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Ed Jordan: Hot Lava and Hot Passions

Posted: 5/18/18 at 10:35am. Column by Ed Jordan.

Mount Kilauea in Hawaii has been actively spewing hot lava, ash, and sulfuric dioxide since May 3. Erupting volcanoes present many threats—most obviously the searing hot lava flow—which melt and burn just about anything they encounter.

Several days ago I watched on television as some lava moved across a road toward a parked vehicle. When the lava was about a yard away from the SUV, the tires caught fire from the lava’s heat of approximately 2000 degrees.

Eruptions also release scorching hot steam through vents which release underground pressure. Contact with scalding hot steam burns human skin. Also there is often a release of sulfuric dioxide gases, which can be deadly to humans.

Doctors in Hawaii are telling people that the best prevention of inhaling sulfuric dioxide gas is to evacuate. Falling ash causes problems to throats and lungs and is especially dangerous for people with respiratory problems. According to the May 15 Hawaii Tribune-Herald, the recent volcanic activity has destroyed 37 structures in the lower Puna, 26 of which were homes.

Watching these destructive forces at work is always amazing. It is somewhat similar to the kinds of dangerous forces released from a human’s eruptions of anger. Sometimes these eruptions of anger explode from within ourselves; sometimes we experience the eruption spewed out upon us by others.

Sometimes we experience such explosive anger in the workplace and sometimes in our homes and families. While I don’t have statistical proof, I think that it is accurate to say that more people are damaged each day from human anger eruptions than from all the volcanic eruptions of any single day.

The abuse that people absorb from others, who either purposefully or unwittingly erupt and spew out their searing anger upon others, often goes unrecognized by the human volcano.

The abuse that people absorb from others, who either purposefully or unwittingly erupt and spew out their searing anger upon others, often goes unrecognized by the human volcano. They have unleashed their anger so often upon others that in their minds it is normal behavior, and they have done nothing out of the ordinary.

Yet humans get damaged easily, and sometimes deeply, from anger-filled lava flows that burn the victims. Our children often get scalded by harsh words spoken as do husbands and wives. We are quick to rally around victims of volcanic lava eruptions with encouragement, comfort, and sympathy, while being slow to even realize the damage caused by unbridled eruptions of human anger.

Some of this is a cultural phenomenon. Some people never had role models of healthy relationships to use as a pattern. Some people just relate to their mates as they saw their parents relating to each other, and they relate to their kids in the ways that their parents related to them as children. If the role models were loving, kind, and responsible, the kids grow up to model what they have learned. However, if the significant people in their lives erupted frequently yet unpredictably with fury and anger, then those kids struggle with controlling their anger as adults.

Anger eruptions are very destructive. They often occur when we are under unusual stress, much like volcanic eruptions happen when the pressure becomes too high to be contained. Anger is an emotion. Experiencing anger is not automatically a sin; it becomes sin when the emotion comes out of us in destructive words or actions. Ephesians 4:26 (ESV) states: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…”

Anger is often a response to things that happen in life which prevent us from getting what we want. Anger needs to be recognized in our lives when it occurs, isolated so that we can neutralize it, and dealt with in constructive ways. Bottling anger up merely adds more pressure and fuel which can cause a devastating eruption later on. Unresolved anger simmers and eats away at a person. Unleashing it onto other people is destructive, and it should be avoided.

We can always turn to God in prayer with our anger, telling him that we are angry and why we are angry. God understands us and can absorb our pain and anger. After coming to God with our anger, we need to give that situation and our anger over to God, place it in his hands, and ask him to deal with it.

Then pray for a sweetness of spirit and graciousness in your disposition. If you spoke harsh words to someone during the anger (and they were obviously wounded by those words), then go to them, and ask them to forgive you. Deal with anger when it happens so that it doesn’t build to eruption levels. Don’t be a human volcano!

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.