Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Yes! You Really CAN Change Resources on sale now.
About this series
Yes! You Really CAN Change
What to do When You're Spiritually Stuck
Is a "changed life" really possible? If we're honest, most of us would say no. Maybe you've tried numerous programs that promise big changes, but in reality, they deliver very little results. You long for transformation, but don't know where to begin. There's good news for you! Life change is possible! God created you to grow, to change, to experience intimacy and adventure. In this series, from Ephesians 4, you will learn how true life change can happen to you. You'll be able to identify the barriers that have held you back from receiving God's best and you'll also learn how to break out of a destructive lifestyle so you can become the person you've always longed to be. This fresh approach to spiritual transformation is designed to move you from the frustration of failure to the freedom you have in Christ.More from this series
The second training station is not the bench-press. But over here, if you go to the gym, they always say, “Okay, we’re going to work on your bis, and tris, and, here we go, now. We’re going to do some curls here.” This is emotional control.
If there’s any area in the world that destroys our relationship with ourselves, with God, and others, it’s anger. It’s when we either blow up, or when we stuff it, or we leak it out, and the emotional side of anger can absolutely destroy our journey with Christ.
And so, training station number two is, be angry. Deal with anger appropriately. Verses 26 and 27 he says, “Be angry” – that’s a command – “yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” – well, why? – “and do not give” – or, “lest you give” – “the devil an opportunity” – or, literally, it’s, “a foothold,” or “a crack,” or “an opportunity” in your spirit, and in your life.
Put it, where it says, “Be angry,” the first word, put a box around anger, or angry, and write “number one” above it. And then, where it goes on, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,” put a box around it, and put a “number two,” because these are two different words. There are two different kinds of anger.
Our spiritual training session, number two is the goal: emotional control. In other words, we all deal with anger. How do we learn to go into training to appropriately deal with our anger? Our training command is “to be angry, and yet do not sin.”
The first word for anger here, that’s a command, is – it’s the idea of anger, which is a settled habit of the mind that is aroused by certain conditions. A settled habit of the mind. There are certain conditions that would cause you to be angry. Condition: injustice. Condition: evil. Condition: a child abused. Condition: graft or greed that hurts other people in the company. Condition: Someone abuses their mate, and you find out about it. Condition: disharmony or disruption in a small group or church that’s unrighteous, that’s bringing division. Condition: the present sex trade.
Or, in my case, the condition: when Christians don’t live like Christians, and people outside of Christ look at the general body of Christ and say, “You guys don’t live any different than us.” And they then think that God isn’t really God, and they turn away from Him because of how we live. It makes me angry. By the way, anger is a healthy, positive emotion to motivate for life change.
Jesus was angry with those in the Temple because of the evil, and the injustice, and the graft. He was angry at the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy, and He wasn’t Jesus, meek and mild, when He said, “You brood of vipers! You snakes! You whitewashed tombs.” And His disciples turned and said, “Jesus, are You aware that You’re making them very upset?” And they didn’t know the half of it. You’re to be angry. When we’re supposed to be angry, we’re often not. We’re passive.
And when we’re inappropriately angry – the second word for anger, here, means “irritations; exasperation; bitterness; resentment.” This is the unhealthy anger. This is the kind of anger that you have when you don’t get your way, or people cut you off in traffic, and you start down this process in your mind. This is the anger that you have when one of your kids isn’t responding in the way you want them to, or you don’t get the promotion. And all of a sudden, you start brewing, and there’s this resentment and anger.
This kind of anger is when your mate lets you down, and she or he doesn’t do what you want them to do. This is the kind of anger when you have “X” amount of dollars, and the stock market does that. And you just start getting bent out of shape, and you’re mad, and angry, and exasperated, and resentful. And it begins to eat at your soul. And you become a negative, critical person.
We all have anger issues, but most of us think only people that blow up have anger issues. Anger is expressed in three primary ways. Some people are what I call “spewers.” They explode. This was my father. Part of my journey with my dad that made me afraid – my dad was an ex-Marine. He was a big guy; he was a strong guy. And when he got mad, it was scary. He’d, “RARGH!” and boy, that just exploded.
And we think that that’s anger that’s wrong. We’ve all been around people who have exploded. It creates distance. We’re afraid of them. We withdraw. We don’t have trust.
A second way that people express anger – some of you learned, even from some of our churches, unfortunately, that all anger is wrong, and all anger is bad. So, whenever you had angry feelings about something that was unjust, or wrong, like, “How come my brother or sister is being treated like this, and I’m being treated like this?” Well, that’s anger.
What you learned is, you don’t say that. You stuff it, you stuff it, you stuff it. So, experts tell us that about ninety percent of all depression is anger turned inward. So much of the depression that turns to migraines, that turns to ulcers, is anger that is unresolved, that’s stuffed down in here.
