Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Getting the Balance Right

'Anger: Your Spiritual Ally' is a strange title for a book. Written by Andrew Lester and published recently in the UK it offers the idea that far from being the enemy of a Christian, anger is actually our friend!

Now if you're anything like me you'll find that a bit hard to swallow. After all, I've always thought that Christians weren't supposed to get angry, and if they did, they ought to keep it to themselves. We've all seen the damage that anger can do - fractured homes, frightened children, disappointed work colleagues, even violence and death itself - so what good is anger?

As I read the book, and more importantly the Scriptures on this subject, I came to discover some significant truths. Firstly, anger is part of that human nature of which the Creator said 'It's good' in Genesis. OK, so the events of Genesis 3 radically spoiled that assessment, but what I'm getting at is that anger is a normal part of human nature. Secondly, those who know their Bibles will agree that there is clear evidence that God gets angry (very angry actually, though we also read that He is 'slow to anger'). The events surrounding Jesus' rampage through the Temple courts armed with a scourge of cords are also evidence that Jesus (who was sinless) experienced anger. Thirdly, the Bible teaches that there is an anger which is healthy, and another expression of it which is not, in fact is sin. 'Be angry and do not sin' is the advice of the Apostle Paul, contrasting the two.

Now why am I reading that book? Well, partly because I am writing a follow-up to my own book Braving the Storm which contains a chapter on anger. Partly also, though, if I'm honest, I struggle with feelings of anger about my decade or more of chronic pain and serious ill health, and the effects they have had on my family and ministry. I am relieved to read what Mr Lester has to say, and am resolved to find ways of 'owning' my anger and expressing it to God so as to make it part of the healing and not part of the problem.

Now that's what I call a spiritual ally.