Question 1: Do you struggle with anger?
Do you erupt when something doesn’t go your way? Do you lose your cool over small, insignificant interruptions—either disruptions to your afternoon commute or your life trajectory? Do you inwardly (or outwardly) seethe at people who make your life difficult or who disagree with you—even over small things?
Once when my daughter Lindsay was about eighteen months old, my husband and I watched with amusement as she tried to climb onto the sofa to watch her video, clutching all of her crayons. They were the big, fat crayons and she could just barely tuck them all in her hands, but inevitably, when she tried to maneuver herself up one or two crayons would pop out of her grasp and they’d all scatter to the ground.
We didn’t understand why this was important, but her determination proved how important it was to her. Down she went, time after time, to gather the crayons. But on her way up to the couch, the crayons would pop out of her clutched fists and scatter. She was becoming increasingly frustrated and by the sixth or seventh time, she got so angry that she ran over and banged her head on the wall!
Ken and I, who stifling our laughter, were amazed that she completely ignored us, rather than asking for help. It was only when we slipped a few crayons out of the scattered pile without her seeing, that she was able to complete her goal. Finally, at long last, she sighed with satisfaction, as she sat with “all” of her crayons clutched in her fists, and watched what was left of her video.
Often times, like eighteen-month-old Lindsay, we go through life stubbornly clutching some ideal. But then life bumps into us and causes our plans to scatter, and we get angry. Rather than going to our Father for help, we ignore Him and keep trying on our own—our head-banging anger on the rise.
Anger often indicates that we’re trying to control something which isn’t ours to control. We want our plans (even small plans) to unfold without any disruptions. But God wants us to surrender control to Him.
For many years I didn’t connect my spewing anger with my underlying desire for control. I was getting bent out of shape over ridiculous little things like my husband not putting the glasses in the cupboard correctly, my kids pulling each other’s hair, and the dog throwing up on the carpeting. And then, there were the big things I wanted to control.
As I’ve come to understand this deep, unhealthy desire that I have for control, I’ve come to see anger as a dashboard indicator. The anger, which is obvious to everyone, often signals some deeper, heart level issue with control. So I’ve learned to ask, when I feel the anger rising, “OK, Shannon. What are you trying to control here?” Or, “What do you think you’re losing control of?”
I’m learning to link the two, and consider that when anger is spewing, it’s often fed by a craving for control.
What I Can Control
Ultimately, I have very little control over how everything turns out. I can’t determine what professions my kids choose, my husband’s level of commitment to God, or whether the dog throws up on the carpeting. And if I try to control these things, anger is the obvious result.
But here’s what I can control: me. Instead of trying to clutch into my hands all of the things that are too big for me to hold, I can turn to my Father with my plans, hopes, and dreams. He invites me to sort out my expectations in His presence, and let Him sift out my unrealistic goals for myself.
When I rehearse the lie that I have to take control and make everything turn out right, I will become angry, frustrated, and create tension wherever I turn. But when I remind myself the truth—that God already is in control, I can find satisfied, resting peace.
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Join me for a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible, who struggled with control in the same way we do: they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process. By comparing their stories with ours, we learn—in hundreds of ways and examples—that God is in control and we aren’t. And He invites us to live like it’s true.