Letters like this one compel me to dig deep into a difficult and volatile subject. They wake me up in the middle of the night to wrestle with the powers of darkness. They challenge me to reach into the inferno of twisted and out of control emotions - both my own and those who are looking for answers.
I am struggling in my relationship with a very dear friend. As time goes on it seems like he has explosive episodes regularly and without explanation or reason. This may be seen as manic/depression. I know this label doesn’t “unlock the troubled mind and heart” you so beautifully referred to.
He is not willing to work on these episodes that slash me to pieces and kick me out of his life and heart. He tells me I am too “touchy – feely” for him to deal with. Even though I can name this disorder and see the cycle and pattern, I cannot just stop loving.
Do you have words that would help me go on?
I don’t remember when I had to turn the computer on at 4:00 in the morning. I feel like a pharmacist who was called upon to open God’s drugstore in the middle of the night.
In God’s drugstore is healing for everyone. It takes a lot of training, though, to fill each prescription correctly. Thank you for trusting me to fill your prescription. I will try not to overdose you, give you the wrong pills, or ask you to take something that is impossible for you to swallow. Some of the pills may even be sugarcoated so that they will go down more easily. My credentials are from the school of grace, tender mercies and obedience. I am still a trainee. Please make allowance for that if I fumble with some words. I always ask God to let my words be His words but don’t always get it right.
express my thoughts. I also expect more healing for myself as I ponder and attempt to diffuse such a volatile subject. I shall invest a lot of quality time before filling your prescription. Don’t be surprised if it will take several months before the final draft of another article for the newsletter is in your hands. During this time many thoughts and prayers will be sent in your direction. Writing is not a chore for me, it is a holy and fulfilling assignment. I love to spend time in God’s heavenly drugstore learning to fill these kinds of prescriptions.
You asked me to share some helpful words that address the subject of anger. That is a volatile subject and must be addressed and diffused with utmost caution. If we are not careful, it can explode in our face. To rescue an angry person from his anger can be compared to negotiating a minefield without being blown to pieces. Anger is like the common cold, but far more deadly. Sooner or later almost everyone seems to catch it. Some catch it more often and struggle with it longer than others. Some pass it around freely, while others quarantine themselves until they are better.
I will be dipping into my personal reservoir of failures and victories as I write about the subject of anger. I am eager to
For now let me give you these healing words. You, precious friend, have been given an assignment by God to love, regardless. The love you feel for that special friend in your life is not your own. It is the love that the Father has for his faraway children, and you are God’s messenger. You are also allowed to feel the Father’s pain when this most precious love is violated. When love is unconditional, as yours is, it is indeed a heavenly gift. The only thing that can set any of us free and bring us home is God’s love. Jesus said as He was hanging on the cross for all of us, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” In your heart you have had to learn to say those same words many times and mean them. We all do, regardless of how much it hurts!
I pray even now at four o’clock in the morning that God will give you wisdom. Do not get near the “mouth” of any volcano that is ready to erupt if you can help it. If this should be unavoidable, try not to take the emotional outbursts personally. As you acquire new understanding about the source and reason for anger, you will learn to protect yourself and also become a better counselor. Picture yourself being in basic training or graduate school, whichever you prefer. You will graduate and complete this tough assignment and then be able to help others. That can be your incentive to persevere. Your friend will also become more effective in his job dealing with our wayward youth. I will pray for your protection. I will also pray that the wounds you have received will heal quickly without splinters of bitterness or confusion remaining a part of your life.
I do not know where your friend is in his relationship to Jesus at the moment, but it is vital you are equally yoked with him in your faith. It is a matter of great grace when two people can recognize and acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Christ and their Messiah. Only then will they be able to walk hand in hand with one another.
God speaks to us through His Word, His creation, His silence, one another, little children, dreams, music, movies, art, poetry. He tries every which way to get our attention. He loves to surprise us. He often needs to surprise, even shock us to get our attention. When the insight comes you will both know God has touched you and that the answers are not man-made. You will breathe that sigh of relief and feel safer and more complete with one another than you ever dreamt possible. Seeking God’s answer in this matter is a very high priority. I pray for new strength to go up and over this challenging mountain in your life.
