Waking up in the morning is such a gift that I always hope to avoid having it spoiled by the anger of this world. We can’t avoid it though, especially when that anger is aimed at us.
Big changes have occupied my world, I recently left a job of 13 years to pursue new things. I have felt the call to preach and teach more and more in the last year and a half and several of my previous clients helped me realize that ignoring the voice of God to stay where I was would only let me watch someone else step into my calling. Know this, you are never too old to step out in God’s calling.
The group I teach at church has been doing an in depth study on Esther. One of the smallest, easy to read books that has no outright mention of God in it. To have the chance to spend time verse by verse has been a blessing and I am grateful for the ladies in our group who bring us so much insight. I want to share some of the lessons that have opened my eyes this week, and I pray that it is a blessing to you.
Lesson #1 Anger is rarely just
How often when we get angry do we try to justify it as righteous? When we become angry with someone for not meeting our expectations far more often than not, the problem is ours. God’s word says, in Proverbs 14:29, “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick tempered person stockpiles stupidity.” James 1:9 says, “God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.”
There are so many verses that we could put down to express why God doesn’t want us to be angry but this one says it best. Job, verse 20:12-19, “They savor evil as a delicacy, roll it around on their tongues, Prolong the flavor, a dalliance in decadence— real gourmets of evil! But then they get stomach cramps, a bad case of food poisoning. They gag on all that rich food; God makes them vomit it up. They gorge on evil, make a diet of that poison— a deadly diet—and it kills them. No quiet picnics for them beside gentle streams with fresh-baked bread and cheese, and tall, cool drinks.
They spit out their food half-chewed, unable to relax and enjoy anything they’ve worked for. And why? Because they exploited the poor, took what never belonged to them.”
Anger is the wrong path. Every. Single. Time. We want to claim that our anger is justified, and sometimes it is. But misplaced anger will lead us to keeping company with others that share the same deceptive spirit. The same spirit of anger.
Make no mistake, you may be sealed in Christ, but you can still find yourself being oppressed by the evil one. Ever met someone who gets so angry it actually makes them physically sick? There are so many physical symptoms that come with spiritual oppression and the only answer to get freedom is deliverance.
This broken world is just that, broken. Becoming angry at injustice, at things we cannot seem to change, rampant poverty, rape, murder, death, the list is endless. We are trapped in a battle that we can gratefully and confidently say has already been won. We are just here for a short time to make sure as many of our brothers and sisters of humanity get the opportunity to hear the truth, to find freedom in Christ, and to continue the great work in helping others see that truth.
Lesson #2 Unforgiveness is a trap
Have you ever met someone new, and needed to tell them a story about your past that was negative? Just recently, looking back over the last 13 years to truly register all of the places where I made mistakes, dropped the ball, or let people down, for the purpose of forgiving myself, and letting everything go, I realized that if you need to repeat a story, you haven’t let it go.
Strongholds in our lives come from reliving something we haven’t let go of. We are still holding onto anger, frustration, hurt and the lie that someone if we just let it go, it makes it right. Forgiveness is not for someone else. Forgiveness is for you. It is an entirely selfish act and it is something that you need if you truly want the anointing God has waiting for you.
You don’t need reconciliation to forgive someone. Since forgiveness is for you, you don’t need a relationship to be right again. It probably will never be, and some people you may need to forgive, they may be dead. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he spent years away from his family. Plenty of time to be angry, and plenty of time to bear loads of unforgiveness. Instead, (Genesis 45:4-8) “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
Wow. Can you imagine? If you aren’t familar with Joseph’s story, he was favored among his brothers by his father, and had the gift of prophesy. He was also a terrible communicator, and it made his brothers angry and jealous. So they got rid of him, and lied to their father about his death. Joseph was successful in Egypt but then refused to sleep with his masters wife, and found himself wrongfully imprisoned for rape. He had many reasons to be angry. But God!
God brought Joseph to his knees and grew him during his years in prison and when he finally got out, his gift of prophesy saved all of Egypt and the surrounding lands too. Talk about a story of growth! Sometimes we have to go through trial and fire, loss and work through our problems before God can bring us into what he has been waiting to give us.
