All posts tagged Anger

What Needs to be Explained?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves (p.8).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Have you ever reached that point of exasperation with an inquisitive child and asked, “Why are you asking why?” Hopefully this blog post will not create that level of stress, but let’s ask a similar question, “When do you ask why?”

Lewis’ observation is that we only ask why about human behavior when we or someone else does something bad. We do not bother to ask the question when we do something good.

This reveals something important about how we think (do you get nervous when a counselor says that?).  Actually, it reveals two things:

  1. A belief that people are basically good, so that it is only their bad behavior that needs to be explained.
  2. A belief that bad behavior is more important, because it is what warrants our time and attention in examination.

This post will focus on the first one and leave you to ponder the second on your own.

Too often we forget that our humanity comes pre-flawed at birth.  Consider this quote from theologian Millard Erickson,

“The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that it today is actually in an abnormal condition….  In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus.  All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity (p. 518).” from Christian Theology.

If that is true, then it is our good behavior that needs to be explained. It is our kindness, patience, affection, encouragement, peace, and hope (feel free to add to the list) that do not make sense without the “interference” of an outside influence.

When we realize this, we begin to see God as being much more active in our lives and world. We should ask “why” about every good thing in us, in others, and in our world. The continual answer would be “only the grace of God.”

With that in mind, hear the words of James 1:16-17 (emphasis added).

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James began by saying “do not be deceived” because he knew there were many alternative explanations for the good things in life (the most deceptive being that it is only bad events or behaviors that need an explanation). Then he reminds his suffering brothers and sisters, see God in every good thing in your life. Use every pleasant moment as a reminder of the love and grace of your Father.

God’s Words for Our Anger: Psalm 39

Case Study: Bill didn’t think he was that different from anyone else. Sure, he “lost it” every-once-in-a-while with the kids, but who doesn’t. Idiot drivers deserved a decent heckling (even if they can’t hear it) if they are going to endanger and make everyone else on the road late. His wife, Susan, was the sensitive type, so you couldn’t really take her opinion too seriously. She probably was uncomfortable with his aggressive-assertive style, but that’s just because her family never really dealt with their issues.

At work people respected Bill. He got things done, so his boss really liked Bill and often told him how good it was to have Bill on staff to keep everyone “on their toes.” Being a self-made man who had to overcome a lot to amount to anything, Bill was proud of these comments. He always feared being nothing or nobody, so these comments told him he was on the right track.

What Bill didn’t like was the way that his boys argued with one another and their mother. The things they said sounded eerily familiar when Bill was willing to admit it. But he shook it off saying he wasn’t going to let his kids have excuses for their temper. If he had settled for excuses, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Then it got to the point where the boys were brave enough to turn their anger on him. He had always been able to intimidate them “back in line.” But now these arguments began to escalate; a couple even turned physical. When Bill told the boys they should honor their father they just rolled their eyes. Eventually they looked up the passage in Ephesians and told him not to provoke his kids to anger and mocked that they could use the Bible too.

Bill came to Susan for support when he was feeling down. She gave him little and said she had warned him many times these days would come. That turned the conversation nasty, but Susan had been silent long enough and wasn’t going to let Bill justify his anger anymore. The argument ended with Bill going for a drive (“storming off” as Susan said).

Some conviction was starting to set in, but Bill was still resisting the idea that he had an anger problem. He has never hit anyone (unless you count the recent wrestling matches with the boys). They had had some good times as a family (but nobody could remember those right now). As he drove, Bill thought he should pray, but he didn’t even know where to begin.

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 39. Use the question both to stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you define an “anger problem;” what level does anger have to reach to be problematic?
  • What should Bill do with the fact that he is often right in his assessment of Susan and the boys?
  • How should someone deal with the guilt and shame that they feel when they start to take responsibility for their anger?
  • What would the next step look like for Bill?

Read Psalm 39 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 39 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Bill to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Bill would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anger to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 39

1. I kept telling myself I’d watch what I say; that I’d try to be less gruff and intimidating. I didn’t want to say hurtful thing. I was determined to think about what I said before I said it, especially when my family was doing “stupid” stuff.

2. I would do good for a while. I’d keep my mouth shut, but nothing changed and eventually it would get to me. I could only

take so much. My silence only dammed up the anger; it didn’t decrease it. My sense of injustice mounted.

