When Anger Overwhelms Us

March 20, 2018

We had a conversation several weeks ago with one of our kids who is struggling with anger, specifically towards God. It’s understandable, since three of our five kids are adopted from foster care, and came to us with lives they’ve lived without us, unknown and unshared. We know this on one level, and yet as parents it can be so easy to forget.

The anger came out as a comment during a recent discussion. It was spoken offhand, as though daring to share it aloud meant fully committing to this truth, looking for a bad reaction from us. Instead my husband and I sat with the statement, unwilling to scold or judge. After a few moments I whispered, I can understand why you’d feel this way.

Anger can be a natural reaction to things that happen to us or to the people we love. When hard questions about life and why things have to happen the way they do go unanswered, often anger is there running right alongside the longing for why couldn’t things have been different. All too often, no one dares to ask that question aloud, but it whispers to us in the hollow of night, with no response back. It’s heartbreaking to not have answers for our kids. Especially answers that could soothe their heartache.

We’ve realized, as we see it play out before us, that anger is also a way to hide or to not feel the emotions that are buried deep below the surface. Anger is a way to ignore the pain and hurt. And I understand this, too. I—like my children, like all of us—am adverse to feeling pain and conjuring up old hurts I’d rather not remember. I'd much prefer to forget. And yet, left alone and unchecked, anger can destroy us from the inside out. A cancer to our hearts, minds, and very souls, left to fester it will eat away at our joy, our peace, our very lives. Anger, when allowed to grow, can easily turn to hate—hate of self, of others, and of God.

And so, last night, we circled back around. We talked about Ephesians 4, we discussed who Paul was, how he was so hateful that he was willing to murder for it—and then he met Jesus. We talked about the transformation that took place, the incredible love Paul had for all people after allowing the truth of who God was (and still is) transform his heart and mind, even towards those he’d once hated. We pondered together how his anger must have been such a heavy weight to carry and the freedom it seems he found. And then we wondered how it could possibly be so.

And then Kyle asked, “What do you think God is like?” A shrug of the shoulders.

So I followed up, “What do you hope that God is like? In a perfect world, what would you like God to be like?"

This child of ours pondered for a moment. “I’d like him to be caring.”

“Yes,” I said, “What else?”

“And loving.” I nodded. “And forgiving.”

I wait just a few moments to see if there’s anything else to be said before I respond quietly, “I’d like God to be those things too.”

And again we sit. I don’t want to hurry too much past this moment.

We end our conversation by talking about ways we may look for who God is in everyday life. I know this isn’t the whole of the conversation I want to have. There are so many more things to say and talk about and read through. But, for today, it is enough.

We don’t have to have it all figured out today. Maybe just being open to the possibility of a new way of being or thinking is enough for now.

This is the hope I cling to—the possibility of change. The hope that we will see the goodness of God, even in the face of all that life leaves unanswered. That maybe we'd begin to see the love, the care, the forgiveness of God all around us in our normal, everyday lives.

That we'd begin to see that maybe new life wasn't just meant for guys like Paul, but for all of us.

If you're struggling to know who God is, these are just a few books that have helped shape my thoughts and understanding about God: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahn, Adopted by Kelley Nikondeha, Falling Free by Shannan Martin, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and Love Does by Bob Goff.

I'd love to hear what books or resources have helped you along your faith journey. Send us a message or leave a comment below.

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