at first because, again, I was used to relying on my own actions/behavior/works/efforts as a pre-requisite to accepting God’s grace. Unknowingly, I had re-defined grace and my definition was the exact opposite of what it actually is. I was wrongly defining it as merited, deserved and earned favor; meaning I would only accept it if I had earned it or felt like I deserved it.
If I lost my temper, I wouldn’t receive grace.
If I was late arriving somewhere, I wouldn’t receive grace.
If I didn’t read the Bible that day, I wouldn’t receive grace.
My list was endless and I was FOREVER trying to improve myself in my own strength…but I kept failing.
No wonder I had anger issues. I always came up short in some aspect of life, in my own mind.
When I finally made the switch and began receiving God’s unconditional love, gift of righteousness and complete forgiveness right in the middle of my failures (including times when I made the poor choice of losing my temper), rapid transformation began happening in my life – changes that were taking place in my heart from the inside out!
Get To Know Who You Are In Christ
I can’t even stress enough how critical it is that you ask God to help you get real solid in knowing who you are in Christ. The best way to do this is by getting the promises of God planted securely in your heart.
Here are two great resources to help you learn your true identity in Christ!
Knowing Who I Am In Christ from Joyce Meyer Ministries
Who Am I In Christ from Open Bible
As a result of me being much more rooted in knowing who I am in Christ than I used to, when I broke the bowl yesterday morning here’s what happened:
Instead of thinking and saying I’m so stupid. I can’t hold on to anything. (which is how I used to think and what I used to say), I thought, no big deal, I’m a new person in Christ now and breaking this bowl doesn’t make me stupid. In fact, I’m smart because I have the mind of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 2:16.
Instead of thinking, I am a failure, this is what came to mind; I am complete in Christ according to Colossians 2:10.
Instead of throwing a fit and freaking my kids out as I had many times in the past, I remembered that Jesus has given me His very own peace according to John 14:27.
Even when I meditate on scriptures like this next one that reveal God’s character, remembering how loving and kind He is inspires me to embrace my own identity as a new creation in Christ in these same areas!
15 But you, O Lord,
are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
(Psalm 86:15 – NLT)
There really is no end to the possibilities here. The more you and I get grounded in God’s promises in His Word and come to know our true identity in Christ the more stable we will be. When we have a good day and we respond in peace and love as I did today, we’ll be so thankful to God for helping us pull on those promises and when we have a bad day and do not choose wisely, we’ll just keep receiving God’s grace which will in turn continue to change us from the inside out.
One of the reasons we get angry when things go wrong is because we immediately begin to fear that it is going to mess with our plan. Yesterday I had planned on going to the grocery store and was working to get out of the house soon so I could be back home before heading to another appointment. This is when I dropped and shattered the bowl.
I definitely admit that this issue with never wanting anything to get in the way of my plan was one of the biggest things that caused me to explode in the past. I would have probably yelled, “Great, now I won’t have enough time to go to the store before my 12:30pm appointment. How stupid. Nothing ever goes my way. Why can’t I just hold on to things. I drop everything.”
Before, I would have immediately started thinking about how this accident was going to mess up my whole day. But as a result of hanging out with Jesus and letting God renew my mind with His Word day in and day out, this is what came out of my mouth yesterday (while I was in the floor picking up grapes and glass).
After my initial thoughts I shared above that it was ok that I dropped the bowl… I have the mind of Christ… I’m complete in Christ… I can live in the peace Jesus gave me regardless of my circumstances; I then went into thinking through my plan for the day.
First, I called to see if I could re-schedule my other appointment for later in the day (which did work out). Then I started telling my girls how God would work this whole situation out for the good. I was in the floor on my hands and knees, preaching to my kids!
I said to them, “Maybe I wasn’t suppose to be out on the road (driving to the grocery store) at that particular time. Who knows – maybe I would have been in an accident and God is protecting me from it.”
Also, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the idea of having Starr take a picture of me shortly after I started the clean-up. I said, “Starr, can you take a picture of me cleaning this up. Maybe God wants me to write a post from this to help others!”
I just kept purposely finding one thing after another that was positive about the situation. (notice: I was positive instead of negative… on purpose!)
One of the coolest things about God is how He can work everything in our lives together for the good (if we continue to trust Him) according to Romans 8:28.
You will find, as I have, that as you continue in God’s grace, the bad days become less and less and the good days increase. And when you do have good days, if you’re established in God’s grace, you won’t find yourself thinking, “Cool, I’m getting so disciplined and self-controlled. I knew I could do this if I just kept trying. You’ll find yourself saying, “Thank you Jesus for coming and dying for me so I could become brand new in You. You’re so kind! Thanks Holy Spirit for producing Your fruit in my life. I am so thankful for Your help!”
Before you read this post, maybe getting rid of that bad temper and becoming stable and solid seemed like a near impossibility to you, but hopefully this post has encouraged you that when you know what’s truly causing your anger it will help you take the proper steps toward living in freedom.
Maybe what’s making you angry is that you’re not receiving God’s unconditional love, gift of righteousness and complete forgiveness when you fail.
Maybe what’s making you angry is that you’re trying to follow all the rules instead of just hanging out with Jesus and letting Him (the person of Grace) change you from the inside out. (see 2 Corinthians 3:18)
Maybe what’s making you angry is that when you sin you are letting satan bury you underneath a mountain of guilt and condemnation instead of remembering that Jesus is your great High Priest Who understands your weaknesses. Maybe you just need to be reminded that you can go boldly to the throne of God’s grace with confidence so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need. (see Hebrews 4:14-16)
Maybe what’s making you angry is that you’ve been thinking negative thoughts about yourself. Maybe you keep identifying with your old nature (the one you had before you got saved) and you need to begin identifying with your new nature – the new person you are in Christ! (this is where those 2 resources about who you really are in Christ will come in handy)
Maybe you’re angry because you haven’t taken the time to allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind with the promises in the Bible. It’s impossible to think anything different than what you’re currently thinking unless you take the time to plant God’s promises in your heart. Doing this doesn’t have to be complicated though. In addition to your regular Bible study you can specifically meditate on one promise per week in order to get the truth so engrained in your thinking that it begins to come up naturally in place of your negative, self-defeating thoughts.
Here’s an idea that just came to me: You could even write one verse per week on a 3×5 card and carry it around with you wherever you go until you have it memorized!
Another really good resource for getting God’s promises embedded in your heart are those Bible promise books that you can find at any Christian bookstore or online. These books are cool because they have the promises divided up in categories and have multiple verses in each category.
Since this has been a huge part of my path to freedom I included a section at the end of my book called God’s Promises To Live By. I wanted to provide anyone who was going to be reading my book in the future with yet another resource to help them renew their mind!
Now that you have more of an understanding as to what may be making you angry, be sure to remember to take your specific situation to God in prayer and rely on Him to help you. And remember that God is always supplying grace to you from His end, but in order to keep that pipeline open so you can receive His grace on your end, you just need to refuse to get into self-effort mode, trying to manage your own anger, and let the Holy Spirit show you how to manage it.
Being led by the Spirit will always bring you successful results!
If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!