The devastation of anger

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 AM an earthquake shook the Cascade Mountain Range on the western seaboard of the United States, and Mount St. Helens erupted. While scientists had predicted this cataclysmic event for years, no one could have anticipated its destruction. At the point of the eruption 1,300 vertical feet of the mountain’s top slid away (for perspective the Empire State Building is only 1250 feet tall). As it did, rocks, ash, volcanic gas, and steam were blasted upward. These elements accelerated to 300 mph before they began to fall to the earth. Ash and smoke continued to ascend. It would travel upward 80,000 feet (15 miles) in 15 minutes. US geologists reported that “over the course of the day, prevailing winds blew 520 million tons of ash eastward across the United States and caused complete darkness in Spokane, Washington, 250 miles from the volcano.”

As the lava poured forth it melted ice at the top of the mountain creating volcanic mud flows (lahars). These mudflows were so strong that they “filled rivers with rocks, sand, and mud, damaging 27 bridges and 200 homes and forcing 31 ships to remain in ports upstream.”  

What human eyes saw on the outside of the mountain was precipitated by powerful forces deep within the mountain. For 123 years the mountain had only appeared to be at rest, when all the while it was boiling away on the inside.

The Greeks used the word thumos to describe this type of boiling over action. In our English Bibles this word is translated as wrath, fury, anger, and passion. If you have ever lived with an angry person you know that the volcano is a good metaphor. Things may seem fine on the outside, but the smallest tremor can set them off. Once the eruption happens, the devastation follows.

Often our attempts at alleviating anger are only dealing with the external effects, when all the while this destroyer must be disarmed from the inside-out.

Jesus said as much from another mountainside 2000 years earlier.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).

What? Most of us would never treat anger that seriously. Yet, Jesus isn’t about anger management; he is about anger abolishment—taking out the desires in the heart where they reside. This is why the teaching of Jesus is so essential if you are to be victorious over anger. He doesn’t simply talk about how you respond, but he addresses what you believe about yourself, others, and the God who controls your circumstances.

 Source material about Mt St. Helens : http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2000/fs036-00/. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/103/.

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