3. I got madder and madder. I was fuming. The more I thought about it the worse it got. Finally, I just let it go. My sharp tongue knew just where to start cutting. It was like old times. My anger and me were free again.

4. God help me realize these moments are that big of a deal. I act like these small events are going to define my life. I get lost in the moment. I think one act of disrespect is larger than my relationship with my sons; one instance of having to repeat what I said is larger than my marriage. God remind me how small I really am; humble me!

5. Life is too short for this kind of foolishness on my part. My anger is more foolish than whatever “stupid” thing they did. I only get 18 years with my boys and a few decades with my wife. How do we always lose sight of what really has value in life?!

6. I don’t think any of us get how transient and secondary we are. We act like we are the Real Thing and not just made in Your image. We work and work to make our name great. I was providing well but in my anger devouring those I would leave my wealth to.

7. What do I do now? I’m driving around to stall… for what? You really are my only hope. I need you. I kept thinking everyone in my house needed to listen to me, when I really needed to be listening to you.

8. My anger and the dissension it has caused in my family could destroy everything that is really important to me. Deliver me from the consequences of my sin. All my buddies told me I was right and I shouldn’t have to put up with what they were doing. Don’t leave me to commiserate my broken family with them.

9.  Before I would bite my tongue (thinking I was right and that the world needed to hear what I had to say). Now I am truly quiet, humbled and wanting to listen to You. Only You, Lord, could bring me to this point (my wife and kids tried hundreds of times to no avail).

10. The shame and guilt are too much. I don’t think I can bear what I’ve done. I see myself and it makes me sick. Your hand holds the mirror to my soul and I feel weak.

11. You showed me my sin and it wasn’t just my loud words, harsh tone, and physical aggression. You have revealed to me my idols (respect, being heard, organized home, success, and more) and you want to consume them. Those things replaced You in my life and You will not be replaced. Wow! I sure thought I was something.

12. Please listen as I pray. I realize now I do not deserve to be heard (what a change from when I thought everyone needed to hear what I had to say). I am broken and crying. Do not walk away from me like I would from my wife when she cried. I’ve got a long way to go on this journey of being a godly husband and father. Thank You, Lord, for walking with me; for letting me be Your companion… I guess that is what all of us are doing in this life.

13. Here comes the guilt and shame again. It is hard to walk with You, God, I’m used to being in charge and getting to be right. I’ll have to relearn how to be happy with You at the helm and life not being about me. I am completely undone (but I think it’s the best thing that’s happen to me in along time.).

Passages for Further Study: Numbers 20:1-13; Psalm 4; Proverbs 14:17,29, 15:1, 29:11,22; Matthew 5:21-26; James 1:19-20, 4:1-10.

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 39, examined how Bill might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How has your perspective on anger changed?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” be different now?
  • For what “frustrating” situations do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 39.

Disagreeing With God

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source (p. 48).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

For those of us who do not enjoy being wrong (I assume that includes you too), we probably do not like this quote. Not that we disagree with it; we would just prefer to keep the option alive that we could be right and God wrong for “emergency use only.”

I would dare say that the majority of times when we would like to invoke this emergency clause would be occasions of suffering—times when we are facing painful consequences that are not the result of our personal sin.

Now if we are facing the consequences of our sin, then we need to repent and one definition of repentance is to “agree with God” about the nature of what we did. In that case we will never be right and God be wrong.

However, in cases of suffering, I would contend that we do not disagree with God as much as it feels like we do. God disagrees with suffering too. He is against it. Often we pray prayers of argument to our Father who agrees with our assessment. We are picking a fight that doesn’t exist and living in the unnecessary sense of “distance” that it creates. This multiplies our suffering.

It is like the spouse who comes home from a bad day. The spouse shares the troubles of his/her day with his/her partner expecting disagreement, because that is what the whole day has been like. The partner is not wanting to be oppositional. In actuality the partner would like to comfort his/her spouse in his/her suffering. But because of the tone of the initiating remarks comfort comes across as disagreeing, not understanding, or condescending. The level of actual suffering increases with the sense of marital distance.

We, like the spouse above, often come to God in the midst of our suffering angry, mistrusting, and wanting to give Somebody a piece of our mind about the situation. God wants to comfort us, but our assumption of disagreement won’t allow it. We then blame God for the bridge we burned.