I am pleased that your friend does not seek to camouflage his problem with medication; neither did Jesus when He was nailed to the cross. God cannot produce His character in us when we choose the easy or quick way out. There is such a strong emphasis today to cure almost any emotional or mental pain with drugs that it is very easy to fall prey to them and become addicted. This will not be an easy time for your friend but God will have Himself a giant of a man when his emotions are bridled and trustworthy.
Deep down inside I am a soldier. It is a holy assignment for me to be involved. As you can see, God did not let me sleep until I wrote and prayed my heart out on your behalf. You are worth it. God loves you. And know this, it is Christ in me travailing for you. It is Christ in me battling for you and your friend. What a privilege it is to be called upon to be His earthen vessel!
Blessings and more blessings as you start the New Year with these words in your hands.
In a subsequent letter I received this encouraging response: “I informed my friend that I consulted you. He was GLAD and said, ‘Then, we will wait for Peter’s reply.’ He truly wishes to be delivered. We both do. There is something I do that triggers these episodes?”
My friends have taken the first of many difficult and courageous steps in the direction of healing. They have acknowledged there is a problem. They have acknowledged that each one may be contributing to the problem, and they have asked for help. But where do we go from here?
My most effective way of communicating my heart and thoughts has always been by writing personal letters. It has also been my style to draw heavily upon my personal experiences and convictions. And until I can be compassionately involved in another’s problems and pain, I am quite ineffective and can easily be judgmental. Although I do like to recommend other books from time to time besides the Bible, my personal journey through the wilderness of untamed emotions serves as my main reference material.
The day I committed myself to respond to our friend’s letter, the latest Guideposts magazine arrived. I opened it randomly. and on page 15 of the February 2000 edition there was an article about anger and pain. “YES, I’M ANGRY!” was the title. The byline read, “Many factors contribute to our experience of pain – even the emotions we sometimes keep bottled up inside.” I remember that our friend suffers from severe headaches and hope he can benefit from this article. Up to this point he has tried to deal with the pain with painkillers. They help him cope, but a permanent cure continues to elude him.
In the reference library of my mind is another selection that poignantly explains how our physical and emotional well being is often in partnership. Without further editorial comments I would like to suggest that those who struggle with either their physical or emotional health take the following selection from the book, “COME AWAY MY BELOVED” by Frances J. Roberts to heart. It is quoted here with permission from the author, a beloved friend.
WHATSOEVER YE SOW
How can I give you healing for your body whilst there is anxiety in thy mind? So long as there is dis-ease in thy thoughts, there shall be disease in thy body. Ye have need of many things, but one thing in particular ye must develop for thine own preservation, and that is an absolute confidence in My loving care.
‘Come unto Me”, it is written, ‘all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt.11: 28) Only when your mind is at rest can your body build health.
Worry is an actively destructive force. Anxiety produces tension, and tension is the road to pain. Fear is devastating to the physical well-being of the body. Anger throws poison into the system that no antibiotic ever can counteract.
‘Be sure your sin will find you out’, the Bible states. One of the most common ways that hidden sin is revealed is through the maladies of the body. More arthritis is brought about by resentments and ill will than is caused by wrong diet. More asthma is caused by repressed fury than by pollen or cat fur.
There was no illness in the body of Jesus because there was no sin in His soul. There was weariness as a natural result of labor and sacrificial service, but there was no undue fatigue and exhaustion brought on by anxiety.
Ten minutes of unbridled temper can waste enough strength to do a half-day of wholesome work. Your physical energy is a gift from God, entrusted to you to be employed for His glory. It is a sin to take His gift and dissipate it through the trap doors of the evil emotions of the disposition.
Look not upon others and condemn them for jeopardizing their health by harmful habits and wasting their energies on vain pursuits while you yourself undermine your health by unworthy emotions and take time which by keeping your mind in an attitude of praise and faith could be constructively employed; but instead you allow this time to be a period of destructive action by entertaining such things as self-pity and remorse and evil-surmising.
