daily Broadcast

It's Emotional, Part 1

From the series Resilient

Emotions are great, aren’t they? When you’re in love, everything’s awesome! But there’s a dark side to emotions, too. What we know is, that anger, depression, and anxiety are at an all-time high. How do we master our emotions so they don’t master us? The answer to that is in this program.

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Message Transcript

Well, I have to tell you, as we begin part two of this series on Resilient, it’s just a joy to be with you all and of course anytime I get to partner with my son and do a series, it brings great joy to his dad.

And just by way of reminder, let’s get a definition, because I can’t think of anything more important right now after what we have been through and what we are going through personally and as a nation, I just can’t think of anything more important than this ability to bounce back, to respond to difficult times.

By way of definition, resilience is the ability to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions. It’s basically that ability to bend and not break, it’s bouncing back after a big loss, a financial loss, a job loss, maybe a major disappointment.

And the research indicates that resiliency is actually the best future predictor of future success.

So, one of the greatest things we can do is model resiliency. We don’t get stuck. We go through hard times, we are all going to have difficulties, we’re going to have disappointments, pain, losses relationally, financially, vocationally. I mean, that’s life.

We are talking now about: how do you bounce back?

Ryan spoke and told us that one of the dangers to being resilient or literally not being resilient is when we have been through difficult, painful times, we are more vulnerable to temptation than ever.

And so, he talked about where temptation comes from and how to respond to temptation in James chapter 1, verses 13 through 18. And now, what I want to talk about is: how are we going to respond to emotions? When we are disappointed, discouraged, when we experience injustice, when we are vulnerable, when we are hurting we are tempted to take short-cuts, we are tempted to get angry.

And one of the things that can happen is if we don’t have a handle on our emotions, everything can blow up. When life is not fair, when we have a blocked goal, when we feel like someone is attacking us – or just when the sheer fatigue and stress and difficulty of what is happening in our lives, that’s when we have got to be very, very careful.

And that’s why I want to talk about: it’s emotional. And I want to ask you a question: what do you do with those emotions inside of you? What do you do specifically with your anger? What kind of relationship do you have with anger?

The fact of the matter is is anger at its best protects, but anger at its worst poisons. Your relationship, listen carefully, with anger will either make or break you in the middle of a crisis like we are living with today. And what is exciting to me is God gives us very clear direction about how to respond to our anger.

It doesn’t surprise me that as James is writing to these Jewish Christians who are literally fleeing persecution, they have left homes, they have left businesses, they are under financial pressure and they are wondering, What do you do? How do you walk with Christ in the midst of a world that literally is falling apart?

And after he talks about considering it all joy and that God will give you wisdom and having a divine perspective, then he talks about temptation. And then he says, “My dear brothers,” verse 19, “and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which is able to save you,” and the idea of save here is not so much our salvation, but, “will deliver you.”

The Word of God implanted in you can deliver you from the kind of anger that destroys relationships, that ruins your life, that causes you to make a decision or to say something that, for the rest of your life, you will regret saying, “Oh, why did I do that?”

Now, lest you think that all anger is bad, let me give you a couple definitions of anger. The first one is one that I came up with with Dr. Becca Johnson. I actually had the chance, many, many years ago, as I was teaching through the book of James and I hit this little section on anger.

And because my background in undergraduate and graduate school was in psychology, and because I had pastored for quite a while, I knew this is a big issue.

And so, rather than just sort of zooming on through, I got to this passage right here and I kind of pressed the pause button and I took a little cul-de-sac. And I talked about overcoming emotions that destroy and Dr. Becca Johnson was a psychologist and an author with InterVarsity.

And as she heard the message, she said, “You know, that would make a really good book.” And she had written a book on good guilt and bad guilt. And so, we teamed up together and it became a book called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.

And she really helped me. And here’s the definition of anger that we came up with. Anger is neither a good or bad emotion. It is a charged, morally neutral emotional response of protective preservation.

Let me say that again. Anger is neither good nor bad. It is a charged morally neutral emotional response of protective preservation. In other words, there are times where a small child is being hurt or there is injustice that causes you to get so angry that you respond and do something good.

