In the midst of stay-at-home orders throughout our county there is a growing concern regarding how COVID 19 will affect us spiritually, physically, and psychologically.
Spiritually, we have had to find new ways to practice our faith. The discipline of corporate celebration and worship has been limited greatly. One of the things I miss most about not gathering as a local church is altar time. I love when people come together at the altar seeking a closer walk with the Lord. It is refreshing to me as I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord at the altar each week, seek forgiveness, and become filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a tangible place for repentance, refueling, refreshing, and renewal. Today, my altar time and corporate worship have been replaced with the disciplines of personal Bible study, meditation, and reflection. One thing we do know is that God is sovereign and He will be with us as we navigate the days ahead.
Physically, people are postponing their routine physical exams and their scheduled medical appointments including surgeries. I was scheduled for a sleep study and knee surgery and both have been postponed with no firm date set. There are far more serious conditions that will not get the attention needed as people are fearful that something worse might happen should they seek medical assistance. People are not able to go to health clubs, swimming pools, and other places they would normally frequent for exercise and to stay physically fit.
Psychologically, everyone has had to adjust almost every facet of their lives which can affect one’s mental health. Many have lost their jobs while others are working from home. Most colleges have transitioned to offering only online courses. Public and private schools have closed for the remainder of the school year. Working parents are challenged without childcare availability. Many children are going without meals that were provided during school hours. Homeschooling has become a priority in order to keep children from falling behind. The probability for stress, tension, and anger within the home is high. Discouragement and depression can bring about other major health concerns.
It is understandable that during this season of forced change and uncertainty people are more susceptible to anger. It is what one does when he or she is angry that determines its psychological effect. Anger that is not dealt with in a healthy manner can result in significant and long-term problems.
The Bible offers us help in dealing with anger. The following is an often quoted verse: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). It is not a sin to become angry but it can quickly lead to sin if not handled according to the Bible. The subject of anger is all too familiar for most of us. We see anger in our businesses, schools, political parties, civic organizations, social media, and in our homes. It appears that people do not even try to restrain their anger anymore. According to Webster’s dictionary anger is, “That feeling of displeasure and hostility resulting from injury, mistreatment, or opposition.” This is a problem that we all deal with from the cradle to the grave. God intended that we learn to overcome anger as we grow older, and not become hostile when injured, mistreated, or opposed.
One of the hardest lessons is to not speak when angry. James wrote the following: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 NKJV). It is good to hold one’s tongue until wisdom surfaces. Maybe announce that you need to take a walk alone or go to another room. It is amazing what just a few minutes can do for one’s perspective. Often I realize that the problem of my anger is not someone else but me. Also, that time alone can reveal what triggered our anger. Sometimes I find myself guilty of not speaking and sometimes I get called out on it. I can report progress as one who would rather be guilty of not speaking rather than one who says the wrong thing, especially if it is out of anger.
It is worth noting that anger did not make Paul’s list when he shared: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV). He went further and taught that we should get rid of our anger. Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV).
How do we do this? Well, I think we need to first ask “what do people do with their anger?” I have observed that people generally deal with anger in at least the four following ways (These are not exclusive, meaning there are other ways not mentioned and not all of these are healthy.):
First, suppressing anger. Some people try to keep anger bottled up inside until they reach a point when they can’t take it anymore and then they explode. Have you ever noticed the pressure relief valve on a water heater tank? If the water becomes too hot the pressure builds on the inside of the tank. If there were no pressure relief valve the tank would explode. If we do not release our anger it can build up and the result can be harmful to others and to us. Sadly, when this happens many people seem to get hurt by harsh words and actions that do not adequately reflect the angry person’s true feelings. The healthy way is to find a path in order to release anger before resentments take root. It could be going for a prayer walk alone, hitting a golf ball, casting a fishing rod, or some other outdoor activity. It could be talking with a pastor, counselor, mentor, or trusted friend who can keep what is share in confidence. The main thing is to not suppress anger because it will only get worse with time and can leave one bitter.
Second, verbally expressing anger without consideration of how it might hurt others. I am amazed at how some people express their anger by speaking harshly to the ones closest to them. I think some people even take pride in their ability to verbally release their anger. Have you ever heard the saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt?” That is untrue. Words do hurt and cannot be taken back. My dad used to say: “You can’t un-ring the bell.” Some may get angry at school, work, or some other place and suppress it until they get home just to let their anger out on their spouse or children. When this happens it is really damaging to the family unit.
Third, expressing anger through physical abuse. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If you are a in a relationship and this is happening please get away from the one hurting you. Unless, the one who is hurting you gets professional help this will most likely not get better. Many times after one has expressed his or her anger by hurting someone else he or she feels a great sense of remorse. Unfortunately, remorse alone is not a cure for this behavior. Remorse is often followed by empty promises that lead to repeated physical abuse. There must be the recognition of the problem, repentance with a clear mental and spiritual path for the abusive person to follow. If you are one that gets angry and physically abuses others please seek out a professional Christian counselor and get help.
Fourth, confess anger to the Lord and to those who might be affected. I believe this is ideal and most beneficial. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I don’t know about you but whenever I discover that I am angry, most times I have simultaneously discovered that sin has crept in. Whereas people and situations can lead us to anger it is our choice how we respond. I have found that confession is a good way to say good night to the Lord. It also might help us live longer and happier lives!
Instead of letting anger control us we can control it by recognizing our anger and what triggers it, talking with someone about how to manage our anger, confessing and releasing our anger in healthy ways. Let’s strive to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives by prayer, Bible study, and practicing love. Yes, love is a verb and it is a decision of the will. When we make the choice to love even those that trigger our anger we become more like Jesus. That is exactly what He does. He loves us unconditionally! I have found that my acceptance level of other’s behavior is contingent on my love for them. When we love others especially those closest to us we can release them to be who God created them to be. We can celebrate our uniqueness and yes, even our quirks.
May the Holy Spirit continually bless you and your family by providing peace in your camp during COVID 19!