Fill the Need

James 1:19-20 (Amplified)
Understand {this}, my beloved children. Let every man be quick to hear {a ready listener}, slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righeousness God {wishes and requires}.

As I read these short verses this morning, I thought about what, in fact, my anger wishes to promote.  The last verse kind of struck me…man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God wishes and requires…but obviously, I think to myself, it wishes to promote something.  I guess the answer is Myself.  My rights.  My point of view.  My needs.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with understanding what to do with my needs and hurts since God clearly is telling me to be slow in taking offense and becoming angry.  God tells me to be a ready listener.  But so often when I am offended or hurt I am not a  listener, period!  I am a ready responder!  Ready with a retort!  See, there must be a core difference between using our will power to hold back our anger and actually becoming a person who simply does not anger easily…does not take offense easily.  Holding back our anger, when we truly are offended, is not really the point because eventually we will blow up or break down.

How can I live at this level?  No doubt as long as I breathe I will encounter daily opportunities to be hurt, offended and angered.  So, what does God expect me to do?  I believe God wants us to learn to take our unmet needs to Him.  Yes, that sounds so verse-for-the-dayish.  But here is the thing:  God can meet us and fill us and mend us in ways that insulate us.  It is entirely possible to love others and enjoy our lives even if they do not love us the way we want or need.  It is entirely possible to live without the weight of unmet needs and offense weighing us down…simmering in our disappointment and waiting to blow.

We can attempt to push down our pain or swallow our anger because we have the right heart in wanting to do things God’s way, but that is not God’s way.  When He tells us to be ready listeners and slow to take offense and become angry, I believe it is because He knows that our typical expressions of anger will only further the issue at hand.  Our anger and offense will not promote peace or healing.  We are likely to speak words that slice like so many razor blades.  We are likely to accuse and pronounce judgement.  We are likely to stone-wall or manipulate.  We withdraw, perhaps as a defense mechanism or in attempts to punish.  We may grow increasingly discouraged or feel hopeless as hurt, offense and anger continue to swirl all around.  Our hearts cry out but grow ever hardened.  Failure whispers defeat.

So what can we do?  Does forgiveness, unconditional love and being slow to anger mean we pretend we aren’t hurt or in fact angry?  Does it mean we live as the proverbial doormat?  Does it mean we ride the current of our own selfishness, refusing to even acknowledge it?  Mabye sometimes life as a Christian feels exhausting because we try so hard to do it God’s way with our own will power.  We read scripture like the one above and determine today I will be a ready listener or I will really work on not being offended with a certain person (or random stranger!), but the devil snickers because he knows what traps are set and waiting for us.  The enemy knows our most fundamental need for love and worth must be met by God.  And since Eden he has been seducing the human race into meeting the need anywhere and everywhere else.

Obviously I am no psychologist nor am I a bible-scholar.  I just write from my own experience.  I understand hurt from childhood that seems woven into the fabric of adulthood.  I understand the echo of unmet need that bounces around the soul.  I understand the almost primitive need to withdraw from people who cause pain and validate our deepest fears of worthlessness.  And I have learned the unsettling lesson that true peace and joy will not cohabitate with bitterness and offense.  As we hold onto one, we lose the other.  Most importantly, I have discovered what happens when the thickness of His love begins to fill the cracks and fissures.  When His grace overwhelms my every mistake, every rebellion, every regret.  When I am unchained from an identity of victim or victimizer.  When this core need for a safe love is met by God.  Then, and only then, am I free to listen readily.  Then, and only then, does offense grow so slowly in my heart that Grace has a chance to snip it before it takes root.  Only in letting God love me first can I then let compassion over-run anger in my life and lead me in setting healthy, God-led boundaries.

It’s a precious place to be.  It can be hard to get there and hard to get back, but no matter how tall or strong the fortress around our hearts become, the love of Christ is stronger.  Jesus intends to meet our need and set us free from our grasping, our ready retorts and shackles of offense.  Jesus isn’t asking for our best intentions or will-power efforts.  He is asking you and I to let Him do what only He can do…fill the need.

Lord Jesus, as I finish this post I lift up to you every heart and life that reads it, including mine.  Your Word says You care about every detail of our lives.  I know the power of Your love and ask that You stir our hearts to get alone with You.  To let go and be ourselves with You and let You touch our hearts.  Wherever we are, no matter how angry or hard or disappointed, You have good plans for us and You can set us free to live loved and loving others.  Help us, please God, to let go of our many failed attempts to obey Your Word in our own strength and let us take the time every day to let You fill our hearts with Your love.  And for any person who may read this prayer and recognize they have yet to truly open the door of their heart and invite You in, I pray You will help them to pause wherever they are and invite You into their lives.  Jesus, You are the healer.  Of broken dreams, broken lives and broken attempts at giving and receiving love.

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