I am absolutely not qualified to write this…especially on this week’s topic.   Anger has been a huge sin struggle for me…especially as of late.  As I was praying to the Lord about this and asking Him why or how I could write this…he reminded me that He is glorified in our weaknesses and so I have to trust Him that He will somehow use my broken heart and words to glorify Himself.

Before becoming a wife and mother, if you had asked me if I had a problem with anger I would have probably said, “No.”  However, looking back the signs and symptoms were all there…the self-pity, self-righteousness, critical spirit. Sadly, I didn’t even see a lot of these symptoms.  The sin of pride is especially blinding and I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was a big fat ANGRY sinner.  Ha!  I had those sin struggles all masked behind the good church-girl facade of someone who went to church every Sunday, tithed, and volunteered in church regularly.

Then the Lord allowed me to marry this wonderful man who was very different than me and immediately my flesh reared it’s ugly head when he approached and thought about situations differently than I did (gasp!).  Frustration and miscommunications often ensued and led to anger and resentment that I frequently allowed to build up in my heart.

Then came the tail-spinner…children.  Wanna take your fear, idol of self and control for a ride…just procreate.  These little human beings are dependent on you…(bigger GASP)…and they need you ALL THE TIME.  At 3am…4pm….at 6:30am when you can barely get your own eyes open. I am convinced that nothing will expose our anger quicker than the tireless work of caring for the needs of others.

So, here I sit ten years into marriage and eight years into being a parent and I sorrowfully realize I have failed at constantly guarding my heart against anger.  The devil is so devious and sneaky.  He wants us to look at our circumstances and justify our sin, but Jesus is crying out saying, “I have allowed these circumstances out of my love for you, Angie, to show you where your heart is still broken and sin-infested so that I can come and do a new work in your heart…to bring beauty where there is now ashes of a critical spirit… freedom from your fears…and complete devastation of your idols of self and control.” It’s as if he is whispering to my heart the powerful promises of Isaiah 61:1-3:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

So, if the Lord is revealing to you some unknown sin struggles with anger. I plead with you…DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED!  Cry out to your Mighty Savior, Jesus.  Stop justifying your sin against your friends, coworkers, spouse, or family.  Ask Him to heal you, to show you how to guard your heart more vigilantly.

And I am pleading with you and myself…don’t try to just manage your anger!  The Bible is very clear about how we are to deal with our sin; we are to put it to death, not just manage it or modify our behavior.   Those methods might work for awhile but as soon as the circumstances become challenging again…so will our sin.  Our hearts must be transformed if we are to truly overcome these deeply rooted sins.  Yes, the transformation will take practical steps of “working out our faith with fear and trembling” but they must be lead by the Spirit and not a cleverly devised plan to “fix” ourselves.

May we all learn how to guard our hearts with vigilance and overcome this struggle of anger that is often the symptom of deeper heart struggles and sin.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” For me, I feel the Spirit leading me to spend 10-15 minutes journaling before bed, asking the Lord to search my heart and laying before Him any frustrations or bitterness that might be trying to take root.  How will the Holy Spirit lead you? Ask Him and don’t be afraid to listen.  The reward to your witness, relationships, and legacy will be powerful and lasting.

by Angie Thomas

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46).

I desperately want to find the pearls of the kingdom of heaven, but I confess that I am still haunted by those darn plastic pearls resting under my white-knuckled grip.  You see, this is at least the fourth time I have taken this study and heard the story of the pearls, and every time I am smacked in the face with the reality that I am still clinging with a death-grip to some of those cheap, imitation treasures…pride, control, self, just to name a few.

As Laurie told the story of the little girl and her father the other night, I could feel the tension and the angst. The little girl so desperately wanted to trust her father’s intentions as he asked for her plastic pearls, and yet she struggled with the confusion of why he would ask for something that meant so much to her.

Do you feel that tension in your relationship with your heavenly Father?  I do… constantly.  I wrestle with the question of why a good and caring Father would ask me to continually surrender things that I hold dear to my heart and help me to feel safe and secure.  My dreams, desires, possessions, and way of doing things all seem right and good and supported by the culture around me.

But just like the dress that has gone viral on social media, it seems to all boil down to perspective.  Our heavenly Father in all of His infinite wisdom and understanding has a much different vantage point on our precious pearls than we do.  They are deceiving and confusing because they do provide us fulfillment…even if it is temporary or fleeting, and so we think, “These are great. Why would I give up something so wonderful…especially if it makes me feel happy?”  And yet our Father stands waiting patiently, whispering to our hearts that there is something more…there is real, lasting joy and peace…the true authentic pearls Christ has to offer…but we fear instead and keep our white-knuckled grip.

If we say we love Jesus, we must courageously acknowledge this fear we have of letting go and surrendering our lives to Jesus.  We must ask Him to give us faith and grace to believe what He said in Matthew 16:25 (with the idea repeated in all the other Gospels as well): For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

I am so thankful for this body of believers who are willing to confess their fears and together pursue the kingdom of heaven and ultimately Jesus, the only pearl of eternal value that is true, authentic, and beautiful.