I found myself feeling very irritable last night. I was irritated that my sons were playing their music too loud, irritated that my wife was not ready to do something when I wanted, and irritated that I had to go and give a devotion at a boys club at our church.
When I got up this morning to meet with the Lord I knew there was some repenting to do. And I did.
But then I started asking myself – why was it that I was so irritated? I knew I had a heavy week. I had over-scheduled and was behind on my sermon preparation. That puts a lot of pressure on a pastor as the days of the week begin to run out. But that’s no excuse to get irritable with people. So what was at the root?
Irritability is a form of anger. I was angry. And the reason I was angry was I couldn’t control what was going on. I couldn’t control my schedule. I couldn’t control the problems people were having (nor could I fix them). And I couldn’t control what was happening at home. God was in control of all those things. And I wasn’t acknowledging or submitting to Him. I was trying to handle everything myself. But I couldn’t. That’s why I was angry.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not irritable. Other translations have “love . . . is not easily provoked” (KJV), “not easily angered” (NET), “does not take offence” (NJB), is “not quick tempered” (CEV). JB Phillips has “love is not touchy.” I was definitely touchy last night – which means I was not loving. I wasn’t loving my wife or my family. I was not loving the boys I was going to serve at church. And most importantly, I was not loving God. It was all about me.
Over 100 years ago Henry Drummond wrote a wonderful, short treatment of I Corinthians 13 called The Greatest Thing in the World. Regarding this phrase he noted that:
“the peculiarity of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and women who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered, or ‘touchy’ disposition.”
I often excuse my bad temper by saying things like, “I was just tired,” “I’m overworked this week,” or “so-and-so gave me a hard time today.” But they are all poor excuses. My temper reveals what’s in my heart. A bad temper signals a terrible disease within the soul – a desire to be in control, to be king of my own life (or others), and a selfish desire for comfort and ease.
Is there any help for people like me? Yes there is. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The answer is found in the person and power of Jesus, when we accept the yoke he offers, when we bow in glad submission to his authority in our life, when we cease striving and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10). If Jesus has the power to drive out demons, heal with a touch and calm a storm – all with just a word, then he has the power to calm my troubled life.
I just need to trust him with it.