If you resonate with this description, I would encourage you to read through the Psalms; not the “nice” ones, but the “dark” ones. Read the words that God has given us to describe the difficulties of living in a fallen world. I think you will be surprised to find how much God agrees with you about suffering.

If you would like help in identifying Psalms where God speaks to your struggle/suffering, I would encourage you to review the posts on this blog under the titles “God’s Words for Our [Struggle]: Psalm ##.”

Anger is a Rushed Emotion

Different struggles have different characteristic traits. Anger comes with a sense of urgency. When anger goes bad, it is usually trying to correct too much too quickly. The pace and intensity of the change does as much or more damage than the wrong which triggered the anger.

Think of a few classic examples. A teenager back talks his/her parent. The parent is incensed with the disrespect and wants to put an end to it immediately. The result is smacking the teenager across the face.

A husband and wife are in an argument. One person is unable to follow what the other person says. The response to having to repeat what was already said is a derogatory slam for being “too stupid to follow a conversation… no wonder we can’t get along when this is who I have to talk to.”

A boss is feeling pressure at work, because last quarter’s numbers were low. Everyone knows it’s the economy, but no one knows how long it could take for that to turn around. So, instead, a tone of criticism and sarcasm fills the work environment in the name of “motivation.”

These brief snippets may share many things in common, but the point being illustrated is that they reveal the “rushed” nature of anger and that sinful anger does more damage than its trigger.

A parent should correct disrespect, but “putting a child in their place” with random, sniper-esque violence does nothing to teach respect. The teenager grows to covet the power to treat people how you like and blame them if they don’t like your lack of self-control. Come to think of it, that is probably what started the argument in the first place.

It is reasonable for a spouse to expect to be understood. But when the ability to follow a conversation becomes the measure of whether you deserve the basics of mutual honor, then the foundations of trust and security have been eroded.

A boss does provide income for his/her employees by motivating them to perform at a level which consistently earns a profit for the company. But the residual impact of a negative environment and unrealistic expectations makes the term “success” a cruel fairy tale.

So what’s the point? Godly anger recognizes the pace at which change can take place. Out of love for the person, godly anger looks to influence change in a way that does not destroy or demean the person experiencing the change.

The cliché application of this point is to “count to 10.” But if you don’t know why you’re counting to ten, then your tongue will just be 10 times sharper when you finally do speak. We pause because we want to accurately represent our God.

Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (emphasis added).”

It might be better to memorize this passage and repeat it to yourself instead of counting. As you repeat it to yourself, add the following brief prayer, “Lord, I am tempted to be rushed to anger. Help me represent you in mercy and justice, what I say and what I don’t. If I must choose between sin and silence give me the grace to choose silence until I can honor You.

Angry at the Gospel

The gospel is not just hard. The gospel is insulting. The gospel tells me things I don’t want to hear and asks me to do things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be told to take the log out of my eye before I take the speck out of anyone else’s. I don’t want to sacrifice my comfort for the love of others.

But those things are just hard. I can “cowboy up,” kick myself in the pants, and get them done if I need to. I can be “man enough” to admit when I was wrong. I can see the advantage of sacrifice, even its joy, and forsake my preferences. I can do “hard,” if I want to bad enough.

But the gospel is also insulting. The gospel looks in my eyes and without blinking says, “Without me you are nothing (John 15:5).” When I respond in astonished offense (1 Cor. 1:20-25), the gospel doesn’t back down, apologize, or change its tone. The gospel calls to me again, “You know it’s true. Surrender.”

At that moment I am faced with the most profound choice of my life – if I refuse to accept the offense of the gospel, then I am choosing to be offended by everything else in life. After I’ve heard the gospel then I will respond to every fault (my own and others) with either the fury of my own righteousness or by surrendering to Christ’s righteousness.

This is the story of many angry people. Angry people are passionate people who are willing to do whatever it takes to makes wrong, right – at least as they define “right” and “whatever it takes.” The thought of surrendering to the standard and will of another is the antithesis of anger.

To be anything other than angry is to let evil win – at least in their mind. And that makes sense. The gospel has always had a way of making it look like evil was about to win. The limp body of Jesus did not look like our strong deliverer on the cross. The early church scurrying from city to city in persecution did not look like a great gospel movement destined to change the world.

