The Anger of Another

The Anger of Another

Dear CCW family,

Hear the story of a person troubled by the anger of a friend:

Sitting outside on the front stoop, the warmth of the sun cloaked my chilled frame. The house conditioned my bones all morning like a drafty stone Reformation chapel. In all my concentration, I hadn’t reckoned with the cold until that moment. I was now fixed to the warm concrete step with a sweet heaviness that tiredness, an uninvited argument, and a surprising and sudden decompression of my muscles layered upon me. I let my shoulders drop and turned my face up to the sun full on.

I had hoped to find any truth about his assertions like one searches for something lost, small and valuable, in an undesirable compost bin. Making sense of the apparent irrationalities and wildness of some people confounded me, this person in particular; but was there a modicum of truth there — had I understood? I didn’t know, but I sought to know and was digging into the smelly bin until . . . until I was unable to think longer. I rallied myself to the porch. The cathartic rays were clean and right. I let them drape my shoulders and my face and felt much better, much brighter because of it. I was then good for a few moments rest on the couch inside from which I awoke pleasantly, wishing to forget the whole thing.

Just following, Paine, a man who often was one, abruptly entered once again with another installment of what he had first presented this morning. While I warmed in the sun, he had hyperventilated over his internal embers until his face was hot with anger. His words were practiced and meant to scorch. If I had obtained over the years no awareness of who was addressing me they would have burned like brand irons. They were hot enough as it was.

Rather than flying back at him, I listened with the attentiveness of a hound sniffing for a scent. It was as if, while his words were a forest of flaming trees blowing at me, I was sniffing my way through them for the source of the conflagration, the place the match was first dropped.

And that is what I found. I found the actual words that had offended. Granted, he was too easily put off by words of others, being a hypersensitive soul with all kinds of landmines just under his skin, but the whole mess was patched up by my recognition and apology for what I had said which had before escaped me. And so I navigated through choppy waters that might have sunk me.

It was done. We sat down at ease as friends and had a cup of coffee and a nice talk before he left — as we had often enjoyed.

That story never happened, but some form of it has at various times in my experience — and yours also, I’m sure. Someone is offended and not just a little offended, but expresses that offense in strong terms and reddened face. It might be your spouse, or work associate, or school friend. And it feels awful.

It is true that the Bible asserts, “The anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). But this should not deter us from seeking to be reconciled. What does it take?

First, is the self-conscious decision to believe that we might be wrong. The other person’s actions do not tell the truth about yours necessarily, but we MUST search to see if that is so. This is an act of humility that may be among the hardest things you do. Regardless of how wrong the reaction of the opposing person there can be that kernel of truth about the accusations. What is it?

Seek to think deeply about what God thinks of that wrong expression or action or characteristic. A deeper understanding of your error or sin is critical to reconciliation.

Express your sin to the accuser rather than theirs, and how you hope to improve or correct whatever is necessary.

Be willing to leave it at that if he or she is unwilling to reconcile. But it is good to say that reconciliation is important to you and you believe, to God. “Are you able to forgive me for my words/actions. Hearing that you forgive me is meaningful to me.”

Better to Die

A friend reminded me this week of Ecclesiastes 4:2. It says, “And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.” The Apostle Paul’s way to say this is simply, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Ph 4:23).

In the last few weeks we’ve witnessed the death of two of Pam’s family — her 96 year old mother living with us, and Pam’s faithful older sister in New Jersey. The Bible tells us this: “The poor man [Lazarus] died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” (Lk 16:2). No doubt, he did not have the luxury of a hospice bed before leaving, as Pam’s mother and sister did. But, then, what difference did it make when angels took him away to heaven? None at all.

Many of you have expressed your love toward Pam and me in various ways during this period. Thank you so much. We are missing them. But, at the same time, we do not pity them. They are the happiest they have ever been!


Just ahead Pam and I will visit Little Rock to take care of some final things for Pam’s mother. In the next few weeks we will attend the FIRE International Conference and will visit our son Bryan in California and his four great kids. In between, we are busy with writing. We recently received some gifts we had been praying for to help us publish that we had been praying for. Please pray for us as we work on Steve’s upcoming book on the public reading of Scripture. Pray also about a possible updated edition of Led by the Spirit and maybe even The Eaglet. We are working on more than this which we will announce later.

Yours with Joy,

Jim Elliff with Steve Burchett