That’s a good side of anger. But it’s also an emotionally charged emotion that can bring great destruction. I love Gary Chapman describes it this way, “Anger is the emotion that arises whenever we encounter what we perceive to be wrong. The emotional, physiological, and cognitive dimensions of anger leap to the front burner of our experience when we encounter injustice.”
And I like to think of anger – a word picture – is like a wild stallion. When I was a little boy, I would visit my grandmother. And grown-ups would go and they would talk in the house and on this particular occasion, my grandmother said, “We are boarding a horse for someone.” She had kind of a farm-like area. And then there was a fence and then it went it went straight up this hill. And she said, “Whatever you do, that is a wild horse.” It was a palomino. It was a huge horse, like fifteen hands high.

And she says, “Do not go near the horse.” Well, with my personality, that was like saying, “Hey! There’s really something fun that you’re going to get to do!” So I get my two sisters to go out there with me and we feed him a little bit and get him close to the fence and then I kind of figure out how to get the bridle.

And then my sisters pet his nose and I get in there, I have never put a saddle on an animal in my life and I figure out how to get that saddle on top of him and then I cinch it up the best I can. And I literally, I’m like eleven years old. I have no idea what I’m doing. I can barely lift the saddle.

And like a foolish young child, I get on that horse and my favorite shows back in the day, remember all those Westerns? I’m really dating myself here, but The Lone Ranger, Wagon Train, Sugarfoot. Some of you are nodding and some of you are going, What is he talking about?

So anyway, I love those cowboy shows. This horse, it’s about a forty-five degree angle up this hill of about, oh, three hundred yards. This horse turns and runs on a dead run straight up that hill. And I’m holding on to the, I don’t know what you call the little handle in front and the reins.

And I’m going and going and going and going. And I’m thinking, This is awesome! This is awesome! I’m so excited! I felt like one of those real cowboys. And then he stopped. And then he turned around. And then he came straight down the same speed and I got about halfway down and I thought, He’s not going to stop. I’m going to get killed. And about, I was near the fence about another forty, fifty yards. I’m going to hit that fence and my sisters are going, waving their arms like, “Stop! Stop!”

So, I jump off the horse and I kind of roll and they get the horse. And here’s what I learned. Anger is a lot like that horse. It’s powerful, it’s strong, and under control and tamed, it’s a great resource. But when it’s out of control and wild, I’m telling you, it can kill you and kill others.

And so, what I want to talk about in terms of accomplishing resilience is I want to help you tame the anger. And it’s interesting that right in this passage, he tells us step one, two, and three about how to tame our anger.

So, it’s a biblical prescription of taming the wild stallion of anger that is in all of us. And before I go on, having taught this a couple times, there are some of you that I can hear in the back of your mind, Oh brother, I don’t really want to listen to this. I don’t have an anger problem. I don’t blow up, I don’t yell, I don’t scream. I don’t have an anger problem.

And what I would suggest to you is that anger wears many masks. I don’t have time to develop them fully, but just so that you get to participate with us, there are three major ways that people express their anger.

Some people are what I call spewers. You know them. They are the people that we think have anger issues, right? They yell, they scream, they can be violent. They power up. You know when they’re mad. You say, “Are you mad?” “Yeah! I’m mad and you better do what I say.”

They can be even physically violent. And what we know is you better stay away from them. Their anger is explosive and they spew it out.

The second group is what I call stuffers. These are some of you who would say, “Oh, I don’t have an anger problem.” What you do is when you see injustice or when you have those angry feelings, you stuff them down inside and it produces inner bitterness and you keep score, you have resentment, you can be calm and you can be cool. You actually can withdraw, become rigid, sullen. You bury things, “Oh, me? I’m not angry. I don’t have a problem.”

Ninety to ninety-five percent of all depression, researchers tell us, are caused by anger turned inward. And so, what I have to say is really important to you. If you’re not a yeller or a blamer, a screamer, an exploder, but you’re a stuffer, you have got an anger issue.

The third area is what I call leakers. The psychologists call them passive-aggressive. These are people that take their anger and they don’t want to confront and they don’t – they’re a little bit like the stuffer. They stuff it but they take the anger to a safe, a different playing field, if you will.

Maybe they get hurt over here on the baseball diamond, metaphorically, so they take it over to the dugout. And these are the kind of people that, in their anger, they can be critical, sarcastic, withdraw. And some of it is absolutely subconscious.

If they really know that you are a very prompt person, these are the kind of people that can be late. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot.” And they are sincere. But what they have done is they have stored up anger and they have stored up resentment. Or these, sarcasm is a big sign. They don’t want to confront you with something, so they will make a joke about something where they really want to say, “You did that,” or, “You were wrong,” or, “Why don’t you shape up?”

