For a moment think about volcanos. Some throw lava high into the air in a pyroclastic display that rivals the best fireworks. Others spew enormous amounts of ash, covering a vast area in a snow like a blanket that can blot out the sun. Sometimes the pressures are so great that they blow out the mountainside. A few simply, quietly, release rivers of lava that bury anything standing in their way. A few volcanos have lain dormant for years and violently erupted without warning. Okay, now think about anger. Some folks release anger through a fireworks-like display of motion and words. Some folks want to blanket other in their anger and are not happy unless everyone around them is affected. A few allow the pressures to destroy themselves and those close by. Many passively release a flow of anger over a long period of time. Sometimes, what was thought to be a settled issue suddenly triggers a violent eruption. Anger takes many forms but what is important is not so much the form but the pressure that is behind it.
Consider God’s question to Cain before he killed Abel. “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” (Genesis 4:6, NASB95) Why was Cain angry? We know it had something to do with his rejected offering. But why be mad at Abel? Abel didn’t reject the offering, God did. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, anger does not make sense. And like a volcano it can be directed at something other than the source. For instance, when I took my anger out one day on some batteries in the stockroom of a Radio Shack.
That was ages ago. Before Betty and I became engaged she broke up with me. Angry, heartbroken and not sure what to do about it I vented by destroying a few batteries, smashing them flat with a hammer. Why was I angry? Why had my countenance fallen? What did those batteries ever do to me?
Why are you angry? Rejection, jealousy, something is not fair, something is not just, something has been lost or stolen, pride, loss of power, trapped by circumstances, loss of face, impossible desires. Knowing the reason for the pressure is one thing, knowing what to do about is another. I wonder why in his conversation with God Cain never asked why his offering was not accepted. Same is true for us, instead of just understanding the pressure we need to ask God what to do about it. Change a habit? Change an expectation? Accept the situation and move on through Christ’s strength? Anger is one of those emotions that will damage others by its very nature. And like a volcano, most of its victims will be like Abel, innocent bystanders. Dealing with anger requires that we honestly and openly address the pressures that are inside of us through prayer.