Then, there are other people that are called “leakers,” passive-aggressive. And this is when you deal with anger, and someone hurts you, or does something wrong, and you’re angry, but what you realize is, you don’t have the courage, or the tools, or the skill to deal with, I feel angry right now about what you just said, or what you did, and so you take it from this unsafe playing field that causes conflict, and you bring it over here to what you think is a safer playing field.
And so, you use sarcasm, and jokes, and you’re passive-aggressive. So, if this person wants everything done neatly, and on time, even unconsciously, you do it in a sloppy way, and you’re late, and there’s just something satisfying about watching them get all frustrated.
See, everyone in this room, we deal with anger. And anger is destructive in your relationship with God. And notice, what do you put off? We’re to put off anger that leads to sin and offense, and then we need to renew our minds, and recognize the dangers of unresolved anger.
I lived in Santa Cruz. There’s overt demonic activity, and New Age, and we actually had a witch and warlock across the street from the church, and they had a horse’s head on a pole, and we had people come that were all painted up. We had overt demonic stuff.
And I’ve been to India, and many places all around the world, but I will tell you, the great majority of demonic activity in Christians’ lives is unresolved anger. And it’s that you get angry because your spouse didn’t respond lovingly or kindly, or there was a sharp word said. And because you don’t know how to resolve it, and you don’t resolve it, then, pretty soon, bitterness happens.
And so, in my case, Theresa and I had no idea how to do this. Part of your family of origin teaches you this, so I came from an alcoholic family, and she came from an alcoholic family. So, when I was angry, I wanted to verbalize; I wanted to talk until we got it done. She came from – she withdrew.
And so, early in our marriage, we’re really angry, and so, you do what I called – you don’t talk about it, and you argue a little bit, and you hurt one another’s feelings; you don’t know what to do.
And so, I would put my hands behind my head, as we’re ready to go to sleep, “Huuhh,” and I’d bounce on the bed like this. This means, “Theresa, you still have time to apologize. The day’s not over.” And what I would hear from her is, “Prrrrrrrrrr, prrrrrrrrrr,” which is, “I completely withdraw and don’t like conflict, because I learned that early on. And we don’t have to worry about apologizing, because tomorrow, I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen. I’m not going to talk to you. I’m asleep.”
And so, I realized that, after the behind the head, I needed to go to what I called “the bounce and roll.” And what you do is, you sigh deeply and loudly, you bounce, and then you turn this way, so that your posterior is next to her posterior, with a slight bump that wakes her up enough to understand, “Things aren’t right, and you can wake up, and we can deal with this, and you can now apologize.”
Unfortunately, most Christians have conflict in your marriage, conflict with one of your kids, conflict at work, conflict in the church, a problem in a small group. We don’t understand, when unresolved anger isn’t addressed, you give demonic powers, that specialize in lying, a foothold in your heart and in your spirit, and it will destroy your relationships.
The great majority of divorces aren’t because some big thing happened. Here’s what happens. Your heart gets hard because you were hurt. And most of us, then, after – what Theresa and I did was, after two days, we pretended it didn’t happen, and we just acted like everything was okay. But a scar occurred. And it was sort of okay. And then another scar occurred.
And then, finally, after about two years, what you do is, you start looking through this lens, and you look at your mate through, every time they do this or that, you look at them through this unresolved anger and bitterness, and you begin to connect dots that really aren’t there. “She doesn’t really care. She’s insensitive. She doesn’t respond.” “Well, he’s like this.” And then, this is what happens.
And so, again, I’m in the midst of this, and I’m in seminary, and I’m realizing, Okay, first of all, I’m a liar, and I’m supposed to tell people about the truth. That’s not good. And so God brings this into my life. And now, I’m supposed to help people. I’m in a pastoral counseling class of helping people, and I learn about anger, and how it actually works. And I realize, We have no idea how to resolve it. It’s impacting every area of our relationship. So, I go to the professor and I asked for help.
And the long story is, he says, “You know, I have a brother who is a retired” – he had a heart attack. “He’s a retired senior pastor, really knows the Bible. He’s one of our best counselors. And you have very predictable problems from the kinds of families you come from. You have no business saying anything to anyone until you get these resolved. And so, we’ll give you a special student rate of eighty-five to ninety-five dollars, and you can see my brother for about twelve sessions. And we’ll – this is not rocket science – you can resolve this.”
So, I’m making a thousand dollars a month, with three kids, going to school full-time, working full-time. I’m going to tell you, that ninety dollars a week, for twelve weeks, it was the best investment I ever made. And we learned how to go into training to deal with our anger, and how to express it appropriately.
And what I want to do now is, I want to give you that tool. Two tools. The training apparatus is “I feel” messages. “I feel” messages.
