A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
So here I am, dressed in my “Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes,” teaching my Sunday school class of young wives. I’m the pastor’s wife, mind you, mother of seven small children, expected to be a paragon of virtue (whatever that means!) I’m teaching what I’ve been learning from the Bible, confident and eager. We’re in the book of James, and I come to verses 19 and 20 in the first chapter: “My dear brothers,” I read aloud, “take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (niv).
Suddenly, to my humiliation, as I read those words aloud, it seems as if God Himself taps me on the shoulder. “Libby, pay attention. I’m talking to you. Your irritation when you reprimand your children isn’t ‘righteous indignation’ like you think it is. It’s just plain sin, and it will never bring the change in your children’s hearts which you hope it will.”
I gulp. God is absolutely right. There was nothing I could answer except, “I hear You, Lord, and I’ll fix it.”
Why had it taken so long for me to realize that obvious truth? My dear husband knew it, and I could have learned from him if I’d been listening. Of course he disciplined our children, but he always did it with compassion and kindness. That day I saw myself and my relationship with my children in a whole new light, and I set out to change it.
I shared this incident in a conference workshop years later. A woman said, “Libby, when you tell bad stuff about yourself, aren’t you afraid people will lose all respect for you?” I had to answer her, “I think they’ve already discovered I’m not much of a saint. And maybe my sharing my struggles will encourage them to face squarely things in their lives they need to fix.” And maybe it will help you.
Anger is a terrible, destructive enemy. It’s at the heart of those road rage incidents we read about, where an angry driver destroys his own automobile trying to punish another driver. How could a driver be so angry he loses all sense of proportion and “pays back” a bad driver by destroying his own vehicle? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer:
You must display a new nature
because you are a new person,
created in God’s likeness–righteous, holy, and true. . .
So “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.
Ephesians 4:24-27 (nlt)
Anger “gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.” That’s strong language, but we need it in today’s culture of distrust and anger. Uncontrolled anger makes us vulnerable. We will say things, we will do things that will only escalate conflict. And sometimes our anger will mutilate a relationship that can never be repaired. So, may God engrave His words on our hearts:
“Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”