Battling Our Monster Desires
About the Guest
What’s a monster desire? It’s a compulsive want that controls our lives and enslaves our hearts. Robert D. Jones, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks pointedly today about why these "monsters" are often the source of our anger.
What’s a monster desire? It’s a compulsive want that controls our lives and enslaves our hearts.
Battling Our Monster Desires
Daughter: You are the worst mom! You don't care about me, you don't love me, you just want me for your slave!
Child: I hate you, Mom!
[Husband and wife fighting]
Bob: Anger in a relationship can be toxic. Do you ever stop to ask the question – where does all that anger come from? Here is Dr. Robert Jones.
Robert: What is it that we're wanting so much we have to have this thing, and when we don't get this thing, we respond with this kind of anger, whether it's road rage, whether it's that external explosive thing, or whether it's that critical and quiet inner anger.
Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We're going to spend some time talking about anger today but before we do that, it's Day 15 of our 40-day Love Dare. Those of you who saw the movie, "Fireproof" when it came out, you know that Caleb Holt went through a book called "The Love Dare" as a tool to reconcile his marriage, and we thought between now and Valentine's Day we ought to take a 40-day Love Dare, and so on Day 15 – and this may fit into the whole subject we're going to talk about today – we come to 1 Peter 3:7, which says, "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. Show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life."
The kind of love we need to display in our marriages is honorable love for one another – so today's assignment, today's dare, is for you to choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that goes beyond your normal routine. It might be holding a door for your wife; it might be putting clothes away for your husband; it might be the way that you listen or the way you speak to one another in your communication, but find a way to show your mate that he or she is highly esteemed in your eyes. That's today's Love Dare assignment. We've posted that on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can order a copy of "The Love Dare" book from us if you'd like to follow along in the 40-day Love Dare.
Go to FamilyLife Today.com for more information, and one way you may want to show honor and respect for your spouse is by attending one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences when it comes to a city near where you live, and the information about that is on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well.
Now – I thought we ought to kick things off today by – I was going to ask you one of those questions, one of those maddening kinds of questions that you like to ask people – you know what I'm talking about, right?
Dennis: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Bob: Oh, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Dennis, ladies and gentlemen, likes to ask these questions where he asks you – if you had to choose one thing out of all your experiences in life, just one thing …
Dennis: If you could only keep one memory out of your childhood …
Bob: There is a good example, right?
Dennis: Which memory would you keep and why? And Bob doesn't like that because he's so sequential – that means he has to review every experience of his life mentally. And, for Bob, that can be done because of the superior nature of his mind, he can do that, in, generally, about – oh, about 90 seconds.
Bob: But then I have to line them up side-by-side, and I have to evaluate – was this one superior? Well, in some ways, this one was superior to the other – and so it's going to take me days to answer your question.
Dennis: Okay, so where are we going with this?
Bob: Here is where we're going. I was going to ask you what's the angriest you've ever been? Can you think back to a time that you would say, "I was probably angrier than I've ever been any other time in my life?"
Dennis: Well, I was pretty angry as a teenage boy.
Bob: Just in general?
Dennis: Yeah, you know, it just – I think a lot of teenage boys are just angry. They just don't know what is going on in their lives, and there's a lot of hormones working and – not excusing them – mind you, but there's just a lot of emotional upheaval, and some of it gets expressed through the anger portal – how else shall we say it?
But, you know, it would have to be a toss up between the time the kids broke my favorite flyrod and another time, which I do not recall what caused it, but I think I threw something just – in anger, just threw something.
Bob: Like, across the room?
Dennis: Yeah, yeah, not at anyone, but just …
Bob: You were just steamed.
Dennis: Ticked, you know? Not proud of it.
Dennis: But, you know, I do think, within the Christian community, there is a problem when it comes to anger, and that's why we've invited a scholar who has done a great deal of research on this topic and right now he's kind of rolling his eyes back in his head, and he's going, "Can I stand up to the scrutiny?" And, Robert Jones, we'd like to welcome you to the broadcast, and I'm going to refer to you as, "Bob," is that okay?
Robert: That will be fine.
Dennis: I could call you "Dr. Bob," since we have another Bob in the studio.
