Editor's note: This article was originally published on iBelieve.com. It has been republished here with permission.
We bowed our heads to pray before dinner. His words hit hard. I didn't want to hear them voiced through his sweet 5-year-old heart, but yet sadly, they were true. And the truth hurt.
"Thank you for our day, and thank you for our food, and God, please help my mom not to be so angry. Amen."
The tears brimmed fast, and started to flow. Everyone was silent, as all eyes looked up and someone passed the potatoes. My husband came quickly to my defense, wanting to correct what was spoken. I stopped him. Because I knew I needed to make things right.
It had happened over time. Stirring. Churning. Sometimes in the struggling days of life, when we're tired and alone, or feeling unnoticed, something begins to take root. Bitterness begins to grow. And things start to bother us more than they should. Patience is short. Tempers rise fast. Unforgiveness over small offenses looms in our minds and hearts. It ain't pretty. And it affects all we are. Our home, our children, our marriage, our lives.
The Bible has much to say about anger. In fact, it's mentioned 268 times. To put that in perspective, the word "joy" is mentioned less, 242 times. And though it is a normal emotion that we all feel at many times throughout life, when unleashed, and unchecked, it is dangerous.
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1
"Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back." Proverbs 29:11
"An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin." Proverbs 29:22
Sometimes it's misdirected. And it flows out on innocent people who don't even know what happened to have caused such strong reaction. We see it on the highway all the time. Drivers intent on getting there fastest and you'd better not get in the way. We see it in our workplace. Stifled anger sitting on edge. Calling for sides between co-workers and friends. We see it at the ball park. Parents going toe to toe with an umpire who made a bad call. Or calling to a child who missed a ball, with such intense fire, "What's wrong with you boy? Come on, let's go!"
We see it in our homes, destroying marriages, wounding children, unrelenting arguments, casting hurt on those we say we love the most. Law enforcement officers have often reported that the most dangerous visit to make is the one for a domestic disturbance. Emotions raw, tempers flared, out of control, people do things they normally wouldn't do.
We see it on the news. Troubled gunman, seething with hostility, shooting down countless victims. Precious souls who never even knew what happened but sadly were found in the pathway of fury.
It's not supposed to look like this. He gives us deep emotion to bring change, to feel strongly enough about life so we're driven to make a difference. God created us with emotion and passion. It's meant to be used for good. It's not meant to destroy what we hold dear.
A fire serves great purpose. But unleashed, unprotected, it is dangerous. It quickly takes over and is not easily put out. It becomes wild and relentless. The same is true of anger.
Many people have falsely believed that anger itself is wrong. Not true. God Himself speaks many times throughout the Bible about feeling anger toward sin and injustice. He gave us the same ability to feel deep emotions, not only anger, but joy, sadness, fear, trust, among many others. The emotion itself is not wrong; it's what it leads to, and our reaction to it, that can be wrong and destructive.
If you notice this pattern in your own life, the first step towards freedom is to admit that it's a problem. There is grace, there is forgiveness, and there is hope.
5 Ways to Overcome Anger
1. Begin to focus on what God says about anger
2. Ask Him for His help, daily
Throughout the day. That is where your strength comes from.
3.Talk to someone else who can offer help, a trusted friend or counselor
The enemy would want nothing more than for you to feel alone, or to believe the lie that it's "not really that bad."
4. If you are in a desperate situation, where you have either been abused or have been so angry, you were tempted to abuse, you need to find safety.
You need to find help. Now. Don't wait. God never intends for us to remain in a dangerous situation where our lives or loved ones are threatened.
5. Believe He has good in store for you
He wants you to live free.
Relying on God today to release the things I cannot change, those things that bring fear and anger, and trusting Him for help to use every emotion with wisdom. That whatever stirs within me from life pressures or injustices surrounding us, would drive me to Him, for strength to wisely respond, instead of driving me to react in vented agitation.
Relying on His grace. Every single day. There's freedom there.
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's facebook page or Twitter, for daily encouragement in living strong, hope-filled lives.