I’m a Stripper

When I sent this devotion out to my email list several years ago, I was stunned by the amount of responses I got from it. I came to realize that this issue is one of the silent struggles many women face in church. It is the subject of dealing with extreme anger and fits of rage. This is a topic that women aren’t likely to bring up in a women’s prayer meeting or Bible study because no woman wants to publicly admit, “I need you to pray for me because I struggle with fits of rage.” (And they are probably wise NOT to bring it up because we need to be very cautious about what “dirty laundry” we announce during a prayer meeting. Too often, it can be turned to malicious gossip.) So here is the story of my own struggle. My prayer is that it ministers to those who need to hear it.

I’m a Stripper

Sitting here writing this, I am about to bare my soul to you. I find this terrifying, yet freeing. I feel my pride being stripped away so that Jesus can shine brightly through.

I have shared many times before about how I’ve struggled with a bad temper. What I didn’t tell you was how bad this temper was. I could fly into a rage over the simplest things – having to take the time to try and find something that I’d misplaced, waiting on the computer when the system was bogged down, even something as little as spilling something while cooking, could set my temper aflame. There have been MANY times that I have literally gone into an uncontrollable rage — breaking things, screaming, cussing….I think you get the picture. The very words that I didn’t want my precious daughter to hear from anyone, she was hearing from me — her own mother. Even in the times when I wasn’t carrying on about something related to Rachel, she would get scared, seeing her mommy so out of control. I’d find her later, crying in her bedroom. I can’t begin to describe to you the shame and the guilt that I’ve carried over that. Even now, I sit here with tears in my eyes because of how I have failed in this area, wondering what damage I have inflicted upon my precious child.

Over the last several months, I have pleaded with the Lord to deliver me from this awful temper, only to find that I’d quickly fall prey to giving into another awful rage. It seemed to be such a vicious cycle — one that I couldn’t flippantly blame on hormones. I became so frustrated with myself and with what I perceived to be no progress in this area. I continued to plead with God to help me. One day while I was crying out to Him, He asked me why I thought that I struggled so badly with this temper. After pondering on it, and thinking about past episodes, it dawned on me. And let me tell you, it was VERY humbling and revealing. In those times when I’d fly into a rage, it was simply because…..things weren’t going my way. (sigh) I felt lower than a pregnant ant at that moment, but at the same time, I knew that I’d crossed a major hurdle. Until I was willing to come to root of WHY I was falling captive to this sin over and over, God couldn’t work with me to set me free. You see, you can only offer to God as much of yourself as you understand. Prior to understanding the why of my behavior, I didn’t have a clue as to how to understand it, so how could I truly offer it to God on the altar of brokenness?

I kept praying for God to break my heart over my sin. Yes, I was sorry every time I slipped into a rage, but I evidently wasn’t sorry enough to bring about a change of behavior. I wanted that godly sorrow that brings repentance — a stripping away of my old self and putting on the new. (Eph. 4:22-25) I wanted to strip off those deeds of darkness and trade them for the armor of light. (Rom. 13:12)

I was seeking a quick-fix for my problem, but God was seeking to develop my character through this because my character will be carried into eternity. Since my problem was long-standing, and deeply rooted in my life, a quick-fix wasn’t going to be the answer.

Shortly after this time, I went to see “The Passion of the Christ.” As I sat there, with every beating he took upon his back, I repeatedly asked myself, “Which temper tantrum was that one for?” It pierced my heart deeply. The following Sunday was communion Sunday at church. As I held the elements in my hand, waiting on everyone else to be served, I began to weep. I have never been so broken in my life as I was on that morning. The reality of how much Jesus suffered for MY sin really hit home with me.

Here I am, five weeks later (at the time of writing this), and I have not struggled with my temper. Through brokenness, I’ve become a ‘stripper,’ leaving my fleshly garments behind me. I have learned that even when things aren’t going my way, it’s no big deal. After all, it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus, and how He wants to conform me into His likeness more and more every day. He wants me to be looking a little more like Him with each passing day — in my character, in my thoughts, in my words, and in my actions (even when no one else is watching). He has begun a good work in me and He will carry it through to completion. (Phil. 1:6)

God has been faithful to put forth one test after another to try me in this troubling area. Every time, I have passed the test. I have learned that it is best to immediately cry out to Him since He has promised to always be there, and never leave me. The peace of mind that I have is incredible. The peace that floods our home now is indescribable. Everything is so much more relaxed. I have learned something new about the amazing grace of my Lord. I’ve even begun to ask Him what area He wants to work on next so that I can begin to ‘strip down’ again, getting rid of even more unwanted flesh, enabling myself to become more like Him.

