Don't Go to Bed with your Anger...
When the Apostle Paul lists sins, he especially identifies out-of-control desires that express themselves in sensuality and anger, with idolatry as a common thread between the two.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies. (Galatians 5:19–21)
Anger is not just polarising among people, but within a person. Ironically, anger in others offends us, while anger in ourselves comforts us — scandal and consolation, both wrapped in red. To surrender our anger feels like mutiny against our own heart. To store our anger for another day feels like a warm fleece blanket on a cool winter night.
We’ve all felt the furnace of wrath rising in us like molten mercury in a thermometer. Different sparks light the fire for each of us: disappointment, failure, disagreement, stress, betrayal, finances, exhaustion, and more. Whatever it is on any given day, anger can leave us lying in bed, contemplating.
Then the ten words come to mind we’ve tried hard not to memorise: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). With that strange and familiar chorus ringing in our ears, we may begin to loosen our grip on our wrath and consider how to move toward a spouse, or parent, or son or daughter, or friend, or co-worker to confess, confront (if necessary), and reconcile.
The verse, of course, continues, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26–27). To refuse to surrender our anger is to welcome the devil to wreak havoc in our hearts and relationships. It allows him to take new ground, and to extend his stay in any given situation.
David warns us, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:8). Solomon agrees, in all his wisdom, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Proverbs 29:22). Anger does not resolve sin, but incites sin — and multiplies it.
James writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). Anger can feel so wonderfully right and necessary and productive in the moment, but it simply is not. It is producing, just nothing that will do any good.
We underestimate our own anger’s frequency and its impact on others. Other people underestimate the impact of their anger on us. Our anger feels like, “I am right.” It actually says, “I hate you” and “I am above you.” The more extreme our anger, the more confident we are that we are right. As a result, angry people are the last to know that they are sinfully angry.
Anger can also say, “I am hurt and don’t want to be hurt again” or “I am afraid and feel powerless,” but even then it remains a way that we manage our world in our own way and on our own terms.
Jesus was never angry when he was tested, mocked, or rejected. He did, indeed, become angry. The money-changer incident is among the best-known New Testament stories (John 2:13–17). But his anger was not mixed with selfish and prideful motivations like ours. His intense passion was for his Father’s glory.
In other words, anger is not always sinful, but given the few times we actually stumble upon righteous anger, we would do well not to give our own anger the benefit of the doubt.
One pervasive lie is that time heals everything. Time can definitely help in some circumstances — allowing our emotions to recede, releasing relational pressure, giving us perspective. But time by itself heals nothing. If we depend on time to heal what’s wrong in our relationships, we will carry wounds with us the rest of our lives. The truth is time can heal, but not without real, tangible confession, correction, repentance, and forgiveness.
God has given you these emotions to lead you to himself, and to drive you to confess, correct, repent, forgive, and be reconciled. Take advantage of the anger you feel, and frustrate Satan’s plans for your fury.
Why did God make each day just 24 hours long? We all want more hours in the day. Why did he decide the sun would go down when it does, and then tie our cycles of reconciliation to that schedule? Perhaps one reason he cut if off at 24 (among a thousand or more reasons) was because he knew the perfect span of time for conflict in relationships. It gives us some time to process, even to be angry, but then draws a line to keep us from holding on too long, and letting Satan have his way with us.
Don’t go to bed with your anger. It will harm you, not heal you. It will betray you, not vindicate you. And it will not produce the justice or reconciliation you need. Clothe yourself, instead, with the awesome power of patience and forgiveness. “Whoever is slow to anger” — and quick to surrender it before bedtime — “is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
Defuse: A Mom’s Survival Guide for More Love, Less Anger - Karol Ladd
The Angry Christian: A Theology for Care and Counselling - Andrew D. Lester
Uprooting Anger - Robert Jones
The Angry Christian: A Bible-based Strategy to Care for and Discipline a Valuable Emotion - Bert Ghezzi