"Dealing With Our Anger"
February 1, 2017 | View PDF
February is known as the month of love with the annual mid-month celebration of Valentine’s Day. Love is certainly one of the most powerful emotions God gave us. Most of us enjoy the love of others and find happiness in returning love. But there is another powerful emotion we are less capable of managing well within the framework of our Christian faith. That is anger.
Let’s start here with a question. What is your pet peeve? Everyone has one. One of the most frustrating to me is telemarketers. Yes, I know it is their job to get on the phone to make cold calls and sell a product or service you and I never thought about wanting or needing. Doesn’t that name or number which keeps coming up on your phone disturb you?
Of course, there are any number of other things which “get to us” such as the way people drive, use their cell phone inappropriately, gossip, make messes and don’t clean them up, the constant complainers or those who somehow demand to be the center of attention no matter what is going on. The list could go on and on.
So what do you do? If you are like the rest of us you get angry. You feel you have the right to want them to suffer if you had to. You want them to apologize or appease you for the inconvenience. You might even be tempted to enlarge the problem by trying to get even yourself.
Anger is a valid emotion, but a subtle one which must be acknowledged and managed or it can be highly destructive. Anger has the capacity to do more damage by holding on to it than the original provocation which inspired it. Someone compared holding anger to walking around with an open container of acid or a stick of dynamite. It contains either much capacity for good or destruction. How often do we hear the phrase, someone “blew up?” What that means is that someone had no capacity to manage anger and let it come out on others. Many times the receiver of the anger isn’t even the person who initiated the problem.
Dealing well with anger is one of the biggest challenges for Christians due to confusion surrounding it. We often do not acknowledge we have it because we feel we are not supposed to have it in the first place. We may even deceive ourselves by calling it something else. But like cancer, it still grows no matter what it is called. To identify it is the beginning point of managing or using it well.
According to a news article, "The average person feels some degree of anger or its lower-grade cousin, frustration, ten to fourteen times a day." This is all the more reason to identify it, accept it and address it.
The Apostle Paul gives us some help when he wrote, "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-7) I don't know if you have really thought about this passage before. But the first time we read it, it often causes us to have a double take, because it says, "In your anger do not sin." So evidently, there is an anger that is not sin, anger that is acceptable, perfectly within the will of God. Wow! Did you know that?
When is anger acceptable? Before answering that let me remind us that there is a difference in feeling anger and acting out that emotion toward others.
The capacity for anger is a God-given emotion. It is acceptable to be angry when God's Word and God's Will are being violated. Florence Nightingale was known for her anger against inadequate hospital care. William Carey was angered by the inhumane slave trade in Africa.
There are times when we ought to say, "Enough!" There are times when we need to stand up for what is right and express our anger. We are not commanded to sit passively by and let evil rule supreme. We must become angry at the unjust things that are happening in our world.
Anger is unacceptable when you become angry because you are jealous of someone else.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son and the older brother’s reaction when the prodigal son returned? He would not participate because he was angry. Why was he angry? It was jealousy.
Secondly, anger is unacceptable when you become angry because things just don't go the way you want them to go. Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you remember the story of Jonah. He didn’t want to go to Ninevah because he didn’t want to see the people repent. He was rebelling against God. He did finally end up there and when they repented, he was angry. Have you ever felt you knew more about what God ought to do than Him?
A third reason for unacceptable anger is when we get angry because we don't know all the facts. A man got to a restaurant after calling for reservations only to find no table was ready. He complained and was frustrated at the manager who said he could find no record of the call. But the man was sure he had called. After a difficult evening he got home and looked back at the record of the call on his home phone only to discover he had called a restaurant by the same name at a different address by mistake.
And I should mention also that sometimes we get angry because of our hectic schedules. We're so busy and always seem to be rushing about. We're tired - so when something happens we react angrily often failing to think things through.
But God tell us we can be angry and not sin. How? Paul advised, “Don't let the sun go down on your anger." Be careful not to make it a habit to leave unsettled matters with those in your family when you go to bed.
"Don't give the Devil an opportunity." You see, when the Holy Spirit comes into our life, He wants to make us like Jesus. He begins to refine the rough edges in order to make us more like Jesus. But when we give the Devil an opportunity; He does the opposite. He tries to make us more and more like himself.
Thomas Jefferson said: "If you are angry count to 10 before you speak. If you are very angry, count to 100." That’s not bad advice. But even better is having the peace of Christ in our heart. If so, we are not looking for things to make us angry every day, but rather that which increase our joy. Take those things which cause disturbance to the Lord in prayer.
James said, "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness.” (James 1:19-20)
God will grant us that power if we will commit ourselves to Him. If we will commit our tongue, our mind and our emotions to Him, God will help us to have a healthy anger at the right things and not to have the kind of anger that would cause others to stumble and fall. Remember, you can be angry but it doesn’t have to lead to sin.