I take the risk of baring my soul with you because perhaps there is an area where you also need to ‘strip down.’ Colossians 3:8 tells us that we become ‘strippers’ by ridding ourselves of garments such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. We must strip ourselves from garments of sexual immorality or impurity. The garments of idolatry and adultery (even if it’s only in our thoughts), must be stripped away from us. We must strip ourselves from the dirty clothing of greediness, drunkenness, slandering, and cheating others. If we fail to ‘strip down,’ we will be in a very dangerous place of not entering the kingdom of God. (I Cor. 6:9-11)

Do you need to become a ‘stripper’ too?
© 2004, Stacy R Miller

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Anger

Anger

I enjoy looking at the polls on the Focus on the Family website.  I was intrigued one night to see that they were asking how many people struggle with anger.  Out of over 12,000 who voted on the poll, 90% said that they do struggle in this area.  It is hard for people to admit that they struggle with outbursts of temper or fits of rage.  This just isn’t something that we want to admit about ourselves.  I think that many of us struggle silently in this area, and that we often feel like we are the only one who ever struggles with anger.  Now, I know that the Bible tells us not to sin in our anger.  For those of you who struggle with anger, you know as well as I do that it’s much easier said than done.  That is why I wanted to do a message on anger.

What anger does, if not restrained:

Prov. 29:22 An angry man stirs up dissension. – This dissension can be in the workplace, with our friends, or even in our homes.

Prov. 15:1 Harsh words stir up anger. – I was reading this verse when Rachel was a toddler, and the Lord spoke something to me that I will never forget.  He told me that when we are harsh with our children, it can stir up an angry heart in them.  Because we are bigger and stronger than they are, they will do what we want.  They appear to be obeying us and making us happy, but underneath, they may only be giving the outer expression of obedience, but inwardly, they are just waiting for the time where they can get away from us, away from our angry words, away from our influence.

Prov. 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword. – On the times where I have been careless with my words, I have seen the hurt in Rachel’s eyes.  If you are careless with your words, take the time to look into your child’s eyes.  It could be quite revealing to you.

Prov. 12:13 tells us that an evil man is trapped by his sinful talk.  I think we could include an angry man in this verse.  How many traps do we fall into when we unleash our anger?  It definitely gives Satan a foothold in our lives.

Prov. 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue.  Through nasty words, spoken in anger, our words can actually kill.  What kind of “murder” do we commit?  A friendship, a reputation, a trust, a marriage, a relationship with our children…..

What unrestrained anger shows:

Prov. 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his anger. – I always hated the term “fool.”  Thinking of it terms of MY being the FOOL because of MY ANGER puts a new perspective on it – one which I DON’T like!

Prov. 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance at once.  – How many times do we walk into a room, observe the scene, and vent our anger, without waiting to hear what really happened?

Jas. 1:19-20 If we are showing unrestrained anger, we are showing that we aren’t walking in the righteous life that our God desires of us.

Prov. 14:29 tells us that a quick tempered man shows his folly (foolishness).  Oops, there is that word “fool” again.

Gal. 5:20 mentions fits of rage as one of the works of the flesh.  Verse 21 goes on to say that those who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Then when you look at Prov. 16:32 and read that one who controls his temper is better than one who takes a city, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, like you will never be able to master that awful temper.  I have good news though!  I found a very practical list of things to do, which will not only help us with angry tempers, but if we apply it, it will help us to master other areas of our lives!

Plan of action:  Ephesians 5:15-6:18

1.  Be careful how you live.

2.  Make the most of every opportunity.

3.  Understand God’s will.

4.  Be filled with the Spirit.

5.  Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

6.  Be thankful.

7.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

8.  Wives, submit to your husbands.

9.  Husbands, love your wives.

10. Children, obey your parents.

11. Fathers, bring your children up in the instruction of the Lord, rather than exasperating them.

12. Serve your bosses wholeheartedly, as serving the Lord. – When I worked for a phone company, I got to the place where I would daily ask the Lord to help me to remember that I was doing that job as His servant, and not their slave.  It made a HUGE difference in my attitude and job performance.

13. Treat those under you with respect. (employees, children)

14. Be strong in the Lord.

15. Put on the armor of God.

a. Belt of truth – knowing the truth of the Word.

b. Breastplate of righteousness – protection from acting by your emotions.

c. Feet fitted with the gospel of peace – walking as a peacemaker.

d. Shield of faith – to extinguish Satan’s arrows.

e. Helmet of salvation – protects your thinking.

f. Sword of the Spirit – the Word – this is an offensive weapon, to be used against our enemy.  – Think of how Jesus used the Word of God when He was in the wilderness.  He used it consistently, and the devil finally left when he saw that Jesus wasn’t going to bow to His flesh.

16. Pray in the Spirit on ALL occasions with ALL kinds of prayers and requests. – When you feel your flesh wanting to fall into the trap of a temper tantrum, ask God to help you say NO to your flesh.

17. Be alert.  Be aware of what sets you off, and be on guard for it.  PLAN to take control of your flesh (with God’s help).  Do not LET sin reign in your mortal body. (Rom. 6:12)

God of all power and grace, I ask you to help me CHOOSE to walk in goodness, patience, and peace this day, in spite of how I may feel physically or emotionally, in spite of how tired or irritated I may be, in spite of how overwhelmed I may be.  Help me to crucify my flesh in this area so that I may decrease, and that YOU may increase.  In the Name of Jesus, I ask these things.  Amen.

© 2003, Stacy R Miller