Anger can be a difficult topic among those who are following Christ. The Bible has a lot to say about anger, and most of us concentrate on the negative. But we are created in God’s image, and God himself experiences anger. Anger itself is not a sin, but what we do with it can be dangerous, even deadly.
I don’t know anyone who has completely mastered the art of being angry without sinning, but here are a few things to consider, both negative and positive: In our anger we can–
- Act–act out immediately, rashly, full of adrenaline and heat, but without thought.
- Narrow our focus–concentrate on our anger and what caused it, without seeing anything else.
- Gripe–we can sound like a broken record, rehearsing the same complaints from yesterday, two weeks ago, or even years ago, but never taking any steps to resolve or try to move past the issue.
- Exaggerate– as we narrow our focus, our hurt and indignation grows larger and more powerful.
- Refuse–we refuse to see reason, to accept wisdom or help, or to acknowledge that our own actions and attitudes are adding to the hurt and chaos.
In contrast, the Bible gives us some godly principles for anger:
- Acknowledge– Don’t suppress and deny anger, but don’t give in to it, to act immediately, either. God is “slow to anger and abounding in mercy” We should learn from his example. The Apostle Paul says
Ephesians 4:26 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
26 Scripture says, “When you are angry, do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4) Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Anger unchecked causes us to use all of our energy in emotion and action. Anger, controlled by the Holy Spirit, will cause us to use our energy to seek after answers, justice, resolution, and help
- Navigate– our anger will drive us. Let it drive us to prayer and positive action, rather than despair, rage, and revenge.
Psalm 37:8-9 New International Version (NIV)
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
- Give–Let go of anger, and trust that God:
- sees your situation. If there is injustice, it has NOT escaped God’s notice.
- loves you unconditionally– whatever is causing you anger cannot cause Him to stop loving you, nor has it come about because God didn’t care.
- is sovereign. No matter how unfair or grim the situation, God CAN make something good come from it. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel pain and anger, but wallowing in them may keep you from seeing the rest of the good things God has in store for you.
- Evaluate– Instead of narrowing your focus and resisting advice, channel your anger into positive thought and action. Listen, learn, ask proactive questions–is there more to your anger than anger? (Grief, guilt, betrayal, hurt, shock, etc.) What can you do (if anything) to make the situation better, instead of waiting for someone else to act, or getting caught in a cycle of blame?
- Resolve– Anger should be a red light, not a red flag. It should cause us to stop, assess, and only proceed when the way ahead is clear. If your anger is sparked by a conflict, resolve to do whatever you can to “resolve” the conflict. If that is not possible, or if your anger stems from a different source, be resolute in taking the emotion, energy, and drive that comes with anger and channel it into a better direction. Resolve to be quick to pray, and slow to burn!