Ouch! It stung when I read it, and it still stings:
"Even the 'little' sins, like complaining or irritability, expunge the LORD from events in His universe." ~David Powlison, "Suffering & Psalm 119"
Expunge meaning, of course:
"to strike or blot out, erase, obliterate"
Ouch again!

So I wanted to explore this idea-- that by being irritable, I am removing, erasing, and obliterating God from the the events in my life. Because lately, I've been irritable. Not to everyone around me, but with certain individuals. And in each instance, I have my "reasons" for why I'm on edge around that person, so while I knew it wasn't necessarily 100% *right* for me to be on edge, I've justified it in my own mind.

A few days ago, I came across the phrase "habitual prickliness" as a description of how we get in a rut of irritable interactions with certain people. What a convicting and apt description... I am absolutely guilt of operating under a state of "habitual prickliness."

I did a search for "irritable" in Scripture, and found just one mention of the word itself-- in the "Love chapter"-- 1 Corinthians 13. It says, "Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful." So when I'm being irritable, and particularly when I'm being irritable towards certain people, I'm not loving those people.

This website offers a list of applicable Bible verses for many topics (what a great idea!). Here are some passages I found helpful from their list on the topic, "Irritable":
  • If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful (1 Corinthians 13: 1-13)

  • A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)

  • The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

  • Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (Colossians 3:12)

  • Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4)

  • You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

So, to look at the negative implications of these verses for contrast, when I am being irritable, I am:
  • not loving
  • a fool
  • not living by the Spirit
  • not "putting on" Godly character qualities
  • not walking worthy of God's calling on my life
  • disobeying the LORD
OUCH again. These things affirm what Powlison wrote... that by being irritable, I am removing God from my life. When irritable, I am not loving (He is love). When irritable, I am a fool (He is all wise). When irritable, I am not living by God's Spirit. When irritable, I am not putting on God's character qualities. When irritable, I am not walking in step with God's call on my life. When irritable, I am disobeying the LORD (master) of my life.

What Powlison said is true, and I want to remember it:
"Even the 'little' sins, like complaining or irritability, expunge the LORD from events in His universe." ~David Powlison, "Suffering & Psalm 119"

Help me, LORD, not to be irritable, not to make excuses, and not to justify my sin. Help me to love other people, even and especially the people with whom I am most likely to feel/be irritated. If anyone reading this with me is also struggling with this, help him or her as well to not give in to being irritable. Help us to honor you instead of giving full vent to our irritated attitudes.

Thank you for giving us strength to choose wisdom. Help us to quietly hold back ugly responses. Remind us to "put on" patience and gentleness each day. Teach us to not hold grudges. Instead, help us to remember that you are the LORD, and that You alone judge rightly, and that Your example to us is as one who lavishly forgives and loves.

Thank you for being the only God Who enters into our lives and walks with us. Thank you for not giving up on us & our irritable, sinful attitudes. You are indeed gracious and loving, and we long to be more like You. Amen.

Image: graur razvan ionut /


BETHANY said...

Good stuff!

amanda b in nc said...

A great post and so needed! I'm posting the verses on my fridge to remind myself to choose not to be irritable, no matter what's going on at that particular time. :)


Tanya Lourensen said...

Hi Jess, the Lord is also leading me on a journey to be more aware of how I relate to those closest to me and how i have let myself get into a rut of sinful ways of relating. (Right now I lose my temper more than my girls) I am reading through "Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values and Faith" by Marilyn Howshall. Its a challenging read. A journey of repentance. Allowing God to parent me and bring me to repentance and then from a place of humility, parent my children. Its going to be painful but I love my husband and my girls and its about time my actions spoke louder than my words!

May God lead you into all truth as you seek Him.

Mrs said...

Since Himself and I are trying to eat more healthfully, we've both fallen into this trap. You have pulled our covers with this one!

Jackie said...

Great post and much needed. I had a moment of irritability this morning when trying to get my 14 year old son out the door. Sometimes need a reminder of what's more important, 5 minutes or your relationship with God and your family. Your blog showed up in my google reader recommendations and I think I'll subscribe.

Anonymous said...


A couple of thoughts.

1. So often when feeling irritable, I've found a solution in simply saying, "I need you to (hurry, slow down, pick that up, fill in the blank." Just saying it in a normal voice often brings attention to the source of the irritation, and the other person may really appreciate knowing what you want. Or, perhaps, they'll respond with some insight that illuminates the situation.

2. If there's a particular PERSON who makes you feel irritable, when you weren't feeling that way until they showed up, then it could be that they are disrespecting you in some way. I think it's ok to reflect on that and search for how to set a healthy boundary. I also think it's ok to be authentic. Being authentic and showing how you feel is actually a way of honoring another, even if it manifests as irritation.

3. Finally, it could be that this person reminds you of something you also do, unconsciously. Or perhaps they remind you of something you fear. Either way, it can be helpful to simply make note of those moments and reflect on them. Then send thoughts of blessing and healing to this person.

Blessings and good thoughts,


Stephanie said...

Thank you so much for this. Very well-written and articulate. I struggle with this DAILY and do pray for change in my heart. Blessings to you!