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Good and Angry

Up until early 2017 if you asked me for some quick help dealing with anger issues I’d have recommended only one resource – Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones. Jones provides an incredibly accessible resource to an epidemic in our culture, homes, and communities. Endorsements from well known biblical counselors make clear Uprooting Anger deserves to be, needs to be even, in the hands of anyone dealing with or recovering from anger issues. I, along with my family, have benefited greatly from Jones’ work.

Dealing with anger is no small task and if you’ve struggled to get anger under control or help a loved one, co-worker, neighbor, or friend battle unbiblical anger you know what I’m talking about. Resources that make a long term difference aren’t easy to come by. Thankfully, toward the end of 2016 David Powlison, Executive Director of CCEF, published Good and Angry. I think Ray Ortlund describes the book best when he says, “Reading this book is like a conversation with a friend…”

Powlison divides the book into 4 sections: Our Experience, What is Anger?, How to Change, and Tackling the Hard Cases. Each section, made up of multiple chapters, takes on a specific angle of the conversation and invites the reader to engage the material by concluding each chapter with discussion questions.

The approach taken gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate and locate themselves. Section 1 introduces what Powlison refers to as “BWAs”. This simply means “but what about”. His invitation to the reader to engage and potentially disagree is a helpful feature that moves this book from the world of academic lectures to practical counsel that’s biblical. Chapter 3 starts a bit abrasive with the statement, “ I can confidently write that you have a serious problem with anger because I do, because we all do.” Talk about confrontational. At times I wondered if Powlsion was heading in the historical NANC direction (if that direction is unknown to you let me know and I’d be happy to explain), but he carefully and pastorally navigates difficult truth and applies grace with gentleness throughout the book.

He gives good anger a name: the constructive displeasure of mercy. “Good anger operates as one aspect of mercy. It brings good into bad situations. It stands up for the helpless and victimized. It calls out wrongdoers, but holds out promises of forgiveness, inviting wrongdoers to a new life.” Reading that statement was more than I could handle in one pass. I put my pen down and read the statement out loud, not once, but three times. Anger holds out promises of forgiveness? Anger invites wrongdoers into a new life? How is this possible? Thankfully, Powlison, through the rest of the book, patiently and carefully walks the reader through the process of understanding, repentance, and ultimately embracing good anger.

Many counseling books I’ve read mirror textbooks. This is not that. Powlison’s style is readable, down to earth, and approachable. You’ll not be chased away by unnecessarily dense discussions nor will you be strapped down with another set of directions to cure your ailments. Reading Good and Angry made me wonder if this is what being counseled by Powlison looks like. He asks questions, invites response, shares personal experiences, gives biblical truth, is patient when you’re having a difficult time understanding, and encourages you toward something better.

It’s not likely that I’ll ever have a face to face or even a phone conversation with David Powlison, but reading Good and Angry feels like I just did.

From a person who’s struggled for far too long with sinful anger I can’t encourage you enough to get Good and Angry. If you’re like me and you don’t know how to get Good and Angry, why not invite David Powlison into your life for a few hours and see what a little conversation with a new friend can do?