Ken’s Thursday Blog
Are We Angry?
August 13, 2020
“Americans are angry,” wrote Elizabeth Chang, in a recent Washington Post article. “The country erupted into the worst civil unrest in decades, and anger about police violence and its legacy of racism is still running high. At the same time, we’re dealing with anger provoked by the coronavirus pandemic: anger at public officials because they’ve shut down parts of society, or anger because they aren’t doing enough to curb the virus. Anger about being required to wear a mask, or anger toward people who refuse to wear a mask. Anger at anyone who doesn’t see things the ‘right’ way.”
A psychology professor from the University of California, Irvine Campus stated that “We’re living, in a big ‘anger incubator.’” Another psychiatrist suggested that the country is now dealing with “three disasters superimposed on top of one another”: the pandemic, the economic fallout, and civil unrest. He said, “Certainly, one way of responding, and a common way of responding, is anger.”
But interestingly, surveys over the past few years suggested anger had risen in the country even before the 2020 crises. A Gallup poll conducted in 2018, for example, concluded that Americans’ stress, worry, and anger had intensified that year. A lot of the anger that we have seen or have experienced is a result of uncertainty. We tend to have “a drive” to resolve feelings of uncertainty, and anger about “something” allows us to focus for a few moments on a person, or a specific problem, with a sense of certainty.
We also need to acknowledge that as a creation of God, anger is a primary human emotion. It is also a natural part of grief. And we’ve all grieved a lot of loss these past months. Freedoms. Health. Loved ones. Jobs. Weddings plans. Vacations. You name it!
I discovered an article that spoke explicitly to these days of uncertainty, and it suggested several techniques to deal with anger that one might be experiencing. For example, restrict your media intake, or insulate yourself from others who are angry, and find a way to distract yourself. These suggestions are not bad advice, necessarily. And finding methods of distraction has some merit even beyond things like exercise or exploring a hobby, such as serving or ministering to others’ needs.
However, living with some uncertainty is not a new experience for those who follow Christ, and He reminded them to take their eyes off the circumstances and focus on Him or the Father. Remember the Upper Room discourses, Thomas asked in response to Jesus’ words about going away, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” The disciples were continually asking questions and making assumptions about the thoughts and plans of Jesus, and the reality of this new kingdom of which He spoke. Jesus’ responses to them were consistent, however. For example, remember these words, “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” Or, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Thomas Merton, arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century, once stated that we “…do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” It appears that he might be suggesting that we learn to live like the Apostles of Jesus’ day. While some uncertainty may be a part of our experience as Christ-followers, yet we are to trust Him with each day, each step, or each new challenge.
More than ever before we need to possess the “the peace of God that exceeds all understanding” (Philippians. 4:7) “guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), “trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7), and learning to “Throw all your anxiety onto Him” (I Peter 5:7) and finally, remembering that “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, the one who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, empower, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:10).
May God give you peace during these uncertain days.