Bob: Well, and then there is also this other Bob Jones thing – there is a guy who has a university named that, and that's not you, right?
Robert: That's right, yes.
Bob: All right, so we want to avoid any confusion there.
Robert: There are a number of Bob Joneses out there, believe it or not.
Bob: You're not the only one?
Bob: You and the guy with the college are not the only two, right?
Dennis: Well, this Bob Jones is a counselor, an author, a seminary professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his two teenage sons, and he has written a book called "Uprooting Anger" …
Robert: And my wife, Dennis, too.
Dennis: That's right, you do live with your wife, Lauren, right?
Robert: That's right.
Dennis: Twenty-two years, yeah, so – we have an e-mail from a listener – well, it's really a remarkably honest e-mail about adult anger. She writes –
Listener: I'm a regular listener to your program and really appreciate your ministry. Thanks for your biblical insight. I am a mother of four wonderful children. I love them very much, but I have an anger problem that I can't conquer. I am not physically abusive. I yell, I belittle, I act like a two-year-old. Not every time, mind you, but sporadically. I never know when I'm going to explode and neither do my children. I don't know what to do. This has been a lifelong problem, and I feel helpless. I hate everything about myself a lot of the time, and I wonder why God would ever entrust His precious little children to me? I need God's change. I cannot do this on my own. I have tried. Do you have any suggestions? I am mentally drained.
Dennis: All right, Bob, you're a counselor. You've written a book, "Uprooting Anger." What would you say to this dear mom? First of all, you've got to just say thank you for being honest about a problem that she's not alone in experiencing.
Robert: When she talks about helplessness, when she talks about feeling trapped and really enslaved in her own anger, I think she is voicing the experience of many, many, many Christians, and I just want to say to her that I think where we need to start is we need to listen. We need to understand what it is that she is experiencing and help her know and understand that she is not alone – not just because of other mothers and other adults but Christ Jesus Himself wants to be part of her life, wants to come near to her in the midst of this.
I think where we're going to end up with her is helping her to understand what it is that she is desiring, what is it that she expects, and where is God in the midst of this whole chaos that she is experiencing here.
Bob: Okay, so when it comes to the subject of anger, the place you went first is to desire. What's the connection between what we desire and anger?
Robert: If you take a passage that's perhaps familiar to your listeners, a passage like James, chapter 4, James asks this question rhetorically – what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something, but you don't get it.
I think what you have is a desire for life to be the way you want it to be. That is very understandable. It's a desire for things that are good things. To be human is to be filled with those desires, but I think the art of living for Christ, of understanding the Gospel and its call on our life, is how do we continually take those desires for good things? In fact, they are things that the Bible often commands. I think of so much marriage counseling that I have done where the wife is longing for the husband to love her and to listen to her. "I just want to be loved, I just want to be listened to. Is that so bad?" Well, no, it's not so bad. In fact, the Scriptures are calling your husband to do that. The trouble is, what are you going to do when life doesn't go the way you want it? Are you going to justify anger and all these negative things that are coming out?
Dennis: I think of this mom who is grieving over her explosive anger towards her children. Now, she's admitting that. She is saying, "I am taking out my anger on my children and when it's over, I feel terrible." Well, what that is, is that's a conviction that we've sinned, and 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So there is cleansing from the worst express of anger that we can imagine.
But to this mom, it's the habitual visitation of anger over and over and over again from which she repents over and over and over again. Bob, what's going to get her out of that repetitive repentance? Not that we don't repent until we die, because we know we have to as followers of Christ. But how is she going to get out of the habit of expressing anger?
Robert: Well, I think the starting place would be for as many times as she does this and as many times as she repents, we need to keep saying to her, I want to say to her, "My sister, there is still a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel's veins." And so I never want to get to a place in trying to help her where we forget the cross. We need to keep the Gospel very clear before her eyes.
But, having said that, what is it that Christ is wanting to do in her life – not merely to forgive her and reconnect her experientially to her justification and adoption, but we want to help her begin to look at what is it that you are wanting in these various situations and how do we take those desires that sometimes do become demands – they are good desires – how do we take them and look at them through the lens of Scripture? How do we help her think biblically about what God is up to in this situation and what's the cause biblically of her situation?
