How We’re Learning
by Andrea Plotner
What types of things cause anger or anxiety to rise up within you?
The story I’m about to share sounds comical now, but had me filled with white-hot fury at the time. It involves being mad at my sweet husband, who was simply being helpful.
Stationed at Ft. Irwin, I was running the final four-mile leg of a 100K race. Our team was in last place and the heavy equipment truck was literally following me, picking up the remaining road blocks!
This could have been funny but had me feeling fried instead.
When my husband and son drove by to check on me, I made a circle motion indicating our son, Everett, should take my place. As Everett was opening the passenger door to get out of the van, my husband – thinking my gesture meant “keep on rolling” – reached across the passenger seat, closed the door, and sped away! I wanted to scream at being both misunderstood and left without help.
This incident gave a whole new meaning to road rage!
Because I know God desires my peace and joy, I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years identifying negative thought patterns sabotaging the work of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit in my life.
How to Overcome Negative Emotions
Here are three new “rules of the road” I’ve found helpful:
- STOP COMPLAINING
Why: I can complain about anything (!) and tend to look for the burden, not the blessing, in whatever I’m facing. I have found thankfulness to be an anecdote to much of my anxiety.
What God Says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
- LOOK TO GOD IN DIFFICULTY
Why: It can be tempting to turn away from God in difficulty, perhaps out of a sense He has disappointed me or because I kick into “self-sufficient” mode. But when I ignore God it becomes “lose-lose” – I lose whatever I’m grieving, plus I miss out on His comfort and help.
What God Says: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- LISTEN TO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Why: I think of negative emotions (fear, anger) as warning lights from God to alert me to trouble. The problem comes when I wallow and indulge in those feelings for self-gratification.
What God Says: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
God is in the trading business. He wants to trade our negative experiences and emotions in for our growth and His good purposes. He accomplishes this through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who overcame death that we might have life.
Let’s stop, look, and listen for God’s warning signals.
Use the questions below to journal or pray aloud to God. There’s something revealing about seeing or hearing our own words outside of our heads.
- STOP: Is there an area you habitually complain about? Do you tend to look for the burden or blessing in the circumstances of life? When have you experienced God’s peace as you prayed?
- LOOK: Have you ever turned away from God in difficulty? Is there a situation in life you have a hard time thanking God for and looking to Him in trust?
- LISTEN: What negative emotions routinely crop up as you go about your days? What might God be trying to tell you? Do you sit in negative feelings longer than is healthy or helpful?
God, thanks for your desire to redeem my negative experiences and emotions. Help me to stop complaining, look to you in difficulty, and listen to negative emotions.
- James 1:19-27 and Ephesians 4:17-32 are very practical passages on dealing with anger.
- Psalms and Proverbs show us how to relate honestly to God, especially in difficulty. Read one a day!
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