But the moment you respond, “Hah, I was just kidding!” Right? “I was just kidding.” They can forget. They can avoid things. They can not show up. And so, what I would tell you, we did a little survey at Living on the Edge when we did the Overcoming Emotions series. And here’s what we found.

This is not scientific, but I think it’s fairly accurate. About thirty five percent of the thousand to fifteen hundred people that responded said, “We are spewers.” About twenty-eight percent said, “We are stuffers.” And about thirty-eight percent said, “We are leakers,” which I think really says something, because as many of us as Christians, we learn that anger is wrong. We learn if you’re ever wrong, that’s a bad thing. That’s sin.

And so what we learn to stuff it or we learn to leak it. And what God would say is anger is this charged emotional response to injustice, real or perceived. When it’s real, acting on it appropriately is a very godly thing to do. The word wrath or anger, the wrath of God is toward injustice or sin.

When it’s perceived, but it’s inappropriate, we can hurt people and hurt ourselves. And so, all I want to say is as you hear God’s plan for resolving anger is three steps, I just want you to know that it probably applies to all of us, not just some of us.

So, step number one, what’s it say? Be quick to hear. The word literally means eagerness to listen or learn. It’s like: keep your mouth shut. Just be open. Listen. Don’t respond; don’t react. It’s our immediate response to God, others, circumstances, and our anger – listen carefully – to be a receptive listener not a reactionary responder.

You have to go into training for this. I mean, so many of us, and guilty as charged, when something happens, my mouth opens. And I just have had to so into training to say, “Don’t spew, don’t stuff, don’t leak it. See, the key question is, “What is this anger telling me?” What is going on inside?

And a little bit later we are going to explore, there are three basic reasons why we get angry and I’m going to give you a very practical tool about how to address those issues. Because you want to be, you want to be resilient. You don’t want to find yourself moaning and angry and disappointed. And are you going to watch the news and be angry forever and ever? Are you going to just talk about injustice and not doing anything and be angry forever and ever?

We are God’s people. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light. We need to be able to bounce back from our own stuff and we need to overcome temptation for sure. But we also need to handle our emotions.

Step two is not just be quick to listen, notice, it’s slow to speak. The wisest man in the world said these words. Proverbs chapter 10, Solomon said, “When words are many, sin is not absent. But he who holds his tongue is wise.”

In Proverbs 13:3 he says, “He who guards his lips guards his life, but the one who speak rashly will come to ruin.” And then in Proverbs 29, verse 20 he says, “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than him.”

And what I want to tell you is the interim response to God and others and circumstances with our anger is to think before we speak. Let me ask you, have you ever said anything that you wish you could take back? Have you ever done something that you regret when you were angry? Have you ever made a bad decision because you were so ticked off, said something stupid like, “You can take this job and shove it!” And then you go home and you tell your wife or you tell your husband, “Boy, I’ll tell you, this is what happened and I’m sick of it and I quit today!”

And after about twenty-four hours, you think, I don’t have a job. Or maybe you really got fed up with someone and you blew up at them and has your anger cost you a relationship? A friendship? A marriage? Is there a son or a daughter, a parent that you don’t talk to anymore and they don’t talk to you because anger got in the way?

All I know is learning to think before we speak is absolutely critical. Some real practical ways, I mean, some of these are really old school, but they work. For some of you, especially if you’re a spewer, count to ten. Or if you’re a real spewer, count to twenty. If you have issues, count to twenty-five.

All you want to do is you have to buy some time. The emotions, they literally, they go from down in your gut up into your heart, up into your head, and you’re ready to explode. And when you have that feeling, just, “One, two, three, four…” Right? Or walk away. I had to learn early in my marriage, when I got really, really angry, I just, at times, I’d put up my hands and it was my issue, it wasn’t my wife. “You know what, honey? I’ll be back in just a few. I just need to take a little walk.” Because I wasn’t thinking straight. I knew I would say something or say it in a way that was going to be totally unhelpful.

For those of you that are in meetings or in a situation where you can’t walk away, try biting your lip. Just really just say to yourself, You know what? I can’t say until the Spirit of God is back in control and my anger and my emotion is not going to drive me. Quick to listen, slow to speak, and then slow to anger.

Solomon would write in Ecclesiastes, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” What he’s saying here is that really bad decisions, really unwise choices, relationships get violated and destroyed because of anger.