I got really angry the other day. I have to admit I am ashamed as I type these words. I wasn’t angry for some noble reason. There was no godly anger. I was angry because I had been personally offended, slighted in my opinion. And it was over something so trivial, so unimportant. But here I was once again, letting my emotions get the best of me. Refusing to do what was right. I knew I would regret it. But there I was giving in to the desire of my flesh. Worshipping the idol of self.
So my outburst had taken place over the weekend. I had hurt someone dear to my heart. I had modeled ungodliness to my daughters. This was a hard pill to swallow because having 5 girls in the house means I have countless conversations about not letting your emotions rule you. About using your God-given emotions for good; in compassion, empathy, love, nurture. But here I was guilty of the very thing that I teach them not to do. Guilty.
And when my anger subsided, it was replaced with sadness and guilt.
In the Bible Fellowship Group that I co-teach on Sunday mornings, we have been going through Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him. It’s a short, easy-to-read study on the attributes of God. We were in the last chapter this week and the attribute was “Sovereignty”. It was not my week to teach, but I had re-read and studied the chapter that week, none-the-less.
But there I sat that Sunday morning, as my friend taught, staring at my book, dumbfounded, convicted, guilty, as I read (re-read for probably the 3rd or 4th time) these words…
“Preferential love of others requires crushing our desire to control them. Do you allow moodiness to make others walk on eggshells around you? Do you expect others to be able to read your mind when your feelings are hurt? Is there a subtext to your speech? Choose kindness over control, and watch your relationships gain health.”
As I read, I answered yes in my mind to all of those questions. In that moment of uncontrolled anger, all of this was true of me. I was trying to control the other person, instead of controlling the one person I actually can control, ME. There was preferential love going on, but it was not directed at the other person, it was directed at me.
This Scripture came almost immediately into my mind. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. “ (Phil 2:3). It sounds a lot like the “preferential love” that she spoke of, not the “preferential love” that I was actually showing. I was counting myself, my hurt feelings, my agenda, my day as most significant.
Y’all, sin is ugly. And there I sat in all my ugliness and guilt. Oh, I had apologized, I had repented. But I could not let myself get over the guilt.
Here’s where I struggle the most. Sin. Guilt. Self-condemnation.
And in those moments, I feel as if I’m the only one. I think things like if I am a Christian I wouldn’t act like this. I would control myself. But here’s where the battleground truly is…do I believe what God has said or do I believe the lies of the evil one?
Paul writes of this struggle in Romans,
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” – Romans 7:15. So God, in His Word, reminds me here, I am not alone in this struggle. Not only am I not alone, every Christian in the history of the world now, and the ones who are to come, struggle with doubt. With fear. With the battle of the flesh over the mind.
Paul goes on to say,
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom 7:21-25)
Yes, Paul, my soul agrees! Wretched woman that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? And the glorious answer, Jesus! And there it is, the thing that I have to constantly remind myself of the Gospel. The thing that I can never get away from. The thing that the Lord Himself reminds me of daily. I need Him, every day, every hour, every minute, every second.
Paul’s next words in this glorious section of Scripture also speak to my soul. And read in context of the previous verses resonates with my thoughts and my struggles.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1
Whether I self-condemn or not, in Christ, I am not condemned. I am forgiven. I am set free.
So although I desire the maturity to control my emotions, my anger. I take comfort in these words of Scripture. I am thankful that the Lord does not leave me to myself and that the conviction and the desire to grow and mature only come from Him. Hebrews 12:3-11 is my favorite portion of Scripture. The Holy Spirit always draws my mind and spirit back to it.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb 12:5-6)
In my sin, my ever-present reminder of my need for Him. Even in this, He loves me. So in my repentance, I am brought back into the arms of my Father. My father teaches me through discipline/conviction to receive it from His loving hand. And this is the training ground to maturity.
The writer of Hebrews continues, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11). Trained by it. Like an athlete in the gym of life trained by the Sovereign God of the universe who is also my loving Father, my redeemer, my helper. Jen Wilkin is right. There is truly none like Him. He offers forgiveness for sin, freedom for guilt, and justification for self-condemnation.