MY BIGGEST PROBLEM
Several dramatic changes occurred in my behavior when I first became a Christian, but over a period of several years my sense of closeness to the Lord began to fade. Marriage, parenthood, and job revealed deeper life problems of anger, bitterness, hostility, and pride.
My boss was a harsh, cussing man. Day after day he would scowl as he scanned the engineering department from his glass-walled office. Stuffing his mouth with a huge chunk of tobacco, he would yell, “Brandt!” And that was all it took! Anger would well up within me and I was a goner! It worked every time; I was helpless. Even before his merciless tongue-lashings, I would be brimming with hostility and wounded pride.
How could I vent my feelings toward him? I would have found myself out in the street! As a result of keeping my anger inside, it spilled over into my relationships with my wife, my son, and my associates.
I was filled with regret over the things I said and did. Telling myself to stop didn’t help. I tried everything I could to find relief: taking a walk, griping to a friend, playing tennis, yelling at my wife or tiny son. I even consciously thought about swearing and drinking again—typical regressive behavior! I even tried looking into my neglected Bible.
I quickly found out that Bible reading was not easy. I couldn’t scan the Bible and ignore parts of it like reading a newspaper. What I read was disturbing, but some of it slipped into my mind and I found myself comparing my behavior to the verses that I read.
I came upon a verse that got my attention:
Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ. (Ephesians 4:31-32, LB)
I spent several months contemplating those verses. They made me mad! The more I thought about forgiving my boss, my family, and my associates, the more reasons I found for not forgiving them. I easily justified my hatred and anger. Why should I be kind and tenderhearted toward them? Such an idea infuriated me!
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the Bible was right. I told myself: “I will quit being hateful and angry toward these people.” But as the days passed, I made a scary and frustrating discovery: I couldn’t quit! When my boss yelled at me or my wife didn’t do what I asked her to do, my response was automatic: intense anger! I could cover it up, put a smile on my face and control my speech, but just underneath the surface was a furious response.
My resentment toward the Bible intensified. Here was a book that required something I didn’t want to do and couldn’t do even after Idecided to do it!
I identified with the Apostle Paul when he described himself:
When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is, sin still has me in its evil grasp. (Romans 7:19-20, LB)
As I continued to thumb through my Bible, I stumbled upon some verses which hit me right between the eyes:
Not that we are in any way confident of our own resources—our ability comes from God. It is He who makes us competent administrators of the new agreement, and we deal not in the letter but in the Spirit. The letter of the Law leads to the death of the soul, the Spirit of God alone can give life to the soul. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6, Phillips)
My response to those verses was troubled. Why couldn’t I depend upon my own resources for living? I earned an education without God’s help. I obtained a job and promotions. By my own will I managed to meet the demands of life. It appeared to me that I could do some things on my own!