Slow to Anger
Written by Sarah Weiner
If you’ve asked me how I’m doing lately, I might say something like, “God is helping me with my parenting anger,” or just, “parenting is hard.” I’m in a season of sweet, curious children learning to ride bikes, pretending with one another, and showing compassion for others. They are little sponges, as my parents like to say. I’m also in a season of children needing me, yet trusting in themselves, and ignoring my wisdom. Although I’d love to tell you they are the only ones who exhibit foolishness in the day-to-day, I can’t, because I join them in that more than I’d like.
I get angry because I am prideful, and how dare they do the exact thing which I said not to do? I get angry because I like to have control, and (if you didn’t know) 4 year olds and 2 year olds don’t always take kindly to being controlled. I also get angry because I am weary, and it’s hard to remember that the Lord is my strength each new day, and for the whole day. This isn’t a how-to-discipline post; this is just an area of life where the Lord is helping me put off the old and put on the new.
Maybe for you, it’s in the car, when someone drives too slowly in front of you. Maybe it’s watching sports, and the person or team you’re cheering for makes a mistake. Maybe it’s someone who disagrees with your economic or political theories. Or maybe it’s a roommate that isn’t as clean as you’d like them to be. Or a boss or co-worker who makes decisions that frustrate you.
I realize there is righteous anger and there are varying nuances and strategies in these situations. After all, God’s anger was kindled against both the Israelites and their enemies throughout the Old Testament. He is slow to reach that kindling though. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6) - this is the refrain written in the psalms, the historical books, and the prophets. I, however, am often “affronted” by my children, more like Beatrix Potter’s Tabitha Twitchit - a mother cat who is not someone I’d like to imitate (and not just because I don’t like cats). I sometimes care more about being inconvenienced or burdened by my children, than about the opportunities God gives me to love them and guide them into His truth.
We are to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), so let us be slow to anger. If you are slow to anger, 1) you have great understanding, 2) you quiet contention, 3) you are better than the mighty, and 4) you have good sense. This is wisdom! Shouldn’t we seek after these things? Alternatively, a hasty temper exalts folly, and a hot-tempered person stirs up strife (see Prov 14:29, 15:18, 16:32, and 19:11).
I have been asking God to take away my anger and replace it with more patience and love for my children. I want to be long-suffering, like him. God is graciously changing me, using wisdom from Scripture, practical books, and conversations with other followers of Jesus. He reminds me to embrace (and even enjoy!) the season I am in, and that these trials are producing in me a life that reflects him more and more as I go.
Whether you are responding to something on social media, disagreeing with your spouse, receiving food that you didn’t order at a restaurant, or disciplining children... “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Even when we fail and anger rules our hearts, God remains merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Thankfully, we can stand on the promise that God will complete the good work he has started in us. Praise be to God!
1. What is something that irritates you quickly? Think about the last time it happened.
2. Why did it anger you? Get to the root.
3. If needed, repent of caring more about your pride than loving your neighbor. Ask God to replace the anger with his patience and mercy.