Mothering, Old Wisdom, Studying God, Time Management

Too exhausted to read the Bible (or pray)…

Julie / February 22, 2018

Written October 2017.

Most kind and loving people have admirably low expectations for mothers of young children.  People constantly reassure me that my failures are okay, whether it’s that I forgot to bring something, do something, answer an email quickly, or even if it’s something more important: “Nobody can be perfectly patient all the time.”  “I didn’t read the Bible for years when we had littles.”  “They won’t remember the bad times.”  “The important thing is that you’re trying.”  “God knows what we need even when we’re too tired to pray.”

Even great pastors like D.A. Carson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones are hasty to reassure us of the legitimacy of our struggle, the impossibility of being a mother of young children and a devotee of Scripture at the same time.

There is much kindness in such reassurance.  I have no doubt that it is well-meant.

But while pithy reassurances are comforting, they aren’t necessarily biblical or helpful. My heart is bleak; I am not strong enough to stop burying myself in the Word of God.  And letting go of my desperate hunger for it is not what Scripture teaches us to do.

God didn’t tell David to stop writing psalms while he was on the run for his life.  Job, in the midst of his incomparable affliction, tells us (23:12) that “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”  The prophets were persecuted, starved, locked up, and dumped into muddy wells, yet God continued to call them to very active servanthood.  In Scripture, we see so many situations that were so much worse, so much more time-consuming, so much more emotionally demanding than motherhood, and yet there was no message to those people saying “okay, maybe you’d better cut back on the morning prayer time.”

Pixabay

In fact, one of the most stunning examples of hardship in Scripture I can think of—Jesus in the desert—is also one of the clearest.  When Satan attempts to get Jesus distracted by His physical needs, Jesus answers him very clearly, pointing out that hunger isn’t satisfied by “bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Though His hunger was physical (v. 3) and acute, His most necessary food is spiritual!

This is us, too.  When we are exhausted from a lack of sleep, we need “rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:29).  When we “eat the bread of anxious toil,” we need the blessing of the sleep God alone provides (Psalm 127:2) to ease that anxiety.  When we are struggling with impatience from relentless toddlers, what we need is not a momentary break, but the fruit of the Spirit which is patience (Galatians 5:22).  When we are sad and downcast, we need the joy of the word of God to lift us up (Psalm 119:2).

Our physical and emotional challenges require spiritual solutions.

J.C. Ryle, in his little pamphlet about the importance of Bible-reading, specifically addresses those who struggle to find the resources to read the Bible, and his words are convicting and ring true:

You are the man that is likely to “get little comfort from the Bible in time of need.” Trials come at various times. Affliction is a searching wind, which strips the leaves off the trees, and exposes the birds’ nests. Now I fear that your stores of Bible consolations may one day run very low. I fear lest you should find yourself at last on very short allowance, and come into the harbor weak, worn and thin.

You are the man that is likely “never to be established in the truth.” I will not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, and the like. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. Like the Benjamites, he can “sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). He can quote Scripture easily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to be able to fight a good fight with him. Your armor does not fit well. Your sword sits loosely in your hand.

You are the man that is likely to “make mistakes in life.” I will not wonder if I am told that you have erred about your own marriage—erred about your children’s education of spiritual things—erred about the conduct of your household—erred about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, and reefs, and sand bars. You are not sufficiently familiar either with the search lights or your charts.

You are the man that is likely to “be carried away by some deceptive false teacher for a time.” It will not surprise me if those clever, eloquent men, who can “make the lie appear to be the truth,” is leading you into many foolish notions. You are out of balance. No wonder if you are tossed to and from, like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable things. I want every reader of this paper to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you this day. Do not merely read your Bible “a little,” but read it a great deal. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Do not be a mere babe in spiritual knowledge. Seek to become “well instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” and to be continually adding new things to old. A religion of feeling is an uncertain thing. It is like the tide, sometimes high, and sometimes low. It is like the moon, sometimes bright, and sometimes dim. A religion of deep Bible knowledge, is a firm and lasting possession. It enables a man not merely to say, “I feel hope in Christ,” but “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).