The truth of this is that people are going to lie about you to others. Slander your name, you may lose friends, lose a job, lose things in your life that were precious to you. But like Joseph and like Job, waiting patiently and allowing God to grow you during that time is your key to letting go of the sin of anger and growing in forgiveness. It truly is more for you than anyone else.
Lesson #3 Satan is a liar
I know you know this. That doesn’t mean you don’t still say negative things in your head to yourself and I do too. I saw a meme online from a Christ centered group I am part of and it was so powerful I want to share it with you. Feel free to share it.
Discernment is knowing you need to change tracks. That you are either in an unhealthy place or not. It is understanding that not every relationship will be perfect, but the ones that cause toxicity must be let go of. If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress and hurt, or anger and dysfunction, then maybe its time for a change. Maybe you need to spend some time praying about your next steps. I knew more than a year ago that I needed to leave where I was. The choice to stay in a place I no longer belonged was mine.
Sometimes the hardest lesson to learn isn’t how to let go of those who hurt us, but more of taking responsibility in the knowing that we let them. We have all heard the saying, “Hurt me once, shame on you, hurt me twice, shame on me.” It feels important to me to point out that there are more times that I care to admit, where I have let people hurt me over and over because I loved them and wanted them in my life. I let them use destructive words, threats and anger to beat me down. The hardest thing I had to realize is that I gave them that power when I let them do it again after the first time. We have more power than we think, and NO is a full sentence. No one has the right to hurt you, beat you down, or destroy you. But it is your responsibility to either reach out for help, or take your power back.
Lesson #4 Anger and Ego are a prison
Ego is destructive. It is when we put ourselves in a position to be above others. When ego is hurt, it leads to anger and anger is a prison that we make and stay in when we blame others for what is wrong in our lives. The blame game never works (click here for the post on choice)
We have more choices, more chances, and more options than we think. God is always giving us the answers and the way out, we just may not like where that leads. More often than not, we say no to God’s leading and embrace the way we feel or we lean into fear instead of leaning on God. It all comes back to trust. We can trust God to take care of us when we make the hard choices, or we can let pain, fear, ego and anger lead us into a prison that isn’t easy to get back out of.
Gratefully, there is always a way out. But God… I love this sentence. Two words that are intensely powerful and mean that no matter what comes before that, the answer is God! The next step is following God.
Lesson #5 There are consequences for doing the right thing
During this study of Esther I have realized something important and this is the last thing I will point out today. Even when you do the right thing, others will have the ripple effect, good and bad for your choices. It doesn’t matter that it was the right thing.
In chapter one of Esther, Queen Vashti was faced with a lose lose situation. She could parade herself in front of drunken men, (there is no historical or biblical evidence to say she was naked, that is an assumption) or she could disobey her husband and king. Most of us would agree that she stuck to her guns, embraced her personal integrity and did the right thing. But there were repercussions to her choice. Every women in the kingdom of Persia paid for the choice to go against an order from the king. Jump just an extra chapter forward to chapter 3, and we find Mordecai faced with another lose lose situation. To bow to Haman and dishonor God, or not bow, and face the consequences of being in leadership and not following orders. Mordecai’s decision nearly cost the entire Jewish people their lives. The hatred and anger that Haman had was so fierce and his ego so large that it cost him his life.
When we choose to do the right thing, for ourselves, for our safety, for our sanity and for our family, it may be the right thing to do. But remember that no matter how right we are, there are consequences to our choices and we have to be ready to own those as our own, and know that when we let God lead us, we can count on Him to keep us safe, and to keep us on the right path. The great thing is that Mordecai counted on God to get them through, and though I am just in chapter 5, and we have yet to fully break everything down, I know this, God has brought His people through terrible things, no matter how far astray we go, He comes looking for us. The lost sheep, ready to bring us back into the fold, to allow us to repent and to anoint us and allow us to rightfully step back into the purpose He created us for.
I have stepped out, in obedience, and I am excited to see what this next stage of my life holds. I pray that the decisions I make are always God led, and that even though I will be responsible for those consequences, that when I let go of the reigns, all will work out for the good and glory of God and His kingdom.