"I Never Struggled With Anger Until..."
by Kristina Matz
I have heard this so many times from friends, from moms on the playground, and from myself. I can remember being a relatively easy going young woman. I knew friends and family members that struggled with anger… bummer for them, right? I definitely didn’t share that same struggle.
My first child had a remarkable way of “making” me angry. At least, that’s what I believed for a long time and that’s the truth I would share with others when talking through my parenting struggles. But as the years passed and God graciously refined me through His Word, it became glaringly obvious what was truly causing my anger. It was not my child. It was my pride.
Stop Taking Everything Personal
I want to take 1 Corinthians 13 and look at it through the lens of pride rather than love. Imagine turning the whole thing upside down.
Pride is impatient and unkind. Pride is envious and boastful. It is arrogant and rude. It insists on its own way. It is irritable and resentful. Pride does not rejoice at the truth, but rejoices with wrongdoing. Pride burdens all things, suspects all things, doubts all things, runs away from all things.
When I think about what goes on in my head and in my heart when I become angry at my children, this is a pretty good picture. And what is pride really all about? Me. It shows its ugly face when I begin to make everything about me. When every disobedience and every harsh word becomes about me I quickly begin to respond emotionally to my children. My hurt turns to anger with such subtlety and such speed that I won’t even catch it if I’m not looking for it. But there is such a freedom in seeing my sin for what it is. And it is only then that I can be on the lookout for a way out of it when the temptation undoubtedly comes again.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13
If I am correctly viewing my child’s sin in light of my God-given, biblical role of a parent then I will never take my child’s sin personally. My authority as a parent and the rules that govern our home are all directly from God and His Word. Rather than be hurt by their rejection of me, I will be grieved by their rejection of God. My pride forgets this. My pride ignores this.
Stop Making Excuses
Perhaps you have a child that is particularly nasty. Particularly defiant. Particularly sassy. We can all think of the reasons that we have it worse than the next parent. But what are really defending? Our right to be righteously angry?
“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” - James 1:20
Scripture is very clear about this. Our anger is not righteous and we need to stop looking for a reason to defend our behavior and start dealing with it biblically. If we look back to what 1 Corinthians 13 does say about real, biblical love we are left with a myriad of questions to ask ourselves. Are we patient with our children? Are we kind to them in our correction? Are we irritable when things don’t go our way?
I cannot look into the face of God’s Word and not walk away convicted. This is how it ought to be. As we stare into perfect righteousness, we should be met with our own weaknesses and call out to God for His help. And the amazing thing is, these are prayers that God will be faithful to answer. God’s desire is that His children would love as He commands. We must pray as though we believe that God desires to complete the good work He has started in us (Philippians 1:6). We must boldly come before the throne of our gracious King to ask daily for the wisdom that He promises us (James 1:5-8). We need to be parents that are not only praying biblical prayers for our children, but that are regularly praying biblical prayers for ourselves. When we daily ask God to seek our hearts for any grievous way, we need to be prepared to trust that He will lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24)!
Correct Our Expectations
In every relationship, in every situation, unmet expectations might just be our greatest downfall. Think through every frustration that you run into with your children, your spouse, your family, your co-workers. Does it not all stem from an expectation that you had along the way that did not get met? Oftentimes these expectations are never voiced, perhaps never even realized, but they fall into the category of “unmet expectations” nonetheless.
For me, one of my greatest unrealized unmet expectations is that of sinless children. Ridiculous, right? I one hundred percent agree! But when I find myself annoyed at having to correct them and just downright angry over their repeated disobedience, the only answer is that I began to expect perfect children somewhere along the way. How often do we really expect our children to disobey? And not an expectation for failure because of our own sinful displeasure in them, but I mean an honest evaluation of their need for training. My job is "to parent” my children. All too often we view parent as a noun but forget it’s position as a verb. My job is active and ongoing. I have been assigned a very high calling from the Creator of the universe Himself! What an absolute privilege this is. But, sadly, I forget to see it this way all too often.
I pray that we would all correct our expectations of our children as we simultaneously correct our understanding of the calling that God has placed on each of our lives. Many people struggle to know what God has called them to. They hunt for passion and search for meaning. What a tiresome and discouraging pursuit this can be. We must be careful not to define what is good by the culture’s definition. If we have a child, we have been called to parenthood. And if we have been called to parenthood then we have been assigned the task of raising a future generation that, Lord willing, will become future disciples of the Living God. What could possibly be more exciting than that?!