You cannot risk giving your thoughts free rein. They will never choose the right path until you bridle them and control them by your own disciplined will. You are master of your own house. You do not have to invite into your mind the foul birds of evil thoughts and allow them to nest there and bring forth their young.
Whatsoever ye sow in your secret thought-life, that shall ye reap. Sow love and kindness, and ye shall be rewarded openly. Sow charity and forgiveness, and ye shall reap in kind. Sow generosity and gratitude, and ye shall reap in kind. Sow generosity, and ye shall never feel poor. Sow hope, and ye shall reap fulfillment. Sow praise, and ye shall reap joy and well-being and a strong faith. Sow bountifully, and ye shall reap bountifully. Sow! Ye shall see your seed and be satisfied.
“You cannot risk giving your thoughts free rein. They will never choose the right path until you bridle and control them by your own disciplined will.” How very true these words are. They echo words from the Book of Proverbs and James. Here are four proverbs from God’s heavenly pharmacy that can cure anger and lack of self-control when applied conscientiously. It is written, “It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army.” (Pr. 16:32). “Keep away from angry, short-tempered men, lest you learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Pr. 22:24-25) “A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.” (Pr. 25:28). “There is more hope for a fool than for a man of quick temper.” (Pr. 29:20). Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20).
Twenty-six years ago or thereabouts I looked at an art exhibit in San Marcos, California. I remember only one picture. The artist had portrayed a herd of wild horses stampeding through the dusty main street of an old Midwestern town. As I pondered what the artist was trying to express, that very gentle and familiar touch of God’s Spirit came upon me. Whenever that happens, my complete attention is turned to what God might be trying to say to me. I first became aware of God’s Spirit witnessing to my spirit shortly after opening my heart to Jesus some thirty years ago.
The answer did not come immediately. One day, several months later, I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. Once again I could see the same picture vividly in my mind’s eye. These unprovoked words were birthed into my spirit, “Peter, the wild horses you saw represent your unbridled emotions. When they are bridled, I will be able to use you as my reliable and trusted servant.” At that point I made the decision to allow these wild horses to be caught and tamed. I purposed in my heart from that moment forward to discipline my thoughts and emotions. Heretofore this had been a haphazard process of low priority.
As the years went by I would have dreams about wild horses reminiscent of the movie “The Man from Snowy River.” With every dream another one of the wild stallions was caught and bridled. I always awoke with a happy heart and the knowledge that the fruit of the spirit, self-control, was maturing in my life. Horse trainers are learning that it is far easier to train and tame wild horses by “gentling “ them than by using brute force and macho words. That is also God’s way.
Anger is akin to fire. Is it all bad or can it have a legitimate place in the life of a man or woman who has surrendered their will to God? Anger does not have to be all bad. There is righteous anger. Jesus modeled both gentleness and anger for us. When he threw the moneychangers out of the temple, His Father’s house, He expressed righteous anger. When He addressed the Pharisees and called them hypocrites and whitewashed sepulchers, He expressed righteous anger. I would suggest, however, we all get a lot more practice being gentle like Jesus, before being angry like Jesus. The psalmist David said, “The gentleness of God has made me great.” II Samuel 22:36. The knife in the hand of a surgeon is healing and cleansing. The knife in the hand of an angry man can be a brutal instrument.
There is an angry man in many of us. The first time we meet him in others or ourselves is a painful and humiliating surprise. But the sooner we meet him and can admit he is an unwelcome part of our personality, the sooner we can get him arrested and put into chains. If we do not deal with him ourselves, others will and should. One day we may wake up in prison, in a straight jacket, or minus friends and family if we don’t. And more likely than not, we will be tempted to blame everyone else, including God, for our isolation and confinement. This life and the next without God, family and friends is a very lonely place. Ask anyone who has spent time in solitary confinement if this is not true.
