Even before my first engagement failed, I knew I had sabotaged the relationship with my anger, just as he had sabotaged it with his sin patterns. Understanding that I could only take responsibility for my end of the impasse, I moved (temporarily, I thought) back to California in hopes of finding the root cause of my anger.
I knew I wouldn’t have a successful marriage to that man as long as I couldn’t manage my anger. (The marriage would have failed anyway because he was a false convert, but at the time I wouldn’t acknowledge that fact.) I honestly believed I’d fix the relationship by fixing myself.
I wanted psychological counseling with Christian undertones.
Thankfully, I could neither afford professional counseling nor arrange for transportation to any counselor that I might have found. I met once with my pastor, who didn’t feel educated enough in psychology to help me. He suggested that my anger probably resulted from a childhood trauma, but that theory didn’t fit the timeline of my father’s death and subsequent events.
Over the years following that counseling session with my pastor, I gained some insight into my family dynamics that taught me to use anger to get my way. I’m not sure how I figured it out, but I felt pretty excited by the realization.
You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that uncovering this information had absolutely no impact on eliminating my feelings of anger. When I accepted John’s marriage proposal, I made sure he knew that I struggled with the sin of anger, and that I didn’t know how to resolve it.
Since our wedding, the Lord has graciously led both of us to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Subsequently, He has taught me to mortify sin rather than trying to analyze it away. Several passages have helped me with killing my anger, but these verses from Romans 6 have been the most pivotal:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ~~Romans 6:1-14 (ESV)
At first, it seemed too simple. Through Christ’s resurrection power, I could say no to my feelings? All I had to do was obey? I could confess the feelings and then refuse to feed them?
Yes, that’s pretty much it!
As you keep reading Romans, you’ll learn in Chapter 7 that the sin nature doesn’t die easily. Until our physical death or Christ’s return, we will always battle temptations — including the temptation to succumb to angry feelings. All too often, I still lose my battles with anger.
But I don’t lose as many battles as I once did. The Lord has taught me that the reasons I developed a weakness in this area don’t really matter. He calls me to walk as a woman that He has raised to new life in Him. Although I still struggle against my flesh that wants to use anger to get my way, God gives me the power to conform my will to His.