Dennis: You're saying she needs to go to the Scripture to give God's perspective on her anger.
Dennis: And then begin to learn how He wants her to behave differently in those situations.
Bob: And I think you've asked a very important diagnostic question. I mean, I'm just sitting here thinking about your statement – how do we respond when life doesn't go the way we want it to go? You know, if life always went the way you wanted it to go, you'd probably never get angry about anything, right?
Dennis: You'd be incredibly selfish, too.
Bob: And the truth is, life is not going to go the way any of us want it to go, so all of us have to wrestle with that question – what are we going to do? What does God want us to do when life doesn't go the way we want it to go? How do we need to respond? It's back to what you're saying, Dennis. It's where do we find our help and our hope in the Scriptures with regard to that?
Dennis: Well, if you look in the book of Galatians, Paul gave us some very specific advice and admonishment in Chapter 5. He said, "Now, the deeds of the flesh are evident," and he goes on to list a number of them – immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger. Outbursts of anger are part of the deeds of the flesh.
Bob: Right there in the middle of all the rest of that junk.
Dennis: Right there. And he goes on, then, contrast that and say but the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit who, if you're a follower of Christ, if you've placed your faith in the Savior for the forgiveness of your sins, the promise is we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. We have Him, He lives in us, He is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and, I promise you, if He has the power over death, He also has the power to enable you to being to control your emotions when it comes to disappointment; when what you want out of life isn't getting met. When you don't get your way; when other people's performance is falling far short of your expectations. At that point, you have to decide – am I going to walk by the Spirit or will I give in to the flesh and just explode?
Bob: And we don't want to be saying to the mom who wrote this e-mail you just need to trust harder, pray harder, read your Bible more – it really isn't about those things you do, it's really about getting closer to Jesus and letting Him rub off on you. You know what I'm saying?
Bob: As you walk with Christ, He rubs off on you, and as you spend more time in the Word, as you spend more time drawing close to Him, you find His ways become your ways.
Robert: Well, yes, I think that we have a picture of a God who is actively seeking to make us more like his Son, Christ. This flesh/spirit war going on in Galatians 5 features a Spirit who is active not passive, and I believe that one of the things that God does, as Romans 8:20-29 would teach us – that all things are working together that are good to make us like Christ is it is no accident that this daughter of God, who has written this e-mail, has children and is in a certain kind of home situation.
God wasn't asleep at the wheel when these things have happened. There is a superintending, sovereign, gracious God who is using our children, using our spouses, using our work situations and using the road rage around us to make us more like Christ and to bring some of our desires that are fleshly to the surface, so that we might see them, we might be able to grow and repent. We might be able to draw nearer to Christ in powerful ways.
I get encouraged and excited about the opportunity that this woman has to know Christ in richer, deeper ways than the woman who has a perfect life and a happy life. I know that might sound a little odd. You know, in one sense, we'd want her freed from all these pressures and problems but, in another sense, it's in the midst of those pressures and problems where I think the Savior can be known in richer ways. And the impact that that kind of faith will have on her children and on those around her is immense.
Dennis: Going back to Bob's illustration of Jesus Christ rubbing off on us, I think there are some practical ways given to us in the Scripture where that occurs. One is the one we've just been talking about here, which is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. When Christ left the planet, He sent the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us, to guide us into truth and to give us power over our flesh.
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5, you don't have to give in to the desires of the flesh. You can walk by the Spirit, and you won't carry out those desires. But there are a couple of other ways she needs to allow Christ to rub off on her. One, I think, is through other members of the body of Christ. It may be a personal friend who she could confide in, another mom at church or an older woman who may have some skills in terms of biblical counseling and being able to help her sort through exactly what she's feeling.
But she needs to, I think, connect with other people around what she's feeling as a mom, who will give her some help and encouragement along with letting her know she's not the only person on the planet who has experienced this.
But, third, I think in a situation like this, and this is where books like yours are so helpful, she needs to begin to saturate her mind with what God says about the emotion and the action of anger. She needs to begin to think like God thinks and begin to get God's perspective by memorizing some of those key passages in the Scripture. I mean, saturate your mind, get in this passage here in Galatians, chapter 5, where it talks about you're not to walk and produce the deeds of the flesh, and one of them is outbursts of anger. But you are to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is peace, patience, kindness, love, self-control, which I think will take care of anger if we yield to the Holy Spirit.
