I'm So Irritated!

An irritated Lou Pinella
Ir.ri.tab.le (adj.): Having a tendency to be easily annoyed or made angry.

Unfortunately, today's post could turn into more of a confessional, and less of an insightful, profound teaching about what may ail you. That's the neat thing about biblical counseling. I don't have the luxury of taking on too much of that professional "I have it all together" mystique.

Mere Christianity reminds me that on this side of glory, I will never have it fully together.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 13, was helping the believers there to keep an eye on some not-so-together issues that they were struggling with, too. Specifically, some of them were falling into the trappings of elevating certain spiritual gifts in such a way that relational schisms and fractures were threatening the life and vitality of the church there.

But, most importantly, according to Paul, the church was not loving well.

For Paul, this issue concerning love and the appropriate, ongoing expression of love within the body of Christ was of significant concern. So much so, in fact, that Paul made the bold statement that without love, all other spiritual disciplines are meaningless (1 Cor. 13:3).

With this in mind, Paul instructed his readers in verses 4-7 concerning what love is, and what love is not. By way of a series of indicative statements, Paul brought correction, without the use of a single command.

This passage, taken as a whole, has become one of those go-to sections of Scripture for a biblical understanding of love. You have, no doubt, seen some portion of it on a coffee mug, and heard it put to good use in a wedding ceremony. Paul says a lot about love in these verses, and one point he makes is that love is not irritable.

As a point of reference, we might consider the word petulant, meaning, "childishly sulky, or bad tempered." Cantankerous is another favorite word of mine, which means, "bad tempered, argumentative, and uncooperative."

Love, where ever and whenever it is truly on display, does not become easily annoyed or made angry. That is not to say that there is never a time or place for some feeling or expression of disapproval, or disappointment over some circumstance, but that love is not overcome by the sinful feelings of impatience, arrogance, and rudeness that too often permeate our relationships.

Love says, "I want what is the very best for you, always and forever." Irritability says, "I want you to want what is the very best for me, always and forever." Love says, "At your service." Irritability says, "Fetch me the desires of my heart."

This matter of irritability, seen and experienced across the spectrum of human interaction, is but one leg of the root system that digs down deep into our hearts, and constantly threatens to suffocate the outworking of the love that Jesus calls all believers to evidence in their lives (John 13:35).

Practically speaking, I wonder how much of our modern cultural tendencies promote this sinful emotion. As all of our non-realtional cares and concerns rise in their level of importance, I suspect that what we see are corresponding increases in our levels of irritability.

In other words, where ever I find issues over which I'm willing to express irritability, there my heart will be, also. The question that must be asked in that moment of sinful cantankerousness is, does this issue hold such value as to warrant my behavior?

Some of us may be tempted to excuse our petulance by pointing to our "driven personalities," but if we're honest, we'll have to consider how we may be driving right over other people, if not driving them away altogether.

To be sure, irritability is a part of our broken, human nature, laid on top of hearts that are self-absorbed and self-centered. We foolishly consider our time to be of such value that we cannot tolerate the slightest intrusion, not even by a two-year old that simply wants to sit on Daddy's lap.

It would seem fair to say that our irritability, just like our anger, does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Fortunately, the love of God toward us in Christ covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

For Your Consideration

  1. In what areas have you been struggling with irritability?
  2. How has your irritability revealed what your heart holds most valuable?
  3. How might a biblical view of these issues bring your irritability under godly control?