"I find myself losing my temper and feeling angry a lot for dumb things...I would say that's my biggest...struggle right now."
This is a message I received from a young mom. Words I have heard many times before. Words that describe one of the biggest struggles I had when my children were young.
I remember on Mother's Day, many years ago, our pastor asked, "What has surprised you the most about being a mother?" Moms, of all ages and stages of life, responded with whimsical, witty and warm-hearted answers. I sat there silent. Not because I didn't have anything to say. But, because I was ashamed of the first thing that popped into my head.
I waited, hoping someone would share an unpleasant or difficult surprise. But, as mother after mother gushed about her fond memories, I wondered, am I the only one surprised by how angry I can get at my precious little children?
Although no one mentioned it during the Sunday service, I knew I wasn't alone. Afterwards, I compared notes with other moms who had the same or similar "surprises" come to mind. I also knew school teacher friends who had confided to me their dismay about how calm and collected they were in a classroom, but how impatient and angry they could be at home with their own kids.
I hated when I got angry with my children. I remember one afternoon while visiting a friend, I laid my infant on a blanket on the floor to change his diaper. At that moment, my two year old came running down the hall, careening around the corner, and rammed a push toy, popcorn popper, smack into the top of the baby's head. My infant son began to wail. I confess, the first thing I did was to grab my toddler by the arm. I screamed at him for running in the house and for hurting his baby brother. After venting my anger at my bewildered child, I scooped my baby boy up into my arms to console him, praying that no damage had been done to his still soft head.
Even though I knew all mothers lost their tempers from time to time, too often my own angry outbursts were unpredictable and unreasonable. I felt helpless as, again and again, I lost my temper at my little ones whose biggest crime was immaturity and childishness. In my desperation to change, I cried out to God for help.
The Lord answered those prayers, over time. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to change my way of thinking. I found verses in the Bible, which became my constant prayer, like James 1:19-20, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."
After an angry outburst I would cry out to God, "Please teach me how to be quick to listen, help me to be slow to speak, and show me how to be slow to become angry. Lord, I long to live the righteous life you desire as I raise my children." At first, the words I prayed would quickly come to mind AFTER I lost my temper. So, I would apologize to my precious children AGAIN. Then, I would seek the Lord’s forgiveness, pleading with Him to make me a better mom.
Over time, as I looked to God's word to guard my thoughts, they also penetrated my heart, and began to transform my life. Eventually, thanks be to God, my angry outbursts happened less often, and I was able to gain victory over most of my fits of rage.
The young woman who wrote to me about her struggle with anger has known me for many, many years. When I shared with her that this had also been my biggest struggle, she answered, "God must have done a work in you, because I can't tell now!"
What a wonderful praise to God! Yes, He did do a work in me. And, dear young mom (or dad), if this is your struggle today, God longs to do that work in you as well. Do you struggle with anger? Feel free leave a comment, I would be honored to pray for you.