Bob: We were talking earlier about Colossians 3 where Paul says that we are to put aside anger and wrath and malice. So there is an active putting aside that we're called on to do as Christians, and yet it doesn't end with the putting aside of the bad stuff. We have to, then, develop the habits that he goes on to talk about in Colossians 3 where he says that we are to put on compassion and kindness and gentleness, to cultivate that in our lives. And even this mom, as she begins to practice those things toward her children, find ways to actively involve herself with acts of kindness and compassion and humility, gentleness, what you'll find is that the anger just starts to recede.
Dennis: And if she does get angry again, maybe better stated – when she expresses anger again, because she will get short with them at some point. I mean, who among us has got victory over every sin in their lives? But, at that point, do as Barbara and I did more than – well, more times than I care to admit – we'd have to get down on one knee next to our child when they were little and say, "Daddy was angry. Please forgive me. I've confessed what I did as being wrong to God, but since you were a part of it and experienced it, you need to know that that's a wrong response."
Robert: I think one of the things that we see as we look at passages like this is that they don't begin with the behavioral changes. They are embedded in a context of the grace of God that the Colossians 3 passage call to put off anger and to put on compassion is rooted in the work of Christ in our lives. And one of the things I'd really want to help her to understand is what does it mean, for example, in Colossians 3 for her to see herself as one who is chosen, who is holy, set apart, who is deeply loved by God because it's that foundation that I think is going to be able to motivate her to be able to do the things of putting off anger and putting on gentleness and self control; that this is the fruit of the Spirit's work, and for her to meditate on Galatians 1 through 4, and then get into chapter 5 and see that as a unit – or Colossians 1, 2, and 3.
I wouldn't want us to be overly behavioristic. One of my concerns is I've read about anger, I've thought about anger. It's easy for us to say, "This is what you should do and what you shouldn't do," and I think the counsel we're giving today is excellent counsel. I just want to make sure that we keep it embedded, and the foundation of it is the work of Christ and your identity in Christ.
Bob: I think your point is a good one. I mean, when we talk about renewing our minds, it's not simply taking a particular behavior pattern and saying, "Okay, I'm going to address this by renewing my mind." We're really talking about changing the way we think about everything – about who God is, about who we are, so that we do address these issues in the broader context of what it means to live out the message of the Gospel in our marriages and in our families and how that is going to impact our emotions; how that's going to impact anger.
That's really at the heart of what you've written about in the book, "Uprooting Anger," which we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I'd like to encourage our listeners to contact us. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, there is information there about how you can get a copy of Dr. Jones's book "Uprooting Anger," and we have other resources available there as well to deal with this issue like Lou Priolo's book, "The Heart of Anger," and there may be listeners, Dennis, who have said to themselves, "This is the year I've got to deal with anger," and I think what they need to hear us say is if you're going to deal with it, you've got to deal with it in a holistic way by understanding your relationship with God, the message of the Gospel, and how anger fits into all of that.
So, again, the information about these resources that are available are on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online, if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you contact us, someone on our team will let you know how you can have the resources you need send to you.
You know, one of the reasons why anger becomes an issue in a lot of marriages is because couples have not been purposeful and deliberate in building the kind of a strong relationship that helps us understand one another so that we are less likely to become angry with one another. And you and your wife, Barbara, have written a great devotional guide for couples called "Moments With You" – 365 devotions that couples can go through each day together. There is a discussion question with each of the devotionals and a suggested prayer topic for each day, and this month we are making that daily devotional guide available to our listeners when they help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. We are listener-supported, so those donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country, and we appreciate your generosity as you make contributions to FamilyLife Today.
If you are making a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and you'd like to receive the book, "Moments With You," just type the word "moments" into the keycode box on the donation form. Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone just mention that you'd like the daily devotional you heard us talk about on FamilyLife Today. Again, it's called "Moments With You" by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, and we're happy to send it out to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry, and we appreciate your partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we want to talk more about what's at the heart of anger and how do we deal with it when it shows up in marriage or in any kind of a family relationship. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.