I have seen this in my own life over and over again.  I have seven children, and, oh, they are small.  They are relentless.  If you are a mommy of small or needy children, you know what I mean.  I understand why wise men like Lloyd-Jones and Carson think we mommies don’t have the time to read Scripture.

But what happens when I stop?

The well dries up.  See, when I do find time to be in the Word every day, there’s this fresh ever-bubbling source of spiritual nourishment that is continually applicable and new.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; God still uses it.  He promises in Isaiah 55:10-11 that His word is like rain:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Even when I’m doing a lousy job of reading—when the words begin to blur together because I’m so tired, when my brain is so fried that I would have zero insights to offer to a group study, when I’m distracted by screaming toddlers—still God’s word does not return to Him empty.

Truly, it is amazing.  As I write this, I am exhausted.  Baby seven was born three days ago after a difficult and long build-up to final labor—which was itself a very rough time—and our days since then have been consumed with more medical appointments and stresses, and I am at the point where I can barely remember what day it is.  I’m a wreck.  But I have been able to read the Bible passage that is programmed to arrive in my email inbox every day, and spend a little bit of time praying (albeit fairly incoherently!), and in return, there have been many—three or four—incidents every single week of the past month when something I have read right now has been immediately applicable to my life.  Either it has served to encourage me, or been relevant to a spiritual conversation I’ve been having with someone else, or it has provided a great example of a principle I’m trying to illustrate to my children… in short, even my very bad Bible comprehension right now is bearing a lot of fruit, and it has been a powerful testimony and encouragement to me of the inherent usefulness of reading Scripture.

Even in the midst of my exhaustion and physical struggles, the time and energy that I invest in the Word are amply repaid, over and over again.  And not just in little soundbytes of encouragement here and there.  So often God enables my feeble mind to snag on some item in the text that I hadn’t noticed before, and make tiny little gains in spiritual knowledge and understanding.  Scripture feeds me in the now, when I desperately need it, and it builds up spiritual food-stores that God will continue to use and grow for His glory in the future, too.  Though I feel like I have the I.Q. of a turnip and struggle to comprehend some of the Bible’s longer sentences, time in God’s word and time in prayer bear fruit.

But if I don’t find that time?  If I decide I’m too tired, or that it can’t possibly be worth the effort to even try?  Nothing happens.  There are no fresh spiritual insights floating into my brain, no recent flash of biblical wisdom to share with those around me, no encouragement waiting to shore up my soul.  There’s no growth.  The things of godliness are not lurking in my mind ready to help me deny sin and pursue righteousness; they’re buried deep in somewhere that I’ve been “too tired” to think about recently.  I may still retain the head knowledge that being impatient with my children is wrong, but it’s been a while since I’ve been reminded of the consequences of that kind of sinfulness.  God’s justice and fearsomeness are not freshly impressed on my mind.  The well—the very well which gives us life and leads us to holiness—is running dry.  The Christian cannot live like this.  The Christian Mommy cannot live like this.

The times when we don’t have the energy or motivation to spend time in God’s Word is the time we most need to do so anyway.  The person who is too parched with thirst to drag themselves to the stream is the person who most needs a drink; the person fainting with hunger who can’t contemplate the effort of cooking a meal is the person who most needs nourishment.

So, when you are too exhausted to read the Bible, read it anyway.  It will give you life.  Find a way, find a time, because God’s word is more essential than food, and times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.  He is the answer to our exhaustion and inability, and He is faithful!

Discipline, Mothering

The Sanctification of (Little) Sinners

Julie / February 15, 2018

Sanctification—the way God works to resolve sin in the life of the believer—is evident in Scripture.  Similarly, so is the utter pervasiveness of sin in the life of a nonbeliever.

But, for some reason, when we talk about childrearing—about discipline, about “good parenting,” and “good kids”—our theology often gets a little wobbly.

Per my parents’ stories, I was a well-disciplined, obedient child, and I fully expected that our children would immediately be equally so.  I remember confidently telling a friend when I was a teenager, “well, my children are not going to smear poop on their crib!”  And she—she with little siblings while I had none—laughed at me.  She knew what was to come!

Reality was not what I had expected.

Then there was this little ball of fire that called itself daughter the first.

