My twelve-year-old self had a violent temper. My fuse was short, and my bursts of anger detonated at perceived-insults as unexpectedly as bursts of laughter explode at well-timed jokes. Without the mutually pleasant consequences.
I once chased my older brother Andy around the house with a knife. I don’t remember what he had done (probably something HEINOUS), but I remember him chuckling as he easily evaded my thrusts. His laughter did nothing to calm my storm.
I hated my uncontrollable anger, so I memorized verses about the angry man:
- A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
- Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty.
- But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.
Whenever I sensed an outburst begin to rise, I tried to calm myself by repeating those memorized verses. It even worked a few times, but not for long. I soon boiled over again.
When I was thirteen, a friend offered to pray for anything I wanted. I asked him to pray for my anger problem. Six months later, he asked how I was doing, and I realized I hadn’t lost my temper once since he prayed. I hadn’t even had to fight it.
My explosive temper had been miraculously defused.
Since then, I’ve asked God to take away other bad habits, and he’s never acted again so instantly. He usually works slower, a little less dramatically, and (it seems) less miraculously.
When we first become Christians, we think all our problems will disappear. Some do, and some don’t. We still find ourselves anxious, thin-skinned, lustful, self-focused, or critical. But your daily problems and mine are different:
- Some of us live lives of daily anxiety; others worry once in a blue moon.
- Some of us constantly embellish stories to spotlight our greatness; others exaggerate our prowess only on leap-years.
- Some of us fly off the handle at the slightest hint of an insult; others explode only on the fourth of July.
But we all have some chronic habits. We know them as well as we know our best friends. (Our friends know them pretty well too.) We struggle to rid ourselves of these unwelcome guests: we memorize scripture, tell ourselves to stop being anxious, and berate ourselves when we fail again—for the third time this morning.
And sometimes God miraculously takes the problem away. Yippee! But most of the time, it doesn’t work that way. There has to be a reason.
Here’s What I Think
God himself wants to be our daily companion. If he removed our chronic failures in the blink of an eye, we would go on our merry way. (We do it in other areas; God gives us a blueprint for our lives, we say, “Thank you very much,” and we start building without him.)
God wants more than mere absence of sin. More than perfect robots, he wants us as constant companions. So he doesn’t just remove our chronic failures with the snap of his holy fingers. God could snap his holy fingers and I’d instantly be free of those frustrating habits that irritate me (and others). But he hasn’t. (Ask my family.)
More than perfection, God wants me to learn to dwell with his life in me.
Sometimes Slow-Cooked is Better
What triggers our habitual sins? We’re anxious because we “know” what we need and we believe God won’t get it right; we exaggerate stories about ourselves because we feel insignificant; we explode in anger because we dislike our circumstances, and we try to control them with blunt force.
Our anger, anxiety, and self-serving stories are symptoms of our deepest problems. If we really believed that God wants the best for us, anxiety would disappear. If we believed God values us and he’s orchestrating circumstances to bring about something glorious in us, our exaggerations and anger would evaporate.
More than the miracle of getting more sin out of our lives, we need the miracle of getting more of God into our lives. It is the life of God in us that brings healing.
Feel free to disagree. It won’t tick me off. And that’s a miracle.
Hi Sam, Thank you for your insight this morning. It seems that it always gets back to depending on God for everything. I needed this message today as a reminder. Blessings brother.
Chris, it was great to talk with you again yesterday. God bless!
Just finished your book and started the Bible reading plan (great timing, had been trialling new plans since Jan 1!) Loved the book and so far am loving the plan…. awesome to see the connections between the four readings. Totally resonating with the ongoing conversation with God… take every thought captive, emphasis, so much practise still needed, but wow, it’s transformative. Thank you for the book and plan. Blessings on your year!
Thanks for your encouragement. And I hope you love the reading plan as I do. It’s a chance to hear his voice.
We are all taught that Scripture is God’s Word, and then few teach us HOW to hear his word. The point of that reading plan is how to hear Him speak to us.
Love it! Thanks for this short but insightful read Sam.
Thanks so much for this Sam. I have begun to realize that much of my disobedience stems from being strong-willed, and now I am praying that God’s Will becomes my primary desire. As that prayer is being answered, I am able to recognize my sins more readily and do what’s needed to change – but only when I am consistently seeking God’s wisdom and direction.
I love your heart in this. Most of us HATE to recognize our own sins (!), and yet you see that happening as you seek God’s wisdom and direction. And that is right.
Recognizing and admitting them also provides and invitation to more intimacy with God; it means we go to him and ask for HIS will in our lives, HIS spirit working in us.
I think God is taking his time on mine–and may actually choose to leave some of them permanently troublesome–because of that “my power is made perfect in weakness” thing. Also because he wants me to give up trying to be approveable (a drive in me which is apparently innate and involuntary), and he’s hoping that its incessant frustration will eventually force surrender in a place I don’t know how to reach. I’m imagining a peace that passes understanding, and I’m really looking forward to it.
I agree: God could snap his fingers and we’d be perfect, but then we wouldn’t rely on him. Seen aright, our sins can actually be invitations to intimacy with him!