From anger to blessing
Rolf: Some people naturally have a short fuse. Sometimes I don’t think I had a fuse at all.
One thing that was very prominent when I was growing up was that I had a very short fuse. I actually think of it like a stick of dynamite – you have a fuse on it, and some people have a really long fuse and some a bit shorter, but sometimes I think my fuse didn’t even exist. I would snap and become angry, just like that.
My anger never lasted long either, and I would feel so stupid afterwards. It was like a big explosion. Mostly it was just at situations, not at people. I remember once I was at work, welding away, building something, and I got so frustrated, I picked up the whole welder and threw it across the room. I never hurt people as far as I can remember, but I would become very angry, and that mostly characterized me as a young man.
Actually, I was really frustrated with myself because I knew that it wasn’t right. I grew up in a good Christian home and I knew about God. I wanted to know Him personally. I knew it wasn’t acceptable to live like this, but I didn’t have any way to do anything about it.
Then I got married, and I noticed that these things, they don’t just change. There was no way I was going to hurt my wife and child, or other people I met, but how can you help people when you’re like that? I wanted to at least have a good relationship with people, but because of my anger issue I could never really be sure of it.
Hating your own life
Shortly after I got married and became a father, I heard the gospel explained in a way that I’d never heard before. Verses like 1 Peter 1:16 that say, “Be holy, for I am holy” were certainly something that God had said, and something I’d read, but never in the sense that it would be possible, because nobody had the way to it. But now I heard that, “Well, it’s written; therefore, it must be possible.” So, when I heard that, and also heard about the way, and that is toand to lose it, that turned things around for me. I remember the distinct thought, “Finally, now I can actually do something about these things that beset me!”
Jesus says: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25. That verse really worked in me. He doesn’t say, “He who hates what the others see,” but “He who hates his life.” It’s what’s inside – all these thoughts, ideas, and what would rise up because of that. All these things that would create a division with people, that’s what I’m to hate. Because it’s not just about the outbursts of wrath. I grew up thinking that I had to deal with the outside. But I shouldn’t only be working with what people see. What comes out of me actually shows what I’ve been busy with inside.
It didn’t go automatically, but bit by bit. I started to hate anger so badly! I already hated it, but now I hated it even more. Because I wanted to get a connection with Jesus. If I hold on to a thought that doesn’t fit in His kingdom, how can I meet Jesus when He comes back? If He were to come back right now, then what? Would my attitude fit in with His kingdom?
From hating and anger to blessing
The biggest thing is to take God’s Word as being absolute. A verse that has really helped me over the years is 1 Peter 3:9: “… on the contrary blessing.” I thought: I need to be able to bless, so that’s contrary to what I do by nature. By nature, I separate, I revile, I push against people. But to the contrary, I need to be converted and come to a completely different life.
Another verse that has often worked in me is Galatians 5:24. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” And that’s kind of a general term. But in daily life, that means that in every specific thought, word and action, in the way I do things, or the way I spend my money, I have crucified the flesh.
Whenever I have a thought about something or someone that doesn’t line up with God’s law, then I can’t bless. I can’t do the good. I can’t meet needs. The strange thing is that I’ve always loved people. I guess that’s probably why it was so frustrating, this anger. I couldn’t relate to people, because I was so full of my own ideas, and that separated me from them.
The flesh has all these different things that I’m hanging on to, so I’m thankful that I can see these little thoughts, deny them and become more and more free. It also says in Hebrews 12:11 that it’s not pleasant for the time being, but on the other hand, I know that I’m constantly being changed. So that gives me hope. Bit by bit, I’m able to relate to people and be good to them, no matter what. It doesn’t matter so much anymore if my co-workers are contrary to what I think, for example, because I care for them.
Read also: How do I take every thought captive?
In the beginning, I would also get angry with the children. I would often say sorry to them. For example, I would say, “I’m sorry for the way I said it, but you still have to do what I said.” It wasn’t necessarily wrong what I said, but the way I said it was completely wrong.
Later on, when my first child was a lot older, I said to him, “I’m really sorry for the way I did it with you.” I knew it wasn’t always done so well at all, not least with that anger I didn’t always have victory over, especially in the beginning years when he was growing up. But they’re so forgiving. My son said, “Dad, I only remember good things at home.” That made me cry.
So again, the way people perceive you really doesn’t mean a whole lot, not if you’re after the life of Christ. You see your own sin that dwells inside, and you hate it.
Peace in the home
I think what describes our home most is that it’s very peaceful and good there. Outwardly maybe it doesn’t look like that. I have many boys, and they can be home with their friends and they’re wrestling and we’re sometimes arguing about things; there’s lots going on and it’s busy. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no peace.
Peace is that it’s good between people, and that I’m at least not the disturber of the peace, but I actually build peace. Just because people have their opinions, their actions, their mouths, and their voices, that doesn’t matter. In the midst of that it can be very peaceful. I also know that there’s room for improvement. I can contribute to the peace, because, take it or leave it, the father has a huge effect on how it is at home. If I come to an overcoming life, that has a huge effect on our home.
Outbursts of anger start with one thought
What I’m working on now is these little thoughts about people. How far does an outburst of wrath go? Some people kill others because of it, but what about a negative thought about someone? Often that creates anger. It’s just very small, and it’s inside. Nobody sees it. But if you agree with that thought and dwell on it, isn’t that what leads to an outburst of wrath?
You notice it when you work together closely with people. I’ve been married to my wife for 33 years now. Then I notice I get a little thought about her, about what she does or says, and it separates. Isn’t that something to take ahold of? It doesn’t come out. I don’t throw things necessarily or yell at people, but I notice I still have these little thoughts against others and what they do. I’m extremely thankful that I can see these little thoughts, and deal with them.
An indestructible life
Over the years, I’ve often thought about that verse that says, “the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:15-16) That’s what is written about Jesus. That’s what I want – an indestructible life full of love, care, goodness and happiness. I want to become a happy person, indestructibly happy – nothing can break it, nothing can affect it.
If you think about Jesus, who was reviled even before He went on His final journey, and then they nailed Him to the cross, and He hung there, but He still could pray for people. I often think about that. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34.
That’s what I want. I don’t know how my life is going to end. But that life, that is indestructible. It’s so permanent and indwelling, that nothing can put an end to it. No matter what people do, my first reaction is always to be good to that person. That’s the life of Jesus and that’s what I want – love, goodness, righteousness and all these things that the kingdom of heaven is made of. I’m not there yet, but I know it’s coming and I can see this life increasing as I overcome my anger bit by bit. That’s the gospel that I’ve been able to be converted to, and I owe everything to it.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.