Tag Archives: grasp

Take hold of your anger so you can let it go

I have talked to many Christians about their anger. Many of them could barely tolerate the subject because they were ashamed of their lack at self-control. I’ve concluded they felt that way because they had concentrated on talking themselves out of it. They were looking for their thoughts to align with God’s and then expected such an alignment to fix their anger problem. They really wanted to stop being a time bomb their mate was afraid they were going to set off. They understood their problem. But they just could not get their problem to listen to reason.

Pixar boils it down to this.

You might carry some anger

If the description above resembles you or someone you know, I hope you won’t hold it against them. They may have grown up in a church that was so convinced the Bible was God’s gift to solve all their problems they were obsessed with learning and applying the words correctly. They might have been so into the interpretation of the words they stopped listening with anything but their minds. Chances are they have been angry at themselves for being such a terrible listener and apply-er!

I have often preached, as I am about to, that the people who wrote the Bible were a lot deeper than the Bible. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, plainly says he did not scratch the surface of what Jesus said and did at the end of his profound Gospel. The Apostle Paul apparently spent 14 years  listening and meditating before he was sent on his missionary journeys and wrote his wonderful teaching. They experienced deep transformation that went way beyond words.

Here is one thing Paul learned from God (not merely the Bible) that applies to letting go of your anger.

Not that I have already obtained all this [new life], or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – Philippians 3:12

He wrote that line because he was taken hold of by Jesus and he was moved to take hold of Jesus. He did not apply a loosely understood set of words to write his letter and he was not teaching his readers to do that. He believed the Holy Spirit would take hold of his readers just like he was, and they would be able to let go of the past and live a new life with new goals just like he was.

If you are so angry your children are afraid of what you will do or say to them; if you can’t get along in your work or it makes you so frustrated you can’t resist venting about it; if you are angry in advance about what you suspect someone will do to you much of the time; if you use intoxicants to “take the edge off” because you are perpetually on the edge of anger; Jesus is reaching right into that place, Spirit-to-spirit, to save you. Take his hand and good things will follow.

When anger comes up, take hold of it

Lots of people want to be saved and have taken all sorts of steps to reap the benefits of faith. But many of them have done it via words and thoughts, not by Spirit and experience. They say to me with frustration, “I have done the right thing. I study the Bible every day. And I am still this way.“ You may have grasped the content, but not the hand of Jesus.

When it comes to anger, when we pray (which is mostly too deep for words), anger will likely come up if we have it, unless we are committed to repressing it. If we let our anger surface, acknowledge it — you could say “grasp it,” then we can let it go.

Some people I’ve heard lately want the Spirit of God to fulfill promises on their behalf and take care of their anger. They say things like, “I did what the Bible says to do. I cast my anger on God because God cares for me. So why was I still furious as soon as I saw my wife?”

There are a lot of answers to that question which go beyond what I am trying to do here.  But one answer would be. “I think you may have really just cast your anger back into the place where you usually keep it, and you expected Jesus to guard the door for you.”

What we need to do is let the anger out when we are with Jesus. We need to see it as best we can. And then we can let it go. The mindfulness people do a nice job at getting to this idea, only without Jesus in the room. Here is a nice meditation one of them suggests. I think Jesus wouldn’t mind sharing that YouTube with you. When I looked for a Christian variation designed for the same purpose, it was mainly a collection of words we were supposed to think about. I’m not even going to show it to you.

When you let the anger up it might be like a hot ball. One person described it as a dark slimy mass. Another envisioned a heart with chains around it struggling to beat. It might feel terrifying to intentionally look at your anger and feel it, to take hold of it like it takes hold of you. But you can do it.

You could get with your therapist or spiritual director and they might help you experience the feeling of anger when it is not just a reaction. You could start by talking about what you’re feeling with anyone who will listen, which might be your spouse if you let them. They might help you remember the earliest times you experienced anger coming at you or coming from you and how you formed the habits you formed for defending against it or using it. You might learn why you protect it, or dominate with it, or love it, or are afraid of losing it.

Sunset at Sea — Renoir, 1879

Then let go of it

I think we have to grasp the self-defeating emotional habits and thoughts we carry before we can let them go. It might be a gentle process like loading our anger on a little boat made of fallen twigs carefully putting it in the stream and watching it float away. Or it might be more aggressive like wrestling with an opponent through the night until something new happens.

We need to apprehend our anger before we can set it loose. The translation of Philippians 3:12 which is most accurate, in my opinion, includes the word “apprehend.” It reads something like, “I want to apprehend what apprehended me.”

The sentence reflects how Jesus apprehended Paul like He was chasing down a terrorist that day Paul was on the way to Damascus to do more crimes against the Lord’s fledgling community of followers. For the rest of Paul’s life he relished being imprisoned by Jesus, stolen from the world of sin and made a slave to righteousness. What a guy! His deeply spiritual and helpful sentence has the feeling of his exhilaration: “You’ve got to grab it!” You probably won’t share his excitement unless you open up to being grabbed in the deep places you organized to defend your heart when you were very young, or when disaster struck.

See if you are angry about being apprehended after reading what I just said. See what parts of you are off limits to being touched by the Spirit or by love. Anger is usually a first line of defense against what we fear or hate. Is there anything don’t you trust Jesus to handle with you, something your anger is trying to handle instead? Ask him yourself, and you will probably be well down the road to letting go of your anger.

I know people who are angry with their spouses about how they are angry with them. But they all love and depend on their spouse! They would like not to be angry at all. They would like to stop having arguments with people in their heads. It makes no sense. When you notice that irrationality, that’s the part of you that needs to be grasped and ultimately let go. Just withdrawing with the feeling back to safety or detonating it for the same reason will not work for good.

When you are contemplating with God and anger comes up, welcome it. It is not just a distraction, it is you. You may not know everything about it: “Why I am like this? Where did this come from? Why don’t I want to deal with it?” But if you listen in the quiet you may grasp a lot more in your soul than you understand with your words. You probably know a lot about your anger you would rather not handle.

Grasp what you can so far, maybe even put your hands around that ball and look at Jesus looking at it with you. Shame, fear, loss, disappointment, all sorts of deeper emotions may start to rise. That’s OK. They may move you to let the ball go and let Jesus heal you.

Maybe you will see that hot ball of anger float away when you let go of it, blown by a spiritual breeze until you can’t see it anymore, like Renoir’s little boat (above) out in his spiritual sea. Then turn back to Jesus to see how he looks and what he wants to do. Let him do it. Lay hold of him.

I hope some kind of embrace comes to your mind when you turn to Jesus — He loves you, angry or not, after all. You’ll get to feel that love more when you’ve taken hold of your anger so you can let it go. You’ll undoubtedly feel more love from others, too, and they will feel more love from you, for sure.


Today is Harriet Beecher Stowe Day! Few, if any, American women have had more influence on the United States than she had. Meet her at The Transhistorical Body.