The gospel always has a way of looking more like Clark Kent than Superman and asking us to do the same. Sinful anger feels like our Superman suit, but we never realize it’s laced with kryptonite. As we prove (again and again) our inability to play the role of superhero (Messiah), we hear the call of the gospel again, “Take off the cape and put on my righteousness. The cape doesn’t fit you. Trust me. You’ve just proven it would be better if you did.”

“No, it’s not like that. This situation was different… That person wasn’t cooperative… I was fine until I lost my cool… I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes… If I made the mess, I want the chance to make it right,” and on and on go our excuses. We realize again – if I refuse to accept the offense of the gospel, then I am choosing to be offended by everything else in life.

We walk away knowing we were wrong and convinced we were right. The gospel comes across as the jerk who is always right, but this “jerk” is too nice to hate so we feel like the jerk for being mad at the One who sincerely wanted to rescue us from us.

That is another profound tension of Scripture. Jesus was incredibly easy to hate, yet He is also the most endearing figure in history. Most world religions that reject Christianity (at least its exclusive claims) love Jesus and revere His teachings. We find we are just like everyone else – constantly in need of Jesus and resisting His offer to enter our life and transform it from the inside out.

So what will you do? Will you embrace your weakness to receive God’s strength through the gospel? Or, will you cling to your strength and be offended by everything you can’t do? Will you embrace Christ’s righteousness on your behalf as a gift? Or, will you live in a world of land mines (your own anger) where your righteousness is the standard that judges the world and demands justice? Choose the freedom that comes with the gospel’s offense.

Anger is a Rushed Emotion (Expanded Repost)

This expanded re-post was also posted at the blog for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Different struggles have different characteristic traits. Anger comes with a sense of urgency. When anger goes bad, it is usually trying to correct too much too quickly. In the process, this pace and intensity of the change does as much or more damage than the wrong which triggered the anger. Think of a few classic examples.

Three Examples

A teenager back talks his/her parent. The parent is incensed with the disrespect and wants to put an end to it immediately. The result is smacking the teenager across the face.

A husband and wife are in an argument. One person is unable to follow what the other person says. The response to having to repeat what was already said is a derogatory slam for being “too stupid to follow a conversation… no wonder we can’t get along when this is who I have to talk to.”

A boss is feeling pressure at work, because last quarter’s numbers were low. Everyone knows it’s the economy, but no one knows how long it could take for that to turn around. So, instead, a tone of criticism and sarcasm fills the work environment in the name of “motivation.”

These brief snippets may share many things in common, but the point being illustrated is that they reveal the “rushed” nature of anger and that sinful anger does more damage than what triggers it. We think we are agents of peace and righteousness, but we are spreading dissension and dishonor.

Three Examples Revisited

A parent should correct disrespect, but “putting a child in their place” with random, sniper-esque violence does nothing to teach respect. The teenager grows to covet the power to treat people how you like and blame them if they don’t like your lack of self-control. Come to think of it, that is probably what started the argument in the first place.

It is reasonable for a spouse to expect to be understood. But when the ability to follow a conversation becomes the measure of whether you deserve the basics of mutual honor, then the foundations of trust and security have been eroded. Now fear and resentment will impede the ability to listen in future conversations and anger will escalate because, “You ‘never’ understand what I say.”

A boss does provide income for his/her employees by motivating them to perform at a level which consistently earns a profit for the company. But the residual impact of a negative environment and unrealistic expectations makes the term “success” a cruel fairy tale.

One Implication

So what’s the point? Consider this one take away (but feel free to brainstorm others). Godly anger recognizes the pace at which change can take place. Out of grace-filled, realistic love for the person, godly anger looks to influence change in a way that does not destroy or demean the person experiencing the change. Godly anger always wants redemption more than destruction.

The cliché application of this point is to “count to 10.” But if you don’t know why you’re counting to ten, then your tongue will just be 10 times sharper when you finally do speak. We pause because we want to accurately represent our God. We recognize the greatest offense is not the wrong we are responding to, but a willful misrepresentation of God in the name of righteousness.

Consider this picture of God’s response to injustice.

Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (emphasis added).”

It might be better to memorize this passage and repeat it to yourself instead of counting. As you repeat it to yourself, add the following brief prayer, “Lord, I am tempted to be rushed to anger. Help me represent you in both mercy and justice, in what I say and what I don’t say. If I must choose between sin and silence give me the grace to choose silence until I can honor You.”

