What makes you more frustrated than anything else? Is it injustice? Ignorance? Ke$ha?
While you think about it, I’ll tell you a story that that left me pretty upset recently:
The scene was set in Los Angeles. My wife and I were visiting the Griffith Park Observatory. When we arrived, we discovered the entire population of the western hemisphere had the same plan as we did. Parking was at a premium, to say the least. We had two choices: battle for an empty spot in the tiny lot, or park a mile away and walk up a steep hill. We decided on the lot, and during the course of the following 20 minutes we got snaked out of parking spots at least 47 times. My wife and I were soon at the ends of ourselves, fuming, contemplating going home.
But then the shrouded heavens parted and the spirit of a dove descended from the clouds. It fluttered to a tiny, empty parking spot on the curb leading into the observatory grounds. A monk choir began echoing hymns all around us, and a beam of sunlight illuminated this small opening between the cars. Suddenly, all was well inside the Schwabmobile. I cackled and howled with glee as I hit the gas and burned out—quarter-mile dragster style—to the spot. And after 937 moves forward and reverse, I successfully parallel parked in the tiny spot. But as we exited the car a tiny voice spoke in my head:
Are you sure you want to park on that red curb?
I know—red curbs usually mean its illegal to park, no matter what. But there was a sign posted which said, No parking weekdays 8-5 P.M. It was Sunday, which meant we were in the clear. And there were at least 100 other cars parked on the same curb. So, I thought to myself, there is no way a cop is going to ticket everyone.
We made our way to the observatory and had a blast, not giving the parking situation a second thought. When we had our fill after a few hours, we made our way back to the car. We glowed in the aftermath of fun, totally unprepared for what we saw sitting under my wiper blade:
An $82 parking ticket from the city of Los Angeles.
Now, truth be told, I am a pretty patient guy. With that in mind, trust me when I say that there, in that moment, I would have given anything to have a few words with the cop who wrote that ticket. Better yet, an audience with the people responsible for tripling parking ticket fees in my state. I snatched the ticket in my hand and contemplated tearing it up, but then, my conscience kicked in: C’mon, Schwab, remember who you are and who you claim to be. Control yourself …
For much of the ride home there was a battle taking place inside of me. On one hand, I felt completely justified in being angry. But on the other hand there was this lingering question: Is it wrong for me, as a Christian, to get angry when it’s justified?
I have heard many Christians over the years say that even having frustrated emotions is a sinful act. Is this true, though? Does God really expect us to be emotionally vacant and stoic? What does the Bible say about it?
After doing a bit of study, here is what I learned:
We are to be patient in every circumstance. We are to look inwardly and take responsibility for our emotions when they come. We are to always be in control of our reactions. I found no real exceptions to the above, save cases of purely righteous indignation, which is a rarity. These points are obvious, and well-known. But a lesser known teaching about anger in the Bible is this: God never says getting angry is wrong. In other words, it’s not the emotion of anger God warns us against, but how we respond to the emotion that matters.
Case in point: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
If you have been injured by someone else, friend, foe or otherwise, it is not your responsibility to silence your feelings. As Christians, God does not expect us to be emotional rocks. However, it is our responsibilities to both control our reactions and resolve the situation with patience. What God expects is for us to channel our frustrations properly. For example, while the harbingers of death at the state of California got my $82, their eternally condemnable parking laws have inspired this blog.
After this episode, I learned a good exercise, as well: Whenever anger clouds our judgment or affects our communication, we must find solitude. Walk it off, until emotion is not influencing either our words or our delivery. Then, as we are in solitude, we should pray that God meets us inside our anger. Then, when calm, we can respond. This is the correct reaction of an angry, but righteous person.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not wrong for a person of faith to get mad. But we must always think before we respond.
Andrew Schwab is an author, journalist, artist and speaker. Follow him on Facebook here.