One of the most memorized … most quoted … and most comforting verses in all of Scripture is Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Paradoxically, this passage is also one of the most misunderstood and misused!
It’s staggering to grasp how many people suffer needlessly at the hands of angry, abusive people. Many of these sufferers believe it’s their duty to endure … to just cope … so that God can “work it together for their good.” Emotionally abused spouses … verbally abused employees … those mistreated and manipulated by angry “friends” … the examples are endless.
God is not pleased when angry, abusive relationships are tolerated. While the Bible tells us to “rejoice when we encounter various trials,”1 being abused is never God’s perfect will for us.
Years ago, in a phone conversation on Hope In The Night, I worked with a confused caller to drive home this very point.
“Sylvia” would tell her husband, Gene, that his anger caused her to feel frightened and insecure. However, Gene doggedly defended his behavior as “normal” with arguments like: “I was only joking!” or “Everybody flies off the handle sometimes. Don’t make a federal case out of it.” or “Just lighten up!” or “So what if I get mad? You’re the one making a big deal out of it!”
To help Sylvia see her situation through God’s eyes, I shared with her some basic biblical rights … rights she didn’t even know she had. For example, she had the right to:
- Be safe from physical and emotional harm. “… do not associate with one easily angered”
- Set personal boundaries. “The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives” (Proverbs 16:17).
- Enforce her boundaries with consequences. “A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).
- Defend her cause. Matthew 18:15–16 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” (Also see Proverbs 31:8–9.)
Give Peace a Chance
God endows us with the right to live free from abusive anger. Therefore, we need to learn the art of “de-escalation” when we face serious conflicts with angry people. As Romans 12:18 tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Striking this balance requires a challenging blend of toughness and compassion, persistence and patience, humility and self-respect. But the payoff is available for anyone willing to do the work. Here’s how:
- Don’t pour gasoline on the fire.If there is one thing that will act like gasoline thrown on your adversary’s fiery anger, it’s more anger … from you. Yes, you have the right to be safe, to set boundaries, and to stand firm when those boundaries are crossed, but using fiery anger to retaliate against fiery anger changes your status—from innocent victim to guilty accomplice.Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If you habitually respond to anger with a “gentle answer,” you’ll likely see the other person’s wrath diminish, as well as your own.
- Don’t hesitate to evacuate.Think about it: If you suddenly realize you’re holding a live grenade, what would you do? Toss it … and run!Yet when it comes to explosive people, many of us ignore the best defense: keep a safe distance. We remain engaged in battle, on the angry person’s terms, long beyond when it’s productive to do so. At times we may feel that withdrawal is the same as “giving up” on the relationship. But every good military general knows that retreating and regrouping today is sometimes the only way to advance tomorrow.When the heat of rage has burned away any possibility of reason, it’s time to retreat in order to avoid further emotional abuse. The withdrawal can last minutes, hours, days, or longer. If you feel threatened by someone’s flames of fury, you are entitled to maintain a safe distance. Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”Call for reinforcements.
- Call for reinforcements.Be aware: The chief weapon an angry person uses against you is psychological control, which is easier to achieve if you are isolated and alone. We become empowered to face angry enemies in the strength and safety of supportive people—trusted friends and family members—a wise spiritual leader—a professional counselor.You need others to remind you of your God-given rights, and you need those who will stand with you in maintaining the boundaries you set for yourself. In the case of my caller, Sylvia, she eventually saw the wisdom in this approach. With the help of a support group at her church, she began to change her mistaken beliefs about what God expected of her and claimed her right to be safe.As a result, Sylvia separated from Gene, letting him know she was serious about being free from his angry, threatening behavior. “I could never have done that without backup,” she later told me. “Others helped me see it wasn’t about changing Gene … only God can do that, and I still pray He will. But now it’s about changing me and protecting myself and making the most of the life God gave me.”
Let Us Help You … Help Others
Here at Hope For The Heart, not a day goes by that we don’t have the opportunity to help victims of anger find biblical hope and practical help. As a friend of this ministry, you have been asked to pray with us and have been invited to give generously to help support this life-changing work. This month, however, I invite you to take one step further and actively participate in the second part of our mission: “We exist to help you, AND to help you help others.”
Please pray about how God can work through you this month to share His Word with someone who has been hurt by unhealthy anger. You can do this by:
- Sharing the information in this letter
- E-mailing the link to our free, downloadable Anger resource found on our website:
- Giving them our Hope Care Center number, 1-800-488-HOPE (4673), to receive confidential biblically-based help, encouragement, resources, referrals, and prayer.
As God provides opportunity for you to come alongside and help someone else, I pray that you will say yes. Send me a message … by mail, e-mail, or on Facebook … and let me know how God is using you to make a difference in your world!
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. My new book, The Answer to Anger, will be released next month — But you can order your copy today! It’s a compact, redesigned version of Keeping Your Cool … When Your Anger is Hot! I hope you’ll get two copies—one to keep and one to give away.
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at www.Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!