Unbridled anger is the unseen hit man who pulls the trigger and then laughs when we get caught and arrested. The words from our mouth can be as deadly as the bullet from a gun. Unverbalized hostility will poison the atmosphere around us. Sensitive individuals know immediately when an angry, judgmental or fearful person has walked into the room. The villain of anger does not need to stalk us like a perpetual, threatening shadow. It is our choice whether or not to grant him a place in our lives. However, the longer we allow him to stay, the harder it will be to get rid of him. We will need help - God’s help! These dark shadows cannot be locked up in basements, behind bars, in straight jackets or subdued with alcohol or drugs, at least not for very long. And the longer we allow them to stalk our lives, the more brazen, ruthless and vile they become. Besides anger there are other villains to contend with such as fear, rebellion, lust, jealousy, greed, pride, to name just a few.
Where do we go from here? There is only one place. We have to cry out to God for help. Will I do that? Will I humble myself or will pride say, “I can do it myself.” or “Bug off with your holier than thou words.” The choice is always ours. God forces no one to bend their knees to Him. It was years before I was able and willing to admit that I had a problem. It was more years before I realized I could not deal with this angry part of my personality by myself or with the help of modern medicine. Pills and psychiatrists gave it their best shot, but could not budge this squatter in my life. They can help, but only God was able to set me free. Ask anyone if they were able to find peace with God by taking a pill and the answer will be “NO”. The problem is far more complex than a chemical imbalance, poor diet, lack of physical exercise or sleep, a dysfunctional childhood, etc. and etc. These areas are to be considered and evaluated, but they should not be used to explain away or excuse our immoral or destructive behavior.
There is an underlying and universal sickness, which is called sin. Yuk, that’s a word no one seems to like, but everyone has to deal with sooner or later. We need to remember that every ugly and accusing act, word and thought still drives a spike into the hands, feet and heart of Jesus. Oswald Chambers writes, “No one is held responsible by God for having a heredity of sin: what God holds a person responsible for is refusing to let Jesus Christ deliver him from it when he sees that this is what He came to do.” (John 3:18-21) I vividly recall a man who came to see us many years ago. He said, “Peter, my anger has always been my armor and weapon. It has also been my downfall. I will be naked and defenseless if I surrender my anger to Jesus.” I replied, “You can trust Jesus to be your forgiveness, your armor, and your defense.” By the grace of God, he allowed this to happen before he left. His life changed – not instantaneously, but little by little. He is now married and the name of Jesus is on his lips in lieu of many angry and accusing words. Now he speaks the name of Jesus with praise, gratitude and reverence.
Our unbridled nature is our old, rotten self. That self needs to die for God to rule and reign in its place. The question is, “Are we willing for our old nature, our bad habits, our old way of doing things and reacting, to be taken to the cross or the dump?” Sloppy, arrogant and unruly tenants need to be evicted and the house must be cleansed before a better tenant will move in. Those who are in the rental business know all about that. These nasty and dirty squatters who never pay any rent don’t leave without putting up a stiff fight. We must be ready and willing to fight to the death, the death of our old nature. It may be a sobering reminder that the devil is also called the accuser of the brethren, and for each one of us to ask this question, “Have I ever made room for him in my heart?”
I am going to let someone else speak to those who are being abused by angry men, women, co-workers, bosses and children. If you do not want the abuse to continue, I recommend the book entitled “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the meantime continue to love, continue to forgive, but do not allow yourself to be abused one more time. And if you can get that angry, and best friend, to read the book and “The Book”, you may have ushered another soul into the Kingdom of God.
And finally, brethren, here is the key that will unlock the gates of our personal hell. Search for a righteous man, a man in right standing with God, and confess your anger to him. For it is written and it is true, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.“ (James 5:16)
“Lord, I am guilty. Your judgment is just. But your Word says that Your mercy is greater than Your judgment. Lord, I give You my angry, proud and accusing heart. I surrender to You my arsenal of angry words, weapons and plans for revenge. Please give me a new heart and a new start and use me to do good and show mercy to others. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for hearing and answering this prayer. ” Amen
It is a mystery, but it is true.
Every angry heart adds a blow or two.
Hold it true that thoughts are things,
Endowed with bodies, breath and wings;
And that we send them forth to fill,
The world with good results or ill.
One of fifteen bronze sculptures nearly life-size by Huberto Maestas.
It is a life-changing experience to see and touch these sculptures in San Luis, Colorado
“Not until I realized what I had done to Jesus, did I know what Jesus has done for me.”