It’s tempting to say lavish things in a moment of emotion. I’ve observed that some Christians (myself certainly included) sometimes make all-encompassing statements about living the Christian life that actually make no reasonable sense. In other words, they will talk the talk, but cannot realistically walk the walk.
For example, one might say, “I’ll never be angry again! I will always control my emotions from now on in the Spirit.”
Even Jesus expressed anger, and God is often said to be angry in the Old Testament. Paul says to be angry, but don’t sin.
The simple emotion of anger is not always harmful or unloving. It is what you do when you are angry that has moral significance. Paul wrote, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The Amplified version of this verse reads, “When angry, do not sin,” which surely indicates we may sometimes feel anger. Paul is telling us that anger in itself is not wicked; that what we do when angry can be sinful; and that we should not allow ourselves to remain angry by continuing our destructive, resentful self-talk. He is telling us to deal with the issue promptly. (William Backus, Telling Yourself the Truth)
So you can expect to be angry from time to time, and that’s okay, even normal. What really matters is how you walk that anger out.
Instead of saying “I’ll never be angry!”, we can rather say something like, “I want to live by the Lord’s life in me, so when I experience anger, I’ll turn to Him before I respond.”
I’m not talking about suppressing anger or other emotions. That is not healthy either. Rather than ignoring how I feel, or over-reacting to how I feel, there is a third way of dealing with the emotion or situation in a healthy way. If you are struggling with anger, fear, depression, anxiety, a particular sin, and so on, there is an opportunity to learn how the Lord would have you deal with it, but it does require that you admit it and face it. A few ways this could occur are through reading books and articles, talking to mentors or others who have dealt with a similar issue, talking to friends and family that are close to you, praying and spending time with the Lord, asking others to pray with/for you, and studying the Scriptures for guidance.
Other examples of this could be:
- I’ll never feel physical pain again.
- I’ll never let myself feel emotional pain again.
- I’ll never do ____________ sin again.
- I’ll never be tempted again.
- I’ll never put myself before others.
- Now that I’m a Christian, things will always go well for me.
- I’m going to be a perfect husband/wife from now on.
- I’m going to be a perfect parent.
Living in Christ in my experience hasn’t meant that everything will be perfect. It has meant that Jesus is there with me through anything that happens. Our Lord is very practical in His teaching us how to live life in and through Him, and this doesn’t happen through a trouble-free life. The more we are able to look to Christ and depend solely on Him in our trials, the more He gains ground in us.
F.J. Heugel once counseled a friend, “I don’t know the answer to your problem, but I can tell you how to get through it.” He was of course, referring to the cross of Christ.
Those who teach us that the blood of Jesus cleanses or eradicates the old nature often fail to enter into and learn the meaning of the Christ-indwelt life as the only lifelong remedy for self. It was the saintly Francis de Sales who said, “It is a delusion to seek a sort of ready-made perfection which can be assumed like a garment; it is a delusion, too, to aim at a holiness which costs no trouble, although such holiness would be no doubt exceedingly agreeable to nature. We think that if we could discover the secret of sanctity we should become saints quickly and easily.” We shall the rest of our lives be making new and fresh discoveries of plague spots in our nature upon which the Cross must be laid. Has the reader not discovered, in spite of many victories over self and sin, how many natural choices and likes and preferences need to have the death-mark of Calvary put upon them? The birth-mark of nature must be contradicted throughout by the death-mark of the Cross. Let us, then, ask the Lord to mark His Cross upon all our natural choices. (L.E. Maxwell)
Many times, my desire to control an emotion or situation is the fruit of my self-life. I’m trying to control things out of my own strength. When I let all things, including my own desires, go to the cross I give up control to Christ and must depend on Him in every circumstance. And this is exactly what He is after!
Rather than assuming unrealistic expectations, I’m learning to expect trouble in this world, and to turn to Christ in all matters.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
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