When Theresa would shut down, and I would talk, or get very, very angry, what we learned is, we couldn’t communicate. And then, it shut down everything in our life. And so, this feels a little unfair to me, but I’m going to try and deal appropriately with my anger, because at a time when I didn’t have any money at all, I paid ninety dollars a session to give to you, right now, for free, which doesn’t seem fair.
But what we learned – we put it on a 3x5 card, and instead of, “You ought . . . You should . . . You always . . . You never . . .” Those are angry words when couples, or roommates, or friends are fighting. “You ought . . . You should . . .” is how dads talk to their daughters, or how mothers talk to their sons. Those words are disallowed in a marriage relationship. “You ought . . . You should . . .” Or, “You always . . . You never . . .” Well, no one “always” or “never” does anything. See, those are labeling things. So, what you do is you attack each other. You need a tool so that you can attack the issue.
And so, what I learned in my counseling was to make, “I feel ___ when you ___.” We put it on a card. It was on the refrigerator; I put it in my Bible. And so, I had to learn, “I feel hurt when you give more attention to the kids than me.” “I feel disappointed when I spend this time making supper, and you’re always a half hour to forty minutes late. I feel like you don’t love me, and you don’t care.” “I feel disappointed when…” “I feel angry when you…” You get it? See, what it does is it takes those issues, and they come from your heart, and you identify how you feel, instead of attacking the other person.
We were learning how to do this, and I perpetually felt like my life was overwhelmed, and I would always – it seemed like if she made a special dinner, I would come home late. And I learned, over time – we always argued about this.
And part of it is the differences when you get married – like, when we were dating, I was adventuresome, and spontaneous, and exciting. And when we got married, I became irresponsible. When I was dating her, she was consistent, godly, followed through, structured. After we got married, man, she was rigid, unbending, no flexibility. And so, you start focusing on those things.
And so, she really wanted dinner at a certain time, and I would just blow through it, lose track of time. But I did it over and over and over and over and over. And so, eventually, I learned, when I’m really late, come in and be angry, pick on her early, because a good offense is better than a good defense. And so, I’d find something about her, and attack her early on, when I walked in. You guys are smiling. Some of you guys know this tactic, right? Okay. And so then, we would argue, and I’d feel justified.
And here’s what’s happening, by the way, in our relationship. And so I come in, and I’m ready to get mad at her, because, in the counseling – obviously, two or three sessions, it’s not helping too much, because I’m not obeying it yet. And so, I walk in, and everyone’s already eaten, an hour ago. There are two candles lit; the food is on the plate, and she’s seated. And I’m waiting for, Okay, come on.
And she was calm. She goes, “Here’s your dinner.” I’m just – I’m waiting for the attack. And she lets me get a few bites. And then, she looks at me very calmly, and she – her eyes are watery.
She said, “Chip, I feel like you don’t love me, when I spend the better portion of the day preparing something for you to express my love, and you disregard it and just come home an hour late. This was my gift for you. I feel like you don’t love me.”
I had never made the connection. To me, it was a power issue. That statement began – I just thought, Wait a second. I may fight with you, but I love you. If me being home on time says, ‘I don’t love you,’ I can change that. And, literally, very few times, ever, after that message…
Can I encourage you to begin to use “I feel” messages? Can I encourage you to write it on a card, put it on the refrigerator?
And here’s what I can tell you: You have anger issues. And some of you stuff, and some of you spew, and some of you, the reason you have an addiction is, that’s how you deal with your anger. The reason you eat is because of your anger. The reason you watch so much TV and play video games is because of your anger. The reason you stay at work is because of your anger. You have a habit!
And the cue is, you feel unrest, and difficulty, and pain. You’ve developed some routine, negative thing that gives you the reward of feeling better. Oh, I feel better; I ate for a while. I watched this movie. I went on Netflix. I surfed on this. I did that. I went out and helped these other people, because I didn’t deal with my own stuff. Those patterns are rampant in this room.
And God says, “Go into training! Go into training!” You go into training and say, “You know something? I’m going to be honest. And then, what I’m going to do, when I’m angry, I’m going to identify I’m angry. And it’s going to be hard, and I’m going to give an ‘I feel,’ message: ‘I feel hurt when you…’ I feel disappointed. I feel used. I feel angry.’” And you begin to address those issues: “I feel angry when we make a budget, and you spend money that we don’t have.” “I feel hurt when the attention is given to the kids, and I realize we haven’t made love in three weeks, and it doesn’t even seem to register.”
The other tool in anger is: make direct requests. Part of our anger is always around expectation. Expectations are that we think our mates think the way we think, or our friends think the way we think, and they can read our mind. And so, it’s like, “I’m going to be over here, and I’ve asked you to meet me, and I’m doing ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Of course you’re going to do at least ‘A’ and ‘B,’ right?” And they don’t. And then, we’re angry. And then, you say, “Well, did you ask them to do that?” “No.” You just expected it to happen.