She didn’t smear any poop, but she stomped her feet, threw herself on the floor in mad fits, repeatedly did things I had sternly told her not to do, wouldn’t sleep by herself at night, and screamed at me when I tried to get through to her, “I WANT TO BE BAD!!!”

It was awful.  We were doing everything we knew how to do in order to get her to be good, and yet… she was rotten!  And I could just feel the judgment in the eyes of everyone with angelic children, or I certainly did a good job of imagining it.  Surely, we weren’t being consistent enough.  We weren’t being severe enough.  She was ruling the roost, etc.  I felt both the heavy weight of others’ eyes, and of my own feelings of failure at parenting.

We kept trying.  We kept pushing the Gospel at her.  We kept praying.  We kept parenting.

One day, God worked.  One day, she suddenly caught interest in pleasing Jesus, and following Him, and the child has never looked back.  She still needed parents, but the change in her little heart was stark and immediate.  Discipline changed from something she hated to something she reluctantly admitted was well-deserved and even helpful to her.  Heart-to-heart conversations changed from laughably useless to very productive, often utterly effective.  And even now—the little girl is a young lady of nine—she still struggles with misbehavior, but, oh, she struggles.  She participates.  She wants to improve herself; she no longer merely gives in with reluctance to our demands.  She initiates her own self-improvement, even.

But the worst was yet to come.

Before he was even one, the differences were obvious: he was a climber, always on the move, and always eating things he shouldn’t.  I had previously scoffed at various childproofing implements; suddenly, we were not only using them, but we were using them, he was circumventing them, and ending up in the ER for his trouble!  I remember thinking clearly at that age that he was incredibly dexterous at getting to things and incredibly stupid at what he chose to get to.  He ate rocks, stink bugs, vitamins, and a whole bottle of Tylenol, all in the space of about six months.  (To this day, zero of our other children have done any of those things.  Or even managed to get into any of those things in the first place, since we are vaguely sensible people who don’t leave them in reach of toddlers.  This is the kid who figured out how to undo every childproofing method in existence.)

We prayed.  We despaired.  We prayed more.  He did more than get into things; he was an endless fountain of foolishness, bad decisions, energy, and rebellion.

I’ve often remarked that I am so glad he wasn’t our first child, because at least we had seen our children grow and had the Gospel take root—we had hope.  And not merely the theological abstract of hope, but real experience.  I remember thinking that this boy had so much enthusiasm and personality and such a strong, clear speaking voice that God could use him like another Spurgeon—another little boy whose rebellion against God was complete in his early years.

In the meantime, though, we had a dark year.  It’s all kind of a blur.  We kept parenting hard and praying hard and nothing seemed to matter.  Finally, one day, I was sitting on the couch with him rehearsing the Gospel, and at last, he didn’t tell me he didn’t care and run away.  Finally, finally, he showed a glimmer of fear of God, and he wanted to pray and beg God to help him learn to be good.

I was so skeptical!  I remember feeling the war within me between exhilaration—could this be it?—and disbelief—of course not.  I very hesitantly told Seth of the exchange, and we waited to see how it would bear out.

He wasn’t an overnight miracle of behavior as his biggest sister had been.  Not at all.  He is still a very, very energetic boy with great tendencies to not think his actions through before he dashes off with them.  Like his big siblings, he still has real sin issues in himself, and he still requires a ton of parenting, and many days, it feels like we are accomplishing nothing at all.

But he is sorry.  He’ll do something really foolish, and when we talk to him about it later, he quirks his mouth up halfway and says ruefully, “I wasn’t thinking with my head.  I know, I gotta think with my head.”  After a particularly bad day, he’ll ask me, “Mommy, why isn’t God helping me be more gooder faster?”  Other days—like today—he’ll realize that it has been an awfully long time since he was in trouble, and point out the fact proudly.  He is slowly becoming vaguely reliable and more trustworthy.  He’s very kind, personable, and good at sharing.

Sometimes I think he tries harder than any of his siblings—because he has to.  His fight for holiness is one of the hardest.

The fight for holiness: the need of redemption.

”Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as of you, or they perish. And know also, that unless you be very circumspect in your behavior to and before them, they may perish through you: the thoughts of which should provoke you, both to instruct, and also to correct them.”

