Have you ever walked down a country lane in the springtime and suddenly became aware of the most delicious aroma? At first, the odor carried on the gentle breeze is so faint you can’t identify it, but as you draw nearer you catch the sweet honeysuckle fragrance.
You don't yet see the vine, but you know it is there by the sweetness it spreads over the land. Every time I have an experience like this, I think of how God walked in the garden with Adam in the cool of the evening.
In seminars and conventions, Mike often talks about how joy is like a wonderful permeating odor, reaching out to bless everyone. How true that is. Your joy is what makes children respect you and want to please you. I can go into some homes and feel relaxed and happy. The children have shining faces and are eager to show you their new drawing or make you laugh over their new song. The mother is smiling, and I see her exchange delightful glances with her husband. Their joy is intoxicating, just like the honeysuckle in the cool of the evening. I just want to inhale the moment.
I go into other homes, and it is like I just interrupted something. Something is not right, and I may not be aware of it until I leave. It is like a bad odor, slowly creeping into your consciousness. People begin to shift positions, looking around for the source. Something unpleasant, unseen, and intangible has entered. Sometimes a house that is constantly occupied takes on a bad odor, and the people who live there never notice it because the odor is so much a part of their daily lives. They come to accept it as normal. Bitterness is like that. After the moment of anger has passed, the tension hangs on like a bad smell. The family meets the visitor at the door with a smile, pretending all is well, never realizing that their bitterness, like a putrid odor, has invaded every area of their home. Children never thrive in an atmosphere of tension and criticism.
When people leave their home to go into public, they wash and put on artificial chemicals to mask their real odor. Likewise, many people with anger and bitterness put on a smile and spiritual airs when they leave home. They are able to think of themselves as kind and loving because others believe them to be so. In their heart they want to be sweet and kind. They convince themselves that their children or spouse has caused them undue stress, provoking them to anger. They believe their outbursts are justified. But over time, the oppressive odor of bitterness will become so overpowering that the artificial perfume of hypocrisy will no longer be able to hide the putridness within. Anger never stays small, nor will it forever be concealed. At unexpected moments it leaps from its religious cage like an exotic monster. As anger and bitterness begin to spread their stink outside the home, the source of the odor must find a socially acceptable excuse—hormones, emotional breakdown, etc.
Anger begins with blame. Blame is just a simple five-letter word, yet it carries a world of woe. As long as we continue to blame, anger grows.
“My daughter defies me.” “My lazy son whines every minute.” “My husband is so selfish and belligerent.”
“I can’t stand that lady at church. She always treats my child badly.” “Their children are so cruel, I wish they would stay away.” “A really vile person did bad things to me when I was young, plus my parents were also angry, so I have a lot of pent-up hurt.”
Who is to blame for MY anger? I or the one who has hurt me? Is it I or the one irritating me? I or the one who standing in my way? When we blame we become angry. Blame gives way to bitterness. Bitterness is a rotten stink to the soul. Even when you believe your anger to be justified, it still defiles you and those around you. Your anger will poison your body and sicken the souls of your children. Even the world’s best psychologists have enough sense to know that the vast majority of depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and bitterness are adult ways of pitching fits because someone got in their way or prevented them from obtaining what they wanted.
Angry people are chronic blamers. But they are really angry toward God. They want to cry out: “God, why don’t you just kill this mean husband?” “Why do you let him continue to hurt me?” “Why did you let my parents hurt me? Why are my children such losers?” “Why did you let my son marry that terrible girl?” “Why did you let my daughter get pregnant?” ‘Why do you bless that awful person when he only deserves wrath?”
Are you mad at God, blaming him? Anger is destructive because it is really directed at God. When you recognize it for what it is, and hate it like it needs to be hated, then you will turn the blame on yourself. Only then will you be able to forgive others and accept God’s forgiveness for yourself.
You must come to the place where you can say, “Lord, I am an evil, bitter, angry person who yells insults and demands at my children for their childish behavior. I am a rebellious wife/husband who bitterly accuses my spouse of being insensitive, unspiritual, and selfish. I am a self-righteous tyrant who has blamed everybody for my family’s failures. I am guilty. Although the church people might think I am helpful and spiritual, I know they only smell the artificial odor I have put on for the people outside my home. Lord, the real me is vile. I hate what I am. I know I have chosen to control the people I love best with my frozen hurt or my fiery anger. I ask that the blood of Jesus cleanse me and set me free from this sin that I have used to hurt and control people. From this point forward, when something doesn’t go my way or someone else causes me grief, I will say, ‘Oh Lord Jesus, set me free from this controlling hatred and cause me to rejoice so that I am forgiven. I believe I am dead in Christ; sin no longer has dominion over me and I am raised to be a new creature in Christ. I know I don’t have to sin. I don’t have to react in anger and bitterness or hurt and rejection. I can say, ‘Thank God I am free to enjoy real joy and peace’.”
Freedom can be yours. Not because you are married to the perfect spouse, have perfect children, are blessed with perfect health, or go to a perfect church, but because you have chosen to reject the evil stirring of your mind, the ugly, complex foaming of bitterness, and you have chosen to fill your mind with thankfulness. Joy begins with thankfulness. Thankfulness is expressed by saying “thank you,” by smiling, by laughing and playing with delight. Thankfulness is how you think; joy is the abundance it produces. For children’s spirits to be fresh, clean, and free, they need to bathe daily in the cleansing of thankfulness and joy. Mama, you can make that happen. Make a habit of saying out loud, many times a day, “I am so thankful for my sweet little girl. I want to praise God he gave me a fine son like you. Thank God he has blessed us with a daddy who can take care of us. God has made such a beautiful day, let’s run into each bedroom and say ‘thank you’ to God.” While cooking, say to the children, “Let’s thank God for all the different kinds of food he has given us.” Wake up in the morning with a smile and in your spirit say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”
When your life is made up of thankfulness, when your mind is full of appreciation, when your words are crowded with praise, when your countenance beams with joy, then you will have confidence that God is there. Your children will grow up hungering and thirsting to walk with your Savior. Now, take a deep, long, breath. Can you smell it? That sweet, wonderful fragrance called joy?