Why do I choose anger over lamentation? Anger feels powerful. Anger promotes the lie of transcendence over limitations. Anger creates the sensation that I am “in control.”
Lamentation on the other hand, feels powerless. Lamentation tells me to accept my limitations. Lamentation situates me in sorrow amidst calamity AND sorrow over the arrogant cancer of my soul that grabs for control (which only serves to cause and/or compound calamity).
I am convinced that a primary portion of my anger is rooted in my refusal to accept my limitations. Or, to put it another way, I am ashamed of (and angry about) the fact that I am not God. How often do I flare up in frustration over some ordinary inconvenience which forces me to face my limitations. For instance, the other day I needed to migrate from our dining room to my desk downstairs, but I didn’t want to pack up my laptop and books in my bag for such a short trip …so I picked up my computer with my left hand (not even bothering to collapse the screen), cradled my books in the crook of my arm, and grabbed my coffee with my right hand – and then I confidently began my journey to the basement. Approx. 6 paces into my trip I was forced to face my finitude, as my mission was thwarted by the closed door blocking my route to the basement. I was instantly irate! The limitation of having only two hands was maddening in that moment. My agenda of making the trek in 30 seconds would now have to be extended to at least 50 seconds (for now I would have to set down my coffee, open the door, hold the door ajar with my foot, pick up the coffee again, and resume my migration). It was too much to bear! I refused to accept this pesky two-armed limitation. So I grit my teeth and foolishly decided to attempt opening the door with coffee in hand. I was able to maintain my mug with two fingers and a thumb, and then I set to work positioning my two available digits on the top of the door knob. I then applied pressure on the knob and began to turn it clockwise, only to be derailed by gravity – which forced the lukewarm liquid out of the mug, cascading onto my wrist and down to the floor. I will spare you the fuming details that flooded my mind, and the words that fell from my lips.
Now of course any one reading this has had experiences like this, and it is normal to feel perturbed …but have you ever paused to consider – what is it precisely that we find to be so distressing? Why don’t we simply laugh at ourselves when stuff like this happens? Or, if it is a more solemn situation (like when a precious family keepsake accidentally gets broken), why don’t we lament instead of erupting in anger? It is because we are fiercely allergic to our own limitations; and we are ashamed of not being God. We declare ourselves capable of divinity, and yet everything in reality constantly contradicts our claim (even our phones will fritz or flash us the “low battery” notification) …our self-absorbed aspirations of deity fail, and we are frustrated.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, that the anger of men does not produce the righteousness of God. Perhaps you have learned that your anger does not lead to peace, comfort, contentment, or joy; but have you ever wondered why? At least one massive reason why is the fact that things like joy and peace are anchored in man accepting his limitations. The Great Lie is that we could be like God – all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at once; and insofar as we invest in this lie we will be miserable. The lust for limitlessness robs us of joy; and it is the thwarting of our quest for limitlessness that triggers our anger. But there’s another way. Lamentation. Lamentation is what limited creatures are called to do when things are inconvenient or go horribly wrong. Have you ever noticed how the prophets were never commanded to crush wickedness or cure injustice? The prophets were simply called to convey God’s Word, and then weep and wait. The pressure to perform, produce, and control is Satanic, the call to lament and laugh is of God.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, lamentation actually produces peace, stability, and joy! How is that possible? It’s like an acorn dangling from the branch of an oak tree …eventually it lets go, it falls to the ground, it dies, it resurrects, it lives, it experiences the four seasons year after year; it perpetually enters the joy of its Author, it laments downed limbs and fallen friends, and it raises its arms to Heaven laughing and basking in the rain and the sun – abundantly receiving the sundry gifts of its Maker.