"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." James 1:19–20
"I have been lied to, betrayed, and hurt ~ I am angry and feel I have every right to be! Anger crushes my desire to forgive and although I constantly ask God to fill my heart with mercy, I keep a running mental list of justifications for my anger that override my prayers." Have you ever said this to yourself? I know I have.
My inner dialogue will be one big argument after another. One voice tries to convince me I am justified in remaining angry and another voice tells me that mercy is the right choice. For days, months, even years the loudest voice I hear is the one that indulges my damaged emotions: Yes, I have a right to be angry. Anyone would agree.
If we listen to the voice of bitterness and unforgiveness, we often lash out with impatience and meanness. We can play the good Christian for short periods of time, but if something triggers our suppressed emotions, hostility and resentment catapult to the surface.
I can sense God inviting me to consider the direction my own anger and emotions are taking me and the damage it can do. As I read the words from James 1, I can't help but notice how it says "everyone" should be slow to speak and slow to anger. This truth from God's Word leaves no room for my excuses or righteous indignation, even though I feel like my emotions are justified. And then a few verses later, it reads: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" James 1:22. WOW, now that is a potent scripture!
From a worldly perspective, I know we all have "every right" to be angry at someone or something, but from God's perspective, our anger emotions only adds to our sins. Our refusal to extend the same mercy and forgiveness God has given us is preventing us from living out the gospel.
Through the words of James, God is trying to soften our heart, my heart. I am trying to acknowledge this and none of us can't just keep saying we forgive people using "words", when we have not forgiven with our heart ~ it is time to and move on.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for harboring anger. Equip me with a supernatural ability to forgive those who have hurt me. Guard my heart when old emotions threaten to surface. Strip my heart of anger and replace it with joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.