My Morning Anger Problem

I have a sinful anger problem that manifests itself most intensely in the morning when my children wake me up before I’m ready. I thought it was just because they were waking me before the time I had assigned for them to get out of bed. Then one morning they actually stayed in bed until “seven came back,” and I was still mad at them. I’ve come to realize the problem is not with them. It’s with me. Manipulating THEIR behavior isn’t going to solve MY sin problem.

In each chapter of Counsel from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick takes a real life scenario and works through how gospel truths meet the person in it. I know that is what I must do as well. So today I am wrestling through how the gospel equips me to face my sin and deal with my mornings differently.

First, I feel fearful. I love my children. They are sweet, cute, and tender. I want them as adults to rise up and call me blessed. Instead, I fear they will rise up and call me “Troll.” More than most anything else in terms of God-given goals, I want to bless my husband and children. I want them to remember cupcakes and stories read, not ugly outbursts when I get woken up. I want to do unto my kids as I want them to do to others. I fear that they will remember me more as a troll than as a mom that is FOR them.

Second, I feel shame. I write books and get to occasionally speak at women’s retreats. Really, shouldn’t I be past such angry outbursts? If anyone other than my husband and kids saw my morning anger, I’d be so embarrassed.

Finally, I feel defeated. I’ve been working on morning strategies a long time, trying to be the mom who thinks ahead and prepares her children for a successful morning routine. And I am defeated at every turn. Mostly, I have finally acknowledged that manipulating my circumstances (or manipulating my children) isn’t going to fix my sin problem.

So here I am. How does penal substitution and imputed righteousness prepare me for this struggle—for the sin itself and then the fear, shame, and hopelessness that accompany it? I am tempted to start with lectures to myself on selfishness. “You are so selfish, Wendy.” Which is true. But it doesn’t help much. Today, instead, I am starting with the gospel defined. My sin is truly forgiven. And God has promised the lavish gift of a spiritual inheritance that equips me for every struggle, even in the mornings when I’m coming out of a dead sleep.

2 Cor. 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

The answer to my sense of defeat is really my union with Christ. Abide in Him, for apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). I am reading The Praying Life, and the Lord has used it to give me a renewed confidence in prayer as the natural outworking of this abiding. Paul Miller gives a number of illustrations of prayerful dependence on God particularly when it comes to dealing with angry gut responses to our children. I have a tool when I am faced with frustration and hopelessness in yet another instance of sinful anger. I don’t have it together enough in those moments to pray a theologically informed prayer. Instead, it’s more like, “God, I’m angry. Help me! My will is strong right now, but I want Your will to be done.” And honestly, coming out of a deep sleep, that is about all I have to offer. Just, “HELP!” But I smile to myself as I write this, because God doesn’t shame me for such a cry. He welcomes it. He wants it. He assures me that I can come boldly and confidently to Him in my need.

I really wish I was a morning person. But I’m not. I really wish my boys slept in until 8 or 9 am. But they don’t. My control nature is utterly thwarted by these truths. It’s funny how it takes the utter frustration of my attempts to control or fix a situation before I really cry out to God in desperation. But He receives my desperate cry and binds me tighter to Himself through it. And He answers. Usually, it’s in a quiet way that I don’t at first notice. Though I was woken out of a deep sleep and felt frustration once again, amazingly enough I did not speak to my children in hurtful ways, and an hour later, I realize we are all actually having a good morning together. When I finally notice it, I know beyond any doubt that it was God’s GRACE that made that possible.

I don’t know what your struggle is. But if it’s anything like mine, it’s particularly painful because it manifests itself against the ones you most love and want to support. The gospel invitation is simple—bring this need to your Father boldly and confidently. Every last time, bring this need to Him. When you are devastated by sinning again after all your attempts to control the situation better, bring this need to Him. That’s actually a decent place to be. YOU can’t control sin. But God can. Your efforts to avoid sin are at best coping mechanisms with average rates of success. But they won’t change you. Or when you see the sin coming toward you and desperately want to avoid hurting those you love once again, bring this need to Him. You don’t need a theologically precise prayer, you just need to cry out your desperation. God hears. This is what it means to abide in Him. Apart from Him you can do nothing.

16 Responses to My Morning Anger Problem

  1. Anna January 31, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Oh, that is so good and sooooooooo for me. I have been reading several of the verses you mention here this week, especially John 15. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Alison January 31, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    I struggle with this exact same thing. Thank you so much for this honest post. Very helpful.

