My excuse is simple. I'm human. In my case, a cup of German has been thrown in, giving me a flavor of efficiency, organization, perfectionism, and determination. When prepared properly, these ingredient traits can cultivate kindness toward others and consistency in living out Christ's commission. However, when these same components have been overcooked, a bitter aftertaste of anger and frustration typically flares out at others.
I must not be a very good cook because my anger seems to brew, stew, and spew. Recently my brew grew and spewed harshness toward those I work with. While becoming increasingly frustrated at my employees for not meeting production expectations, I allowed my wrath to rave.
After each of my outbursts to various people at work, I suffered internal sorrow. Why did I have to lose my patience so easily? Why did I have to push my perfectionism onto others? Why was I on this binge of betrayal and anger?
The day finally came when I turned to the Lord for help. The trigger? I had just "blown up" at one of my most valued employees. An apology was necessary. However, saying the simple phrase "I was wrong, please forgive me?" is generally difficult for humans. In the case of being a German human, the difficulty is so intense that it actually provides motivation to rein in the renegade rage. As silly as it sounds, my not wanting to say "I'm sorry" instigated my supplication for assistance in restraining my madness.
With a softened heart on the morning of November 19th, the day after I lost my temper and apologized, I humbled myself and asked the Lord to give me guidance on how to adjust my angry attitude. Immediately following my prayer, I opened the Bible for my daily reading of three chapters: one chapter from the New Testament, one chapter from the Old Testament, and one chapter from either the book of Psalms or Proverbs.
What soon followed can only be described as "God's Triple Whammy." The Lord saw my humbled heart, recognized my willingness to turn from my wicked way, and whispered words of wisdom through His written Word.
On that Friday morning, my New Testament bookmark was nestled in Mark, Chapter 11. While reading, I came across verse 11 which seemed completely out of context. The scene was Palm Sunday and Jesus had just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds shouting, "Praise God! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" Then, out of the blue, comes this verse:
"So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked around carefully at everything, and then He left because it was late in the afternoon. Then He went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples."
My eyes stopped in their reading tracks. Why was this verse in here? It made absolutely no sense. Why would Jesus come to the temple, look around, and leave? Maybe it was tied to the next verse? I continued reading:
"The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus felt hungry."
Now I was completely stumped. If this had been a college English composition, the professor would have had this sentence completely circled in red ink with a huge question mark along with the words, "What's your point?" However, I was dealing with God's Word and God always has a point. In search of that point, I looked for an explanation of verse 11 at the bottom of my study Bible's page. Nothing.
So there I sat, my attention riveted to this seemingly stray verse. "Lord," I prayed, "What is your point with this verse? I don't get it."
Hearing nothing in response I resumed my reading. My eyes traveled through verses 12, 13, 14, and then they popped wide open when they read the first few words of verse 15,
"When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple ..."
There it was! The answer! Jesus had left the Temple on the previous day and now, on the next day, He is coming back to the Temple. What could He do on day two in the Temple that He could not do on day one? Intently, I read further:
"When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves, and He stopped everyone from bringing in merchandise. He taught them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a place of prayer for all nations,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves."
I sat stunned. Literally stunned. I had just prayed for guidance on how to adjust my angry attitude and God had just answered my prayer directly through His Word. He knew in advance of my heart's readiness to listen so that He conveniently coordinated my bookmark to be situated in Mark 11. Then, He creatively caught my attention through an isolated verse causing me to pause long enough to catch His message. Feeling lika a baseball catcher who just caught a fast pitch, I was reeling back in response to the powerful lesson just thrown.
I quickly reached for my pen and wrote in the margin of my Bible, "Jesus demonstrates be slow to anger." My stray verse had failed to mention what Jesus was feeling on that previous day when He went into the Temple. Jesus was angry and disappointed. He saw the Temple of The Almighty God being abused for profiteering rather than providing a place of refuge for His people. Jesus had every right to be enraged and yet He chose to control His anger by leaving.
Jesus did not immediately respond to His infuration. Instead, He carefully looked at everything and then left in order to prepare His confrontation toward the merchants and their customers at a later time. What a lesson! My failure was not in being angry at the employee's lack of performance. My error was in not carefully looking at everything and then preparing a plan to address the problem. I was willy-nilly reacting to my aggravation and spouting off like a broken faucet rather than restraining my flooding words until I could channel them to flow with usefulness.
The remainder of Mark chapter 11 was a blur as I savored my sweet Savior's personal response to my searching soul. With a softened heart, I moved on to my Old Testament reading.
My bookmark was strategically placed in Chapter 1 of Habakkuk which finds the prophet complaining to God about many things. By the end of verse 3, I knew school was still in session.
"How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! 'Violence!' I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight."
Habakkuk was crying out for help because he was surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. Those "People" described me. Ouch! God was putting me in the shoes of my employees, the recipients of my combative behavior. What if my emplyees should begin asking God for help because of me, their argumentative boss? What if God answered their prayer? I might become the recipient of God's disciplinary actions. (A situation I would rather avoid!) What should I do?
Blending my newfound lesson from Mark 11, I paused and "looked carefully" at the Old Testament verses before me. Habakkuk was not taking his complaints to the people causing him distress. Instead, he was taking his grievances directly to God. I had been voicing my frustrations at my crew when, instead, I should be directing my grumblings to God because only He can change the hearts and actions of my employees. Right then, mid chapter, I released my complaints to God for the problems happening at work. I bent His ear with my work complaints.
No sooner had I said "Amen" when my thoughts went back to murmuring about my employees. Intentionally pulling my brain back into focus, I continued reading the chapter and had to smile when Habakkuk finished the chapter with my same musings:
"Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?"
What was God's answer? What should I do now? As if right on cue, God allowed my peripheral vision to notice that on a previous trip through this book, I had underlined the first verse in the next chapter. In my experience, such verses are morsels to be savored. At some previous point, God's Word impacted me so that I underlined the verse as a reminder in the future of God's faithfulness in the past. The verse was now in my present, and just like a Christmas present displayed under a tree, I knew there was something good inside those words. I naturally chose to peek at the verse and, when I did, I knew God was teaching me through Habakkuk's actions what I should do. My morsel meditation simply stated:
"I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how He will answer my complaint."
Wow! The answer was simple:
Wait and see how the Lord will answer my complaint.
God was blending beautifully both Old and New Testament books for my benefit of absorbing how to better deal with my unbridled bouts of anger. Without a clue, His "Double Header" was quickly leading to a "Triple Whammy" as I moved ahead to my third Bible reading in the book of Psalms.
The minute I turned to my next bookmark, I knew God was introducing me to my third teaching for the day. Psalm 103. The only chapter in the Bible which I have committed to memory. Obviously, verses existed in this chapter which I had not been comprehending so that God found it necessary to include them in my lesson plan.
Rather than rambling on about how these verses spoke to me, I'm thinking that I might not be the only person struggling with anger or other similar issues. If I am correct, God may have a different application of these verses to your own life so that I would like to turn the microphone over to Him. Please join me for "God's Triple Whammy."
The Lord is merciful and gracious;
He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He has not punished us for all our sins,
nor does He deal with us as we deserve.
For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him
Is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.