John Bunyan

This is what I have learned from watching them—all of them: first, children are born sinners.  David says in Psalm 51:5, “I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”  Ephesians 2:3 is picturesque: “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts.”  That is where children live: in the flesh, doing whatever their flesh is inclined naturally to do.  And they all have their own unique inclinations: utter lack of emotional control, pride, dishonesty, foolishness, fussiness, stubbornness… their individual bent may vary, but the sinfulness stays the same.

As parents, that’s what we are dealing with, and, who can change a sinner’s heart? The Holy Spirit alone.  “The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).  There is no sanctification without repentance, and no repentance without the Spirit’s working.  “No one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father,” Jesus taught in John 6:65.  As parents, all we can force our children to is outward conformity.  For inward change, the Spirit has to work, and our duty is to pray and preach the Gospel to them, because faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

All of our children have borne testimony to the Scriptural truth that foolish people hate discipline (Proverbs 13:1, Proverbs 12:1, Job 5:17). “Grief” from criticism leads to repentance in the godly, but death in the ungodly (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), and we have seen in their lives that change that happens when they turn to Christ and desire to follow Him—they become partners with us in pursuit of their holiness, rather than active saboteurs!  That moment when they come to repentance and God replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh completely revolutionizes the parenting process.

 

“For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,” Paul writes in Romans 6:6.  This is the ultimate hope for parents as they train up their Christian children, and for those children themselves as they seek sanctification and maturity: they are no longer slaves of sin.  The dominion of sin has been broken!

The fight for holiness: the blessing of sanctification.

Do not others expect from children more perfect conduct than they themselves exhibit? If a gracious child should lose his temper, or act wrongly in some trifling thing through forgetfulness, straightway he is condemned as a little hypocrite by those who are long way from being perfect themselves. Jesus says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.” Take heed that ye say not an unkind word against your younger brethren in Christ, your little sisters in the Lord. Jesus sets such great store by His dear lambs, that He carries them in His bosom; and I charge you who follow your Lord in all things to show a like tenderness to the little ones of the Divine family.

Charles Spurgeon

The most shocking revelation of parenting, to me, has been to realize my own wickedness.  It is so easy for me to be distraught over their behavior, their failure to achieve perfection, even though I am just as bad myself, and I have had many more years to learn better!  It is often helpful for me to take a step back from the immediacy of their sin and realize that just like their momma, God is sanctifying them.  And just like their momma, sometimes it takes a long, long, long time and tiny baby steps of improvement for those old sins to die.  (And even then, there are always more that need rooted out!)

Proverbs 13:24 tells us “the one who loves [his son] disciplines him diligently,” and Hebrews 12 helpfully compares parental discipline to God’s discipline: “He does it so we can share His holiness… it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  As God disciplines us, so we discipline our children—we teach them, give them guidance, helpful nudges, consequences, and so on.  We try to facilitate their holiness.  We teach them the Scripture, we train them diligently, and we try to be good models.  But ultimately, sanctification is God’s work, and it is their own calling as believers to purify themselves from what is dishonorable (2 TImothy 2:21), to run from sin and “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

It is a joy to watch children struggle to better themselves, and a greater joy still to see God reward that struggle.  When they realize that the sin that so easily entangled them has, with time, become less likely to catch them up—they are delighted and so are we!  I like few things better than hearing our famously-struggling son say with a sense of wonder before he goes to sleep, “Mommy, God is really helping me be good at ________ now!”  It fills my heart to hear his earnest praise of God, as well as to realize that, yes, indeed, the child is improving.  And that the child wants to improve.  And that he knows God is the one who enables him to do so.

As parents, in obedience to God, we can live the truth of Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth; the rod of discipline will drive it away from him.”  We see firsthand how immensely, hopelessly foolish and depraved little children can be.  And we can see how discipline brings outward conformity, but to the Spirit-filled child, it brings much more than that—it brings life, peace, righteousness.  Proverbs 29:15 says that “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15, ESV).  Those are two separate words—rod and reproof—and as parents, we have both duties: to discipline and rule, and also to verbally teach and correct.  And, by God’s grace, our duties bring wisdom to our children as the Spirit applies His truths to their little hearts.  The promise of God that He has given us a Spirit of love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7) is for believing children, as well, and, He is conforming them to the image of the Son as surely as He is conforming us (Romans 8:29).  We merely teach them that as they “live by the Spirit… keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  God is the one who “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Sanctification comes from Him.