  3. Amy, a redeemed sheep January 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Thank you, Wendy…I needed to hear this…

  4. monicaelaine1 January 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    YOu just described me and my mornings. They are aweful! I have been reading Classic Christianity by Bob George and he talks about (I can't remember the location) think on what is good, honest, etc…I have tried to think only these good things to try to keep the bad anger from entering my mind. It seems to be work. When my kids “annoy” me I try to think of something pleasant or whisper a prayer for help as you said. Thank you for your honesty in this subject. I know it's not easy. I too would be devistated if anyone knew my problem. But isn't that true with any of our sins?

  5. Kim January 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Amen and Amen! This is so me…I never even knew I had an anger problem until I had my first child…who knows how to push my buttons like no one else. It's been a long seven years and many struggles but about a year ago, I realized that I relied too little on Christ and too much on me. Now that I've started to pray those “HELP!” prayers, I'm finding more peace and ability to deal with the challenges of parenting. Thank you for sharing…it's just what I needed on a Monday morning, when I didn't get enough sleep, am struggling with getting going, and just want to kids to be quiet for another four hours. LOL! Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of your post, I'm going to get on with our day!!

  6. Tracy January 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Thank you for posting this! I so struggle with this…appreciate your Gospel application.

  7. Kellie January 31, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Wendy,

    I find my struggle to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. I AM a morning person, but the nights can be rough when there is homework, showers, cleaning up after dinner, etc. and I feel worn out. Sometimes the “troll” puts my children to bed! Thank you for the encouraging words. Change can only come through Christ and my moment by moment dependence on Him. What a great reminder that it is all of Him and none of me.

  8. kurtandjayna February 1, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    Wendy,

    I just wanted to thank you for your recommendation of “Counsel From the Cross”. I read it and went through the study questions. I've been looking for something like this for a LONG time. What an answer to prayer. I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember, but spiritually frustrated to understand how the Gospel applies to all of life's situations, especially when change doesn't happen as fast as I would like (ie. anger in my parenting) Through counsel I received throughout last year, I realized I had a hard time receiving God's grace. And the message of this book was like a continuation of that excellent counsel for me.

    I've been aware of “A Praying Life” for awhile now. It's definitely on my Amazon wishlist.

    blessings to you,
    Jayna

  9. Bernard February 1, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I struggle with mornings too. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to 'preach to myself' just before going to bed so that I wake up with those biblical, Christ-centered thoughts and arguments fresh in my mind.

  10. A Mom After God's Own Heart February 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Wow, I can so relate to this and I am very thankful that I was able to read your post this morning and be blessed by it! God bless

  11. Anonymous February 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    I just have to say that I've been praying about something very similar to this off and on for the last few months. I have a 4 year old and a 20 month old and keep a 10 year old and 21 month old (brothers). My family sleeps til between 7:30 and 9, but these boys have to be at my house by 6:30 for their mom to be at work.

    My attitude toward them (because I'm trying to guard my family's sleep, and–I tell myself–my sanity later in the day) is atrocious at best. I would be ashamed for anyone to see me, as well. I have been praying for even a desire to show Christ in this situation. My focus has been on the wrong things (temporal, rather than spiritual).

    I so appreciate your post, and especially 2 Corinthians 9:8. I do not want this opportunity for obedience to pass me by without using it for God's glory. Thank you!

  12. Liz February 1, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Wow, thank you SO much for sharing that!

  13. Rachael Starke February 2, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Well, I for one am shocked. Shocked, I say, at such sinfulness!!!

    Oh, who am I kidding? I'd say I wrestle with the same thing, but I'd be lying about the wrestling part. There have been times when I just give in to the troll. Especially on the fear front. I had a…”difficult” childhood. My mother was not June Cleaver. And on the days you describe, my wholehearted fear is that I am turning into her.

    Instead of asking God to turn me into Jesus.

    Thanks for the reminder that I'm not alone.

  14. Quinn February 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    This post and the one on “Penal Substitution and Imputed Righteousness” were God sent to me today.
    I never follow blogs but my friend started one today and is a follower of yours.
    I can't tell you how grateful I am to hear these words and be by God's Spirit to see Grace more clearly.
    Thank you for sharing your insights and life

  15. Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Dear Wendy,

    Thank you for this. I've been a mom for 9 weeks, and my (foster) kids are 2yo and 9 months – exactly 2 years and 1 day apart. I haven't just been a troll in the mornings; the adjustment has been very difficult, and my flesh has been given free reign too often. Today I've been feeling utterly defeated and have been wondering if maybe the reason we've never been able to conceive is simply because I'm a bad mom and God was protecting children from me, wondering if I should start praying that the court awards the children back to their birthmom at the next hearing.

    Your post directed me, according to Hebrews 10:24, to love and good deeds. THANK YOU. At this moment, I sense my long-lost hope in Jesus more than I have since before Thanksgiving. Thank you.

    Blessings on your head for speaking truth in love and transparency.

  16. Wendy February 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Thank you for sharing that, Anonymous.