Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was good to have some solitude time in the office before my coworkers came back… a time to reflect on what the Lord has been doing in my life, and how He wants to use me in days ahead. Besides work, I have a lot to catch up in my study. The ministry was so overwhelming in the last six weeks plus jetlag adjustment…I was not in the mood to work on my school assignments which are due in a month. Pray that I could calm down, refocus and find time to work on my papers during my teaching trip in China.
This morning, I chose to look at Peterson’s sharing on “anger” management in the light of Jonah’s story. Quarreling with God is a time-honored biblical practice: Moses, Job, David, and Apostle Peter were all masters at it. It is a practice in which men and women in ministry have much practice. We get a lot of practice in this because we are dealing with God in some way or other most of the time, and God doesn’t behave the way we expect.
Jonah is quarreling because he has been surprised by grace. He is so taken aback that he is disagreeable about it. His idea of what God is supposed to do and what God in tact does differ radically. Jonan sulks. Jonah is angry. The word anger occurs six times in this final chapter.
Anger is most useful as a diagnostic tool. When anger erupts in us, it is a signal that something is wrong. Something isn’t working right. There is evil or incompetence or stupidity lurking about. Anger is our sixth sense for sniffing out wrong in the neighborhood. Diagnostically it is virtually infallible, and we learn to trust it. Anger is infused by a moral/spiritual intensity that carries conviction: when we are angry, we know we are on to something that matters, that really counts. When God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah shot back, “I do well to be angry, angry enough to die” [Jonah 4:9].
What anger fails to do, though, is tell us whether the wrong is outside or inside us. We usually begin by assuming that the wrong is outside us—our spouse or our child or our God has done something wrong, and we are angry. That is what Jonah did, and he quarreled with God. But when we track the anger carefully we often find it leads to a wrong within us—wrong information, inadequate understanding, underdeveloped heart. If we admit and face that, we are pulled out of our quarrel with God into something large and vocational in God. Apostle Paul said, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life” (Eph 4:26-27).
It takes a self-reflective person to discern what anger implies. God designs “anger” as a device to detect problem inside us. It is like what a red engine light does in our car. When this light is on, it tells you a problem needs to be fixed in your engine. But if the driver chose to believe it was outside factor that triggered the light, then the engine might eventually died down or fatal accident might occur. Anger, therefore, calls for introspection, and the focus should be more on examining the reason of your reaction than the stimulation. Of course, there are times when we react in anger too fast that it is too late to reflect, regret or remorse because a damage is already done. But we still need to examine the cause of our anger in order to prevent future reaction and heal the wound. It is always easier to make a decision not to react in anger before it flares up. That’s why Apostle James advised us, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Let’s watch out and pray for each other on anger management…
Love you in Christ,