“God knows the reality of our children’s hearts, sanctification, and diligence, while others know only the image. We want our children to be thought of as clean-cut and on the straight and narrow–which is rather a different thing from holiness, righteousness, godliness, and bearing much of the Fruit of the Spirit.”
Denise Sproul

Musings

In Your Anger Do Not Sin

Julie / February 8, 2018

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Psalm 37:8

As a perpetually sleep-deprived, perennially hormonal mother of seven, I have come to realize the great importance of a solid theology of anger.  When I first started on this journey about a decade ago, I didn’t have a very good grasp of biblical anger at all: I knew the Bible said not to let the sun go down on it (Ephesians 4:26), and to be “slow” to it (James 1:19), but I couldn’t reconcile “be angry [and do not sin]” with “refrain from anger” (Psalm 37:8).  It was too easy in the heat of the moment to find false refuge in “anger is okay so long as you don’t do any sins while you’re angry,” which was my very limited (and errant) understanding of Ephesians 4:26.

Admitting Anger

The first little glimmers of better understanding for me came from the writing of Richard Baxter, whose definition of anger was immediately helpful:

624px-Richard_Baxter_by_Robert_WhiteAnger is the rising up of the heart in passionate displacency against an apprehended evil, which would cross or hinder us of some desired good.

Anger is that powerful feeling that arises in us when we think some wrong has been done that prevents or makes it harder for us to do something we wish to do.

I have found this a very useful way to think of anger because it acknowledges that my feelings are in response to someone else’s wrongdoing—or at least what I perceive as someone’s wrongdoing.  I know I used to think “sinful” anger was unjustified anger… but in the heat of the moment, nobody is going around thinking, “ah, yes, I am angry, but for no reason!”  I always think I’m right to be angry!  So when I start to feel those emotions welling up in me, and I go through my little checklist in my head to evaluate them—am I feeling a strong emotion?  Yes.  Is it because someone else did something wrong?  Yes.  Hmm, this is probably anger, then: what do I do next?

And so, Baxter’s definition gets me in a very good frame of mind to seek out and find the righteous reaction at that point, because it acknowledges that the other person is wrong, or may be wrong, and yet puts the focus back on my behavior—because the Bible has a lot to say about what we do with anger, and the Bible never says “unless the other person is wrong, then go into ballistic attack mode and fire at will!”

So I’m angry, and I’m admitting it to myself… what do I do now?

The Right Kind of Anger

I read an article by John Piper on anger a few weeks ago (it’s very good, go read it), and he said this one little sentence that resonated with me profoundly:

I was much more optimistic about a righteous place for anger when I was thirty than I am now.

Yes!!!  Speaking for myself, my anger is hardly ever righteous.  It’s almost always self-centered, emotional frustration that something isn’t going the way I think it should, and often fury that I am the one who is going to have to “deal with” the consequences.  I get mad when people screw up my life, one way or another.  If they run me off the road, fail to communicate something I need to know, run late, misbehave, insult me, insult my children… if I sat here and made a list of all the reasons I’ve gotten angry in the past year, I guarantee 99.9% of them are going to be things that made my life less pleasant.  Sinful anger.  This is what I am about.  Nevertheless, the other half of Baxter’s definition above is about righteous anger, and I want to mention it, because even while I am failing, it is good to be reminded of for what I ought to be aiming:

[Anger] is given us by God for good, to stir us up to a vigorous resistance of those things, which, within us or without us do oppose his glory or our salvation, or our own or our neighbour’s real good.

So, anger, when it isn’t perverted by sin, is our “vigorous resistance” to things which oppose God’s glory, our salvation, or ours or our neighbor’s “real” (I think a more thoughtful word in 2017 might be “eternal”) good.

