Anger at others and toward the institution (church, church leaders or district and district leaders, the mission organization and true of any organization) will often distract us from the necessary attention for the deeper issues in our own life. When I meet a hurting ministry leader the first thing I often encounter is a level of bitterness or anger at the people who have done them wrong. Rarely do I meet someone who is immediately devastated by his own self-discovery of sin. Typically I hear anger toward those who once looked out for them, but now have turned against them. The very ones who should contribute to their healing, seem to instead add to the pain. We are not all that good in the Christian community at helping our own wounded. The indirect message given by leaders is: get back on your feet, and when you are well let us know, and we’ll figure out how you can get back on the team. (But, I’ll leave that for another blog.) Left alone, the ministry leader must now figure out how to navigate through the pain. Sadly, this feeling of abandonment becomes the enemy to defend against, instead of whatever it was that first brought about pain.
My first objective is to help the pastor trudge past that layer of anger toward the institution, and begin working inwardly to deal with more critical realities that might lie within. Often, however, anger toward the institution becomes a distraction to the deeper needs that might exist in his or her own life.
It’s easy to be mad at others, but not common to be mad at ourselves. Feelings of anger toward others allows us to ignore the sin that exists in our own lives. Perhaps this is why Jesus instructed us in Matthew 5:7 to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Focusing on what others are like deflects the attention to what is accessible, that which lies within me. Several years ago I felt justified in my anger toward several leaders who I felt treated me wrongly. I was marginalized and singled out, and meanwhile others seemed to battle for the frontline of their own promotion. They came out stronger, at my expense.
It took several years and some hard conversations with trusted friends to realize that God allowed all this to happen so the spotlight would be focused on my own heart. The problem around me was used by God to show the problem in me. God actually allowed me to be marginalized, misunderstood and at times mistreated to show the sin that lay dormant and ignored in my own life. The focus on the problem needed to be me, not them. God used them, to show me, me!
I will often put before a pastor a sheet of paper with a number of circles. In the outer circle I will write, The Institution. The next circle, closer to the center I write, The Marriage. Next, even closer to the center, The Sin, or, the Offense. Finally, at the very center I have a small circle with the words, My Soul. I call this, The Anger Processing Chart. I encourage the pastor to move past the outer circle as quickly as possible, their feelings toward the institution, church leaders, district leaders etc… and begin working toward the center where eventually all that is left is the core condition of the soul. Ultimately, everything God does, he does to expose us and heal us. To reveal our sin, and our own need for Him. Once there, we join Paul who cried out in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I have neither control nor access to the soul of another. What I can do, is manage my own life and responses to things that go on around me and affect me. My counsel to others is to let God do what he needs to do in the lives of others, even if they have mistreated us. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:12-14) All we can do is what is within reach, and what concerns our own soul. It could be God is allowing someone to be mean to you to give him or her one more opportunity to repent of the sin in their life. But, that is God’s business, not yours. What I can manage, and what I am responsible for is what lies within me. True healing occurs when we let God deal with others, and we pay attention to what he is showing us about ourselves.
Every humiliation, everyone who tries and vexes us, is God’s way of breaking us, so that there is a yet deeper channel in us for the Life of Christ. The Calvary Road by Roy Hession