Summer Soak: Short-Tempered & Bitter

This week’s memory verse:

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
    but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 14:29 ESV

This week we are exploring a short-temper as an antithesis to love and the bitterness that takes root if we don’t deal with our anger.

Love is not provoked or irritable, is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs, does not take into account a wrong suffered, thinks no evil, is not resentful.

The first definition of the Greek word translated as provoked or irritable in the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon is to make sharp, sharpen. Love is not sharp with its words or attitude.

Merriam-Webster’s defines irritable as easily exasperated or excited

Consider what causes sharp words to erupt from your mouth. What makes you irritable?

Read James 1:19-20

What does James encourage brothers and sisters in Christ to do?

How can taking time to process what you’ve heard help lengthen the fuse of your anger if you suffer from a short-temper?

What kind of anger comes from the heart of people?

Taking time to listen to what’s been said, holding our tongues, and being willing to hold back anger can keep us from acting on self-righteous anger. Self-righteous anger is never righteous in God’s eyes. It is an act of selfishness, which we have seen is the opposite of His other-centered love.

Righteous anger sides with God when it comes to injustice and evil in the world. Self-righteous anger focuses on where, when, and how our self was offended.

Carol says:

I came to a point in my life where I had to stop and consider every moment anger began to rise. It was time to yank out the self-righteous root associated with my irritability.

When I began to get stirred up (provoked) by either my husband or children, I stopped and asked: Why? What is making me angry here? Is it because my “self” is offended? Or is it a righteous anger I need to pursue?

Examining the heart revealed at least 95% (probably closer to 99%) of my anger was wholly self-righteous. It was rooted in selfishness.

This realization, humbling as it was, helped me to become less irritable and more loving to those in my home. I still exercise this discernment process when anger stirs. But these days, it doesn’t take me near as long to recognize the fire of self-righteous anger and put it out.

Anger is an emotion, just like fear or happiness. We cannot control what emotions we feel, but we can begin exercising control over our response. When it comes to anger, we can control how quickly we blow up and how we act when we are angry.

When was the last time you were angry? Was it short-tempered? How did you act? What words did you speak?

Read Matthew 21:12-14

Why was Jesus angry?

What were His words? His actions?

What was the result of Jesus’s anger? Who did He make room for in the temple?

Was Jesus’s anger self-righteous or righteous?

When it comes to dealing with our anger, righteous or self-righteous, there is another aspect we need to beware of, bitterness.

Keep no record of wrongs, does not take into account a wrong suffered, thinks no evil, and is not resentful are several translations of the Greek which give the sense of not keeping account of evil (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). We’re talking holding a grudge.

Resentment, according to Merriam-Webster’s is a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as wrong, such as an insult or injury. It is holding onto your anger and wishing bad things on the one who hurt you.

Read Hebrews 12:15

What are we supposed to make sure nobody misses?

What happens when people miss His grace?

What do you most commonly connect with His grace?

When we receive God’s grace, it inspires us to offer grace to others. Forgiveness prevents bitterness from taking root.

How can bitterness cause trouble and defile us?

Stacy says:

It must have seemed like a mountain of wrongs to him as I listed all the hurts I had during our fight. He finally looked at me and said, “Do you keep a list going at all times? How do you remember every thing I did wrong?”

In the moment I realized I was one bitter wife. Yes, I was young, very young, but his statement left a big impression. I allowed my hurts to become a deep rooted bitterness and it was consuming me… consuming us. 

It has been over two decades since that day. I doubt he will remember his statement, but I do. And I remember the work it took to dig the nasty root of bitterness out of my heart and our lives. 

Forgiveness is not something we give for the sake of another. Believers are called to forgive for our own sake. Because when we harbor the hurts and rehearse them over and over, trouble is sure to follow.

Troubled relationships, troubled lives… trouble, trouble, trouble.

God has forgiven us through Jesus. And Jesus taught, God forgives us as we forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). To keep an account of wrongs (bitterness), to hold a grudge (resentment), is to live with unforgiveness. According to God, this is evil.

Those who do evil to you, harm themselves in the process. They do not go unmarred.

Consider who you have a list of grievances against. What keeps you from releasing them? Consider the harm they’ve done to themselves.

What Scripture comes to mind when you consider the destructive nature of anger and bitterness?

Read Ephesians 4:30-32

Who do we grieve when we refuse to let go of our anger?

What are we to do with our anger and bitterness? How do we do it?

Remembering all that has been done for us in Jesus’s name, humbles us, tenders our heart to others’ sins against us, and hopefully, moves us toward forgiveness and love.

Lord, whether people or circumstances irritate me, bless me with the peace to know You are faithful. Open my heart to love others when I’m stirred up. You keep no record of wrongs against me, bless me with the faith to forgive those who hurt me. Remind me they wound their own souls through sin. Open my eyes to see Your sacrifice and grace on my behalf. Open my heart to pray: Forgive them for they know not what they do.

This week’s spiritual discipline:

When anger comes, we often need to take a break, breathe deep, or count to ten. Anger is an emotion that affects our body and gets our adrenaline pumping. Allowing the initial feelings of anger to subside helps us to focus on God’s plan and way in the moment.

Sentence prayers are a great way to move through anger and allow the emotional side effects to calm. These short prayers are taken from Scripture and can be repeated over and over.

Choose a sentence prayer for your week. When you begin to feel anger rise pray the prayer, whisper it if you need to until peace returns and you are calm.

Lord, help me… (Matthew 15:25)

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.  (Mark 10:47)

The Lord is my Shephard, I shall not want… (Psalm 23:1)

Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

The Lord is my refuge and strength, in whom I trust. (Psalm 91:2)

Questions for the Summer Soak journal:

Did you practice the spiritual discipline this week? If so, what did you notice?

What kept you from using a sentence prayer?

What circumstance stirred up anger? How did you handle it?

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