It is not, in short, about “me me me.”  It isn’t about my being inconvenienced or offended or persecuted.  It’s about God’s glory and His plan for our good.  This is the kind of anger we see from the Psalmist towards his enemies (Psalm 7:6).  This is the kind of anger that can find solace in God’s judgment and sovereignty, that can be patient:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 37:7-9)

The Wrong Kind of Anger

Then we get to the wrong kind of anger, about which Baxter has far more to say—things that I have found immensely convicting.  He lists off nine kinds of sinful anger:

  1. Anger “against God or any good.”
    Genesis 18:25 reminds us, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”  We have no lawful reason to be angry with God.  He is never wrong and never in discord with His own will, His glory, our salvation, our neighbor’s good, or… any reason why we may be angry at Him. Let us not be like Jonah, that God should ask, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)
  2. Anger that “disturbeth reason, and hindereth our judging of things aright.” And,
  3. Anger “greater in measure than the cause alloweth.”
    “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back,” Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, and Scripture is overflowing with commands to self-control (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthians 9:26, many others).  Proverbs 16:32 says that “he who rules his spirit [is better than] he who takes a city.”  One of the most likely venues of sinful anger for me is that it upsets my self-control.  It clouds my thinking.  It even can make my physically unwell.  The Bible’s warnings to us about ruling our spirit—our emotions—are not to be taken lightly!  When my reaction to a wrong is so emotionally strong, I am not likely to carefully evaluate either the wrongdoing or my own reaction to it.
  4. Anger that “casteth us into any unseemly carriage, or causeth or disposeth to any sinful words or actions.”
    Similarly, anger that carries us into sin is in stark contradition to Ephesians 4:26.  Righteous anger does not tempt us to react by returning evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).  I love the example of Christ in 1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”  This is the key: rather than retaliating, the righteous reaction is to trust God and His judgment.  Romans 12:19 reminds us, “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.”  Ephesians 4:27 reminds us, in the very context of anger, to “give no opportunity to the devil.”
  5. Anger that “is mistaken, and without just cause.”
    This is a huge part of why anger that clouds our judgment is wrong—because our judgment might indeed be wrong! There are few worse feelings in the world than regret for having come to a hasty judgment and then being found to have been unfair.  This is a huge part of being “slow” to anger.  Proverbs 18:13 tells us, “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
  6. Anger that makes us unfit “for our duty to God or man.”
    Our duty is love, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a tall order: anger that makes us impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful is wrong.  Anger that makes us happy over wrongdoing is wrong.  Anger that makes us unloving is wrong.
  7. Anger that “tendeth to the abatement of love and brotherly kindness, and the hindering of any good which we should do for others.”
    My husband likes to remind me that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) and Proverbs 15:18 says that being slow to anger “quiets contention.”  It’s very rare that a person getting angry at another person is going to do any good, no matter how hard the angry person tries to “not sin” in their anger.
  8. Anger which “stayeth too long, and ceaseth not when its lawful work is done.”
    Proverbs 19:11 says “it is [one’s] glory to overlook an offense,” and that’s a good duration of anger—a fleeting offense that we can immediately overlook!
  9. Anger that “is selfish and carnal… [for] your pride, or profit, or sports, or any other fleshly will.”
    Anger is listed off in Galatians 5:19-21 as a “work of the flesh,” not the “fruit of the Spirit,” and I think that’s exactly what Baxter has in mind here.  Much of our anger doesn’t even pretend to be godly; it’s just selfishness, pure and simple.

Why to Forsake Anger

I want to close with one more Baxter quote that as a mother, I find terrifying:

And it is much the worse in that it suffereth not a man to sin alone, but stirreth up others to do the like.  Wrath kindleth wrath, as fire kindleth fire.  It is two to one but when you are angry you will make others angry, or discontented, or troubled by your words or deeds.  And you have not the power of moderating them in it, when you have done.  You know not what sin it may draw them to. It is the devil’s bellows to kindle men’s corruptions; and sets hearts, and families, and kingdoms in a flame.

When we get angry, our anger often spreads.  As mothers, it spreads to our children.  We snip at them (as anger “casteth us into an unseemly carriage”) and they get frustrated and start snipping at each other.  James 3 warns us, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”  How we deal with our anger is no idle question, no casual issue.  When we speak, it spreads.  Anger can be a wildfire that ravages our entire home.  We have to beat our bodies into submission and learn how to deal with it properly… another subject where Baxter offers some excellent advice!