Not to long ago my husband and I were reflecting on our earlier years of marriage and he brought up the subject of my earlier anger issues. My anger came to the surface soon after we married. He went on to share how my anger had scared him in those early years partly because he didn’t know where it came from, and partly because he didn’t grow up in a home where he saw such rage explode. My anger would raise its ugly head over seemingly small issues. He also shared how amazed he was that God had healed my rage years ago. He watched the transformation and he knew I was no longer an angry person. I was at peace.
And then he asked how I dealt with it, how did I get past all the rage, what had happened?
Whenever we’ve talked about this in the past I would feel such shame and didn’t want to talk about it. I felt shame because I knew in those earlier years that my anger/rage wounded my husband and family. I grieved those times. I was deeply saddened that my anger was directed at the wrong people and the wrong things. And I’ve struggled to put into words how God healed this area in my life. How God took all the pent up rage and healed my fragmented heart.
Abuse victims often go numb. We stuff our anger. We are scared of anger. Often the anger we should feel towards our abuser gets turned inward, we turn this anger in on ourselves. We think there is no anger yet it is there, often just below the surface. And sometimes even little things trigger it causing it to explode and come to the surface.
When I was finally in counseling several years after we were married I came to understand that God gave me emotions, feelings. That the bible even commands us to be angry-Ephesians 4:26 “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” With this command comes a stipulation-be angry but in our anger don’t sin.
We’ve been wired to feel anger. But when is anger acceptable? When is it appropriate? Sadly, too often we get angry at the wrong things. Like when we try to control people and they don’t listen to us and we get angry.
But when we allow ourselves to get angry at what God is angry about…such as betrayal, injustice, abuse, this is righteous anger…we are wired to feel this kind of anger so that we can do something about it.
Many of us are scared of our anger.
In counseling I entered the grieving stage. And part of the grieving stage was facing the anger. For the first time in my life I dealt with my anger. I was in a safe place, and I was permitted to finally face, and to feel, all the rage turned inward and put it where it belonged. I finally felt anger/rage towards my abusers. I put the anger where it belonged. And in doing so I stopped punishing myself, hating myself.
When we enter the angry stage we are in essence pushing the memory away so that it no longer controls us…so it’s not so heavy and present in our lives….we release it.
God is about redeeming us…and when we begin to feel our feelings we are beginning to redeem our body, reclaiming it…because abuse victims go numb we are in essence reclaiming it, bringing it back under His kingdom domain…this is part of His redemption.
Sometimes we mistake grieving as depression. While it may be true that depression is anger turned inward this is really an oversimplification. Because when we enter the grieving process we at some point will then enter the angry stage….and although it’s important to be angry…we can’t stay there.
In depression we are stuck…in grieving we are moving through it…we can feel a moving through it, as we experience and get in touch with our anger and sadness.
When we are not allowed to feel anger towards our abuser we get stuck, we begin to feel hopeless….when we go through the grieving stages we can’t skip over the anger part, because that doesn’t resolve anything, that doesn’t bring God’s redemption.
But we can’t rush the process….sometimes healing hurts more at the beginning…and that is too often where we stop but we need to continue through the process.
And all too often well meaning friends, Pastors, even counselors, tell us that we shouldn’t stay in the anger stage too long, that we need to move through it quickly and get past it, forgive and move on.
How long should it take some ask…..my answer, as long as it needs to take!!
Often the younger we are when we were abused, and the deeper the wound, the more time it takes to heal.
Healing takes time….give yourself, and give God permission, to take all the time needed in order for healing and redemption to do it’s work. I am still amazed (and so is my husband) that I no longer feel that simmering anger, that rage hiding just below the surface……God’s love is a redeeming love, He can truly heal and bring peace to our wounded and troubled hearts!!!