Dealing with Anger...God's Way
We have all experienced anger at some point in our lives, and it can be a real problem. Though it starts as a harmless feeling, it can quickly grow into something dangerous that’s hard to control.
But with God’s help, we can learn how to deal with our feelings and walk in His peace.
I’ll admit, years ago I pretty much did and said anything I felt like. I have a pretty strong personality, so if you said something to upset me, there was a good chance I would let you know about it.
Thank God, over time I have changed, matured and helped myself by beginning to manage my emotions through the power of patience. I learned how to operate in self-control, which means I didn’t always say everything I wanted to say. Now, that’s freedom!
Along the way, God also helped me to understand that anger in itself isn’t wrong...
Traditionally, the anger issue has been divided up between those who get angry and those who don’t. Some personalities tend toward red-faced eruptions; others are unflappably relaxed and easygoing. But the truth is, everyone gets angry — it’s just expressed in different ways.
In her article “Why Anger Is Bad For You,” neurophysiologist Nerina Ramlakhan from Capio Nightingale Hospital in London, where she treats clients with chronic fatigue, sleep problems, mental burnout and stress. says, “Now we separate people differently into those who hold rage in and those who express it out.” The question, then, isn’t who gets angry, but why we all get angry.
Anger doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s not an original emotion. In one degree or another, anger is our response to whatever endangers something we love. “In its uncorrupted origin,” says Tim Keller, “anger is actually a form of love” (in “The Healing of Anger”). Anger is love in motion to deal with a threat to someone or something we truly care about. And in many ways, it can be right.
“The question isn’t who gets angry, but why we all get angry.”
It is right that we get angry with the delivery guy who speeds down our street when our kids are playing in the front yard. That makes sense. The delivery guy puts our children in danger. It also would be right that we get angry about Boko Haram’s hideous evil in Nigeria. It is unbelievably horrible.
But if we’re honest, as much as there are right instances for our anger, most of our anger isn’t connected to the incidental dangers surrounding our children or the wicked injustices happening across the world. As much as we love our children and care about innocent victims, our anger typically points to other loves — disordered loves, as Keller calls them.
Tim Keller says, no anger or blow anger are bad, but slow anger is good. While there is a dangerous power in anger, there is also a basic goodness in anger, Keller says. Anger that goes wrong must be healed, or it can become like any addiction, needing a “fix” for anger or a fight for the wounded person. Not good. Used properly, the way God is “slow to anger”, it's for our own good.
“Anger” is commonly defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Medically, we are told anger is a natural response to a perceived threat against our well-being or position.
The response causes the body to release adrenaline, muscles to tighten, and heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Mental health professionals advise that it's not healthy to keep anger pent up. It's better to express our feelings of anger through reasonable discussion or a productive, helpful, or healing activity.
Paul, in Galatians 5:20-21, instructed “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” In 1 Corinthians 13, we are directed that love is patient and kind and does not dishonour others and is not easily angered. It can be reasoned that anger is contrary to charity, if it is spontaneously meant to dishonour our neighbour. Proverbs 15:18 tells us a “hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to take every thought captive into the obedience of Christ before it becomes a stronghold in our mind. In other words, we can choose what we are going to think and dwell on.
We can continue to fuel our angry emotions with wrong thoughts...or we can take a stand and, with God’s help, refuse to allow the situation to get out of control.
So, when you feel yourself getting upset, the sooner you say “No!” to those thoughts and feelings, the better. Instead of letting the anger control you, you can pray something like:
“God, please help me. I know being upset is not going to get me anywhere. This person hurt my feelings and that was wrong, but I’m not going to act on this. With Your grace and strength, I’m going to control myself, and I’m going to trust You to take care of the situation.”
I want to encourage you to forgive those who have hurt you. Let go of any angry feelings you’re holding on to and place those situations in God’s hands.
We can trust Him to be our Vindicator. God is bigger than our feelings and He has given us self-control so we can walk in peace and experience His perfect love when we need it the most.
Our relationships, especially in our families, are very important to the Lord. Don’t live in anger all week long and then put on a veneer of worshipping God on Sundays. He wants us to put aside the old, dirty clothes of sinful anger and abusive speech and to put on the new, clean clothes of love, kindness, and forgiveness in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a frequent reminder of how He forgave us. Even so, we are to forgive and love one another.