And so, you make direct requests. So much of our anger is – even at work. You’re working with someone, and you’re doing this part of the job, and they’re doing that part of the job. And you just expect that, “Well, if I’m doing this, surely you’re going to do that.” But you don’t ask them to do that. And then, they don’t do it. And then, what? You’re ticked off. And then, you’re ticked off, and you don’t say it to them. You stuff it down, or it comes out in a meeting three weeks later. You would be shocked at what happens. And, again, it takes courage and grace, where you start making direct requests.
And so, back to our marriage world. You make a direct request. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you might say, “Honey, I’m glad, and I understand you’ve had a hard day, and there’s been a lot going on. But when you walk in the door, I want you to give me the first five minutes of your day, and then, rather than ESPN, or the Wall Street Journal, I need you to play with the kids for a half hour to give me a break.” Direct request. “Would you do that?” Because how long has that been making you angry?
Or you’re a man, and you say to yourself, I’ve been on the road four days. We have soccer, softball, basketball. Our weekends are blurred. We’re on this committee. We went to church. And you know what? We’ve not been together, physically, or had a romantic evening for – believe it or not, ladies, guys count the days – twenty-one days, seven days, sixteen days.
And you say – direct request – “I’d like to set aside one evening a week where we put the kids to bed early, and we have a romantic time of really talking and enjoying one another.” And the guys are going – I’ve always loved the body language, “Well, that’s not very romantic or spontaneous, like all the movies.” Well, how is your way working for you?
And you know what? Most women, knowing, Okay, that’s the request, they mentally think, Okay, that really matters to him. But here’s the thing: We don’t talk to each other that way. And if you don’t give “I feel” messages, and if you don’t make direct requests, you know what you do? You will stuff, you’ll explode, or you have these habits.
When you ought to be talking to God, or talking to someone you love, or doing something that’s profitable, you’re on Facebook. Or you’re watching meaningless stuff, or eating food that you don’t need. And in Christian circles, we create all these kinds of different ways that are “not really sinful.” Well, they’re not sinful, and they aren’t overtly violating some Scripture, but they’re sinful, in that you’re not being honest with yourself, you’re not being honest with God, you’re not being honest with others, and you’re not honest about being angry, and yet dealing with it appropriately.
Can you see what would happen in your life, if you said, “Okay, what’s the area that I’m really frustrated in?” What’s the area? You get real with God – you don’t have to tell anybody else right now – and you would say, “I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried – I can’t change.” And you said, “Okay. What’s the feeling I have? What’s the thing that I can’t change?”
And there’s a reward. There’s some reward you’re getting out of what you’re doing. It’s usually temporary, short-term ease, long-term pain and consequences.
And if you said, “Okay, for the next ninety days – I don’t know how it’ll impact – I’m going to be honest – little things, big things, with myself, with God. Any time I represent myself with another person, in speech, or action, that is not true, I’m going to go to them, as long as it doesn’t hurt them, and I’m going to confess it.”
You do that two or three times this week, I’ll tell you, you’ll be more honest than you’ve been in a long time. Because it’s painful, and ugly, and here’s the deal: It’s like when I had to go to marriage counseling. I still remember sitting in that room thinking, I hope no one sees me. Well, why? Because I’m proud.
The reason I don’t want to confess? My pride. The reason I don’t want to apologize? My pride. When you go into training on these things, God gets to the very core of the core, so that the life of Christ can be formed in you.
Question number three on your notes, you’ll notice here, it talks about, so what specific area, in terms of anger against others, yourself, has been an issue in your life? Application: Write on a card, and start using “I feel” messages.
Are you willing to go into training? Here’s the deal: We’ve been talking about transformation. The series is going to come, the series is going to go, and you can either begin to do some of these baby steps of training, you do this ninety days with me, I will tell you, things will happen in you that you never dreamed.
Trying hard, no matter how sincere, certainly won’t break the power of certain ingrained, habitual, besetting sins. You have to go into training. You have to go into training.
It’s like the person I knew, forty-two years old, had never run in her life, had a friend and said, “You know, I want to run a marathon.” She couldn’t walk three miles. She changed when she went to bed. She changed her diet. She walked three or four miles. Three months later, she jogged ten. Six months later, twenty-six point two, without stopping.
Everything she needed was already in her. She went into training, so that God could do in and through her what He had already deposited physically.
I want you to know, everything you need to become the Christ-like mother, father, student, brother, sister, worker is already in you, because the Spirit is in you. And He’ll use His Word, and His people, as you go into training, and ninety days from now, you will see a significant difference. My question is, are you willing to be honest and ruthless enough to spot, What’s the one area I want to do? And go into training?