I was working on a project. About forty minutes into it. I had expended a lot of thoughts and ideas on a computer screen.
Then the screen went blank.
My computer glitched.
When everything rebooted, all my work was gone. No autosave copy. Nothing.
I stared in disbelief.
Then I slammed my hand as hard as I could against the table.
I felt like picking up my computer and throwing it through the window.
I complained…lamented…stewed…and steamed.
I wanted to cry but felt like screaming instead.
My wife was in the other room watching my meltdown. I think I wanted her attention. Perhaps I needed her sympathy. Instead she stayed quiet…smart enough to realize that nothing she could say at this point would help.
I was having a pity-party-anger-eruption and it was best to leave me alone.
I took a walk around the block to gather my thoughts…to calm down my emotions…to exert some energy.
I hadn’t had an outburst like that in awhile.
I am usually fairly calm. It takes a lot to push my buttons. But for some reason, my fuse was short…my anger intense…my desire to hit something or throw something acute.
What was going on inside of me?
As I walked…let off some steam…and talked with God…I realized that my emotions had probably been building for awhile. Yes, losing my work was a real bummer, but my reaction went above and beyond the incident.
My life has been disrupted by the coronavirus and I am not happy about it.
The first few weeks were sort of novel…unique…a change of pace. I reflected on what was going on in the world…adjusted…read…contemplated.
But now the situation is getting old. I am ready to get back to “normal”…assuming that there is normal to get back to.
I have a feeling that I am not alone.
The growing protests around the country speak to the growing frustration with our situation. We are not happy…with our government…with our local leaders…with the news media…with the virus…with life in general.
Anger is a powerful emotion…and it spreads like a wildfire. First in us…and then toward others. And it leaves a scorched path in its wake.
Anger in itself is not a sin. It is often a valid and necessary reaction to injustice. Since we are created in the image of God, we seem to have a built-in detector toward injustice. When life is not fair, we notice it…we feel it…we fight against it.
But the Bible puts a time limit on our anger…even our righteous anger.
Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).
Anger carried over to the next day becomes pervasive…corrosive…destructive.
Even if we can justify our anger (and that usually makes it worse anyway)…we have still crossed a line when we let it simmer in our hearts.
Today’s anger ferments into tomorrow’s bitterness.
The Bible’s analysis of human anger is crystal clear:
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (Psalm 37:8)
A quick-tempered person does foolish things (Proverbs 14:17)
Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11)
An angry person stirs up conflict,
and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. (Proverbs 29:22)
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
Bottom line: If you are looking for peace with God, peace with others, peace within your own soul…then you are not going to get there on the road of anger. It will always lead you to greater stress, more conflicts, higher blood pressure, tighter fists, tenser muscles, and poorer choices.
That’s because underneath our simmering, lingering anger are usually the roots of pride and fear.
Pride. I am not getting my way and I have a right to be angry about it.
Fear. I am losing my sense of control and I have to fight to get it back.
Anger feels powerful…but its power is deceptive. It lures us into a false sense of strength… a false sense of control… a false sense that we are improving our situation. But in the end we are only making things worse.
Ironically, anger is usually masking over a deeper sense of depression. We would rather vent than lament. We would rather grumble than grieve. We would rather explode at others than examine our own hearts.
Bottom line: Our short fuse short-circuits God’s work in our lives.
Yes, there are legitimate things to be concerned about in this whole coronavirus epidemic…cover-ups…bad decisions…stupid statements…questionable conclusions…potential governmental overreach.
But simply getting angry isn’t going to change the situation…and decisions and actions made out of anger aren’t going to be helpful in the end.
I go back to my computer glitch and accompanying meltdown.
Slamming my hand against the table didn’t solve anything. It only made my hand hurt.
Throwing my computer through the window may have brought a momentary sense of empowerment but it would have created a bigger headache when I had to clean up the mess, replace the window, buy a new computer, and explain the whole childish reaction to my family…and my shocked neighbors.
Venting, complaining, and blaming my stupid computer also didn’t do a thing for me.
But walking and talking with God…and examining what was going on in my heart…led me to re-connect with God…repent of my own childishness…and realize that there were deeper fears and sorrows in me that I needed to acknowledge and address.
I am not sure if or when life is ever going to return to normal. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if the economy will recover. I don’t know if our nation will recover. I don’t know if I get the virus if I will recover.
At the same time, I grieve the loss of corporate worship…the loss of going out to dinner with my wife…the loss of shaking hands with a friend…the loss of drinking coffee in a coffee shop…the loss of my son and future daughter-in-law having a normal wedding celebration.
These things may come back…they may still happen…and besides, there are bigger things to worry about…but they are still losses in my life right now…they still interrupt…they still disrupt…they still hurt…and it is okay to grieve.
Perhaps the reason we are so angry as a nation is because we simply don’t know how to grieve.
When Jeremiah watched his nation crumble around him and everything that was “normal” disappear…he didn’t write Outbursts or Irritations…he wrote Lamentations.
And by lamenting, he found healing…and hope.
Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:19-24)
So the next time you feel like screaming at the TV…or punching a wall…or throwing your computer out the window.
Take a deep breath.
Go for a walk.
Open your heart to God.
Release your disappointments and receive His comforts.
Release your fears and receive His peace.
Release your sorrows and receive His hope.
Release your pride and receive His grace.
Release your anger and receive His love.
He is faithful.
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
And His mercies are new every morning.
And that sure beats having to buy a new window.