Of course I know that anger is not always a negative thing, that Jesus was righteously angry, most famously when he took a whip to the sellers in the temple courts. However, although a very small proportion of my anger could perhaps be construed this way - at injustice in the world and my own sin - the majority of it cannot. Moreover it is not even useful anger, of a sort that spurs one onto change something in the world, to do something about it, instead it leaves me exhausted and drained, which is not a good use of an already scarce resource.
This weekend, having shouted and ranted my way through most of an edition of Any Questions on Radio 4 I realised that I needed to do something to change this situation. In classical Christian parlance I felt convicted, in particular by Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount:
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5.22 NIV)
In particular by the word 'Raca' from this passage and I hated feeling so bitter, angry and out of control. It is the feeling that there are major aspects of my life, such as my health care provision or my income and general government policy, over which I have no control. I have been enraged by the government's attitude towards the vulnerable and their demonization of the sick and disabled; and worse still felt powerless, too tired to protest and generally overwhelmed, invisible and not heard. Listing all the things that have been making me angry would take a long time and it was alarming how unloving, ungracious (in the godly meaning of the word) and hateful I was becoming, the opposite of Jesus in so many ways.
But then as I was praying and mulling over how to deal with this, begging God to help me not feel so angry or be able to use this anger to some effect, it came to me. I may not have the ear of government ministers or the media, but I do have the ear of one who is far more powerful: God "for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing" (Romans 13.6 NIV) and He always listens (Proverbs 15.29; Luke 18, among many others).
Prayer yet again is the answer, as I have found many times before (why do I always seem to forget?!). It is doubly powerful because it can change a situation (e.g. 1 Kings 18) and change me: changes my heart and my mind and my attitude about people and situations as it brings me closer to God as I spend time with Him. So I've started praying, starting with David Cameron and continuing with others and situations which have made me angry, and already I feel calmer and more at peace with the world. Naturally it is not quite that simple, I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am on the right path: knowing that I have someone I can turn to, who listens and is infinitely powerful, helps so much.
Before I feel too self-congratulatory I should thank God, for once again forgiving me and drawing me close to Him, for His patience and His love and His grace.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4.4-7
May we all know God's peace.