Trial by Fire


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Daniel 3:19-30, 1 John 3:11-18, Luke 4:1-13

“Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage […] that his face was distorted.”
– Daniel 3:19

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
– Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk

Anger can transform us until we are almost unrecognizable. When Daniel’s friends defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship a statue, his rage affected his physical appearance. It can also suddenly and drastically alter our personalities and turn simple disagreements into longstanding feuds and inconsiderate highway maneuvers into deadly confrontations.

Anger often masks fear or sadness. Though Nebuchadnezzar had no obvious reason to be afraid, like every king he realized authority ultimately rests on the people’s willingness to accept it. Open acts of defiance threaten power. In our own lives anger can be a defense against the fear of losing a relationship, security (physical or otherwise), status within our group, or a sense of control. Where fear looks forward, sadness looks backward. When the grief of a loss which has already occurred threatens to overwhelm us, or when we feel forced to suppress it, it can come out as anger, frequently misdirected and over a long period of time.

Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s friends into a furnace hot enough to kill the men who forced them inside, but his anger dissipated into astonishment when they, with the help of an angel, survived and emerged unharmed. Overcome with fear of the Lord, he decreed that none should blaspheme against God, and promoted the friends.

While we won’t face an actual furnace, we may have to endure a metaphorical trial by fire to love someone through their anger. We don’t have to tolerate outright abuse, but understanding where anger comes from can help us handle it differently. For example, if a co-worker’s anger catches us off guard, our reflex is probably to respond in kind, but it’s more productive to let them see Christ at work in us. We may never know what’s going on inside the person, because everyone has pain we don’t get to see. Responding to anger with love and faith may be the witness that helps someone see the promise beyond their pain.

Comfort: It’s permissible to express your fear and grief.

Challenge: Eventually you have to express your fear and grief.

Prayer: God of Love, teach me healthy ways to deal with my emotions. Amen.

Discussion: What makes you angry? Can you relate that to a fear or a sadness?

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