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