Book Review: Turn Away Wrath

Hummel, Rand. Turn Away Wrath: Meditations to Control Anger and Bitterness. Greenville, SC; JourneyForth, 2007. Softcover, 165 pages. $8.49.

(Review copy courtesy of BJU Press.)
CoverPurchase: BJU | Amazon

ISBNs: 1591667348 / 9781591667346

DCN: 241.3 LCCN: BV4627.A5 H86

Subjects: Anger, Bitterness, Forgiveness

Rand Hummel has been with the Wilds Christian Association since 1978, preaching to thousands of teens annually as well as preaching at family conferences and couples’ retreats. Turn Away Wrath has grown out of Rand’s experiences counseling men and women who have been controlled by anger. Rand and his wife, Amber, live at the Wilds in Brevard, North Carolina, and have two grown children. (From back cover).

Rand Hummel addresses Turn Away Wrath to those who struggle with anger and bitterness. After a brief introduction to the value and mechanics of meditation, Hummel guides the reader, over the course of 21 themed meditations, through dozens of passages of Scripture that address anger or bitterness. These meditations should be helpful both to those fighting those sins and to those counseling the struggling.

The brief introduction to meditation well prepares the reader for the hard work of meditation. Hummel begins with what meditation is and why it is necessary before exploring the logical and biblical conclusions as why it should delight us, consume us, and control us. A seven-step approach to meditating on Scripture follows this introduction. Some steps are self-evident (e.g., read the passage repeatedly) while others lean more toward Bible study (e.g., use a study Bible, Bible dictionaries, and encyclopedias) than what some would consider meditation.

Hummel here discusses the value of word-study helps due to obsolete words in the Bible. Turn Away Wrath uses the King James Version. While this use of the KJV will be welcome news to many SharperIron readers, those who use modern English versions should know that a significant part of the book’s expository work is simple modernization of opaque language. Such readers will not obtain as great a benefit from these sections.

In the meditations that follow, the author guides the reader through each verse or passage in three steps. First, “This is what God says” quotes the text of Scripture. Second, “Now think about it” is an expanded paraphrase of the verse(s), sometimes with modest additions and alterations, though occasionally reading like a parody of the Amplified Bible. Third, Hummel asks the question “How can this affect me?” and answers with a brief application drawn from the quoted text.

Because this is such a short book, the explanations of the biblical text and the applications are correspondingly brief. Although no particular passages are treated exhaustively, the many facets of anger and bitterness are well-addressed over the course of the book. But the brief treatments lead in some places to statements that may be more memorable than precise.

For example, the fifth meditation, “Those who often get mad, often go mad,” is certainly memorable, but likely overstatement. The verses offered in support of this thesis are Proverbs 17:12, Matthew 2:13, and Ecclesiastes 10:12-13. The Matthew verse comes closest to supporting the thesis (recounting Herod’s wrathfully ordering the murder of children aged two and under). Letting alone the question of whether Herod was actually insane, the “often” in Hummel’s thesis doesn’t seem to be supported by this single occurrence.

For every meditation that overreaches, however, there are several of profound clarity and helpfulness. Hummel’s application of Proverbs 12:15-16 includes the statement that “refusing to ask for direction on a trip can waste a lot of time. Refusing to ask for counsel in difficult situations can waste an entire life” (p. 102).

Similarly, regarding Proverbs 25:28, Hummel notes that “one of the first words a toddler learns to say is ‘no.’ One of the first words many adults forget to say as they face temptation is the word ‘no.’” (p. 121). The value of this wisdom may be greatly multiplied if it is recognized early by the youth who seem to be the natural audience for this book.

Hummel’s examples often speak most directly to the experience and expectations of teens. His wealth of experience in counseling teens is clear throughout. But the occasional lack of precision makes this a more useful tool in the hands of those counseling teens. Counselors taking advantage of Turn Away Wrath may add nuance to such generalizations as warranted.

The book’s one glaring weakness is that those struggling with these issues must be clearly pointed to Christ and His finished work on the cross in addition to the negative effects of anger and bitterness on temporal relationships and fellowship with God. Believers must see the price paid for their redemption. Unbelievers must see that their only hope is in Him.

The gospel is not omitted, but it is not as clear as it could or should be. For example, in meditation 13, applying Galatians 5:19-21, Hummel writes, “Instead of toying with your eternal life so that you can hold onto your habitual anger, deal with your anger God’s way and confess it as sin to God and those involved. Hate it and separate from it” (p. 106). This statement, while all true, is not a complete presentation of the gospel. While not every meditation needs to be an extended meditation on the gospel, at least one or two such passages would immeasurably strengthen the book’s foundation and increase its usefulness.

Perhaps the closest the reader gets to such a meditation is in the final chapter “Anger is sin. Sin must be confessed, forsaken, and replaced.” The passages here, including 1 John 1:8-10, provide a beautiful occasion for the introduction of the gospel. But the application remains so focused on anger and bitterness, and Christ’s absence is so conspicuous, that it misses the forest for the trees.

Hummel relates the crucifixion in his application of Nahum 1:3 (pp. 88-90), but the focus is on God ‘s being slow to anger despite His being beaten, whipped, crucified, and killed. Missing here are the resurrection, repentance, and faith. In short, an unbeliever could read Turn Away Wrath without understanding the full gospel. Should the book be reprinted, that problem should be remedied. Until then, believers working through the book with teens should take advantage of the many natural jumping-off spots to be certain the gospel is clear.

Turn Away Wrath is a short book that will certainly be helpful to some. It offers particular benefit to those who counsel or disciple youth, but adults fighting anger and bitterness may find its examples and applications overly youth-focused. Although the exposition and application are often surefooted, because the gospel is not pervasive, it is not the best resource to offer unbelievers struggling with anger and bitterness.

ingold.jpgJ.A. Ingold lives with his wife in Washington, DC. He earned his B.S. from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and his J.D. from The George Washington University School of Law. He has been a member of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church since 2003. The opinions expressed in this review are his alone and should not be attributed to SharperIron or to Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

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