It’s midnight Saturday night, and the music is blaring from our next-door neighbor’s house. In my husband’s BC (Before Christ) days, this would have been an invitation to a great evening, but now it’s just annoying. And frustrating. And about to make him angry.
Unlike our partying neighbors, we plan to attend church in the morning. My husband, the pastor, doesn’t have the option to sit on the back pew and take a nap. He’s got to preach. And to be ready to preach, he’s got to get a good night’s sleep.
But with the ground-pounding, window-rattling noise, sleep is impossible.
We lie there, and I feel his body tensing in frustration. He tosses one way, then the other, mashing the pillow against the side of his head in an attempt to block out the noise. I grab the portable fan from the kitchen and turn it on high, hoping to drown the waves of music in a sea of white noise. It does little to muffle the pounding beat.
His frustration, combined with anger and fatigue, finally does him in. He leaps from bed, storms out the door, and confronts our neighbor.
It isn’t pretty.
Or polite. Or God-honoring. My husband’s angry reaction was something he regretted later, when morning dawned, and he wasn’t so tired. He’s conscious of the fact that our neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, and he wants to be a good witness. Clashes like this hinder his attempts to develop a relationship with them, and, one day, share the Gospel.
Anger, especially righteous anger, is a powerful thing. Our neighbors were unnecessarily loud and inconsiderate, and my husband’s complaint was justified. But even he, in the light of day, acknowledged that responding in anger wasn’t the best way to handle the situation.
“Be angry and do not sin,” Psalm 4 warns us. James 1:20 tells us why: “for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Thankfully, in addition to a warning, the fourth Psalm gives us guidance for how to deal with anger in a God-honoring way:
“Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the Lord” (v 4-5).
Several months after this incident, my husband had an opportunity to put these instructions into practice.
It was 3 a.m., and we were startled awake by a car alarm sounding under our bedroom window. Peeking through the blinds to make sure no one was stealing our neighbor’s car, I saw his adult daughter drive off. “Must have hit the alarm by accident.”
At least five times a day thereafter, our neighbor’s car alarm would sound. Four ear-splitting honks. It happened in the daytime, and it happened at night. One night it awakened us at 11 p.m., the next night at midnight.
“I know what we’re going to,” my husband said one morning at breakfast.
“Bring ‘em a pound cake.”
“A pound cake. Getting angry doesn’t help, so let’s try a different approach. Let’s bake ‘em a pound cake.”
So I did. And he took it over. And he didn’t say a word about the car horn.
The next day, when the clock radio went off at 4:45, he said, “I’ve been awake since three, when the car alarm went off. I’m going to have to say something to them.”
Uh oh, I thought.
He left for work, and I prayed. Lord, you tell us not to sin in our anger. Please help David express his frustration without getting angry. Please help them have a conversation that glorifies you.
Later that day, he told me what happened.
“I was polite. I just told him how disturbing the alarm was and asked him what was going on. His daughter bought the car used, and it didn’t come with a key fob. Every time she unlocks the door, the horn starts blaring until she puts the key in the ignition. She’s about to pull her hair out. It’s embarrassing. Anyway, they’ve ordered a fob and hopefully it’ll be in soon. He apologized for the noise.”
Success—and such a different outcome.
Here are the four steps to take, according to Psalm 4, when we become angry:
1. Acknowledge our anger, but do not sin.
2. Meditate on God’s Word. Ask him to remind us of Scripture that applies to the situation.
3. Respond with righteous acts instead of sinful ones.
4. Trust God to either bring about a resolution or give us the grace to bear it.
Our noisy neighbor situation is mild compared to some issues. Pound cake and a peaceful conversation might not defuse more complicated clashes, but, big or small, we can apply the steps laid out for us in Psalm 4 and trust God to work. His Word is trustworthy, wise, and given for our instruction. We do well to apply it.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever chosen to honor God in a situation, even though your emotions wanted to strike out in anger? What was the result? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your story.