Three Examples Revised

Now the parent realizes fire should not be fought with fire. Dominance does not defeat disrespect; it makes dominance more attractive and increases the desire to attain it. The parent realizes the short cut of aggression is a lie like the short cuts offered to Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11). The parent would need to respond with strength marked by “power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).” But until such words and actions are found, representing God must be valued more than guarding personal respect.

With this in mind, the spouse realizes the pride and self-centeredness of his/her desire for efficiency and condemning words. Creating an environment where it is safe to misunderstand is essential to being consistently understood. But until the pace of his/her expectations slow down, this will seem like a foolish contradiction (1 Cor. 1:20-25).

Our boss can now realize that prolonged motivation by fear inevitably degenerates into despair. Fear is an effective motivator, but not one that our souls were made to perpetually endure. Like duct tape, fear fixes things, but only for a short time. Truth spoken in love (“Without increased production not all of us will keep our jobs”) can then be allowed to sustain what negativity always drove in the ground.

Join the Conversation

  • What other applications would you draw to help counter the rushed nature of anger?
  • As you consider your applications, reflect both on the situational (“in the moment”) and lifestyle changes that are necessary to combat this dynamic of sinful anger.
  • How do we protect and foster the good qualities associated with anger’s strong call to action?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Anger” post which address other facets of this subject.

Spiritual Muscles by Paul Tripp

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.

Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles?

It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength.

Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love.

Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems to be obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by Him.

Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let me heart run away with the “If only _____,” the “What if _____,” and the “What will happen if _____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.

Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.

Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue Him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.

Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.

The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right and His focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at His disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of His Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.

So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise. What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (i.e, as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.

Is God asking you to wait? What is happening to your muscles?

Taken from A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Paul David Tripp, © 2009, pp. 88-90.  Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.

A Collection of Quotes on Anger

What follows is a collection of quotes on this subject. They are not meant to sequentially walk through the subject or to comprehensively cover the subject. Their purpose is merely to expose you to a variety of thoughts and perspectives by Christian men and women.

“The very fact that [God gets angry] tells us that anger can be utterly right, good, appropriate, beautiful, the only fair response to something evil, and the loving response on behalf of evil’s victims (p. 1)… The Bible makes it clear that anger is not a ‘thing.’ It is a moral act of the whole person, not a ‘substance’ or a ‘something’ inside you (p. 2)” David Powlison in Anger: Escaping the Maze

“Anger is easier to describe than to define (p. 14)… Our anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil (p. 15)… Let’s begin with a humbling observation: most human anger is sinful (p. 27)… The problem lies not in wanting something but in wanting it too badly (p. 51)… James’s answer for angry hearts is not ‘how-to’ but ‘Whom-to’: we must go to God himself (p. 64)… To receive God’s forgiving grace, you must own your anger. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble [James 4:6]. We must not blame our past or present circumstances (p. 70)… True strength in God’s eyes means victory over one’s temper more than ones’ enemies (p. 85).” Robert Jones in Uprooting Anger

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is probably the most fun. To lick your wounds, smack your lips over grievances long past, roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontation still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” Frederick Buechner in Better Families monthly newsletter.

“Patience is the evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependant on external supports—like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts (p. 173)…God undertakes vengeance against sin not only by means of hell, but also by means of the cross.  All sin will be avenged—severely and thoroughly and justly.  Either in hell, or at the cross (p. 268).” John Piper in Future Grace

 

“Talk is not cheap because interpretation is not cheap. The way we interpret life determines how we will respond to it (p. 15)…  What is wrong is not just vocabulary and tone of voice, but a way of looking at life that does not agree with what God says is right and true (p. 22)… We confess that our communication struggle is not primarily a struggle of technique, but a struggle of the heart. Our war of words is not with the other people; it is a battle within (p. 30)… John 6 points us to the core issue of our words: Our words are shaped by the dream that resides in our hearts. They are determined by the bread we are seeking (p. 101)… Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it becomes distorted by human impatience, bitterness, and anger (p. 228).” Paul David Tripp in War of Words

 

“If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love (p. 32).”  Amy Carmichael in If

“Pride is a mental attitude based upon faulty assumptions about ourselves. The pride that breeds anger usually takes the form of frustration (p. 105)… We are very quick to justify our anger because we think it produces results… We must understand that no matter what evidence we see of anger’s effectiveness, it is a lie… We need to see it for the terrorist it really is and despise it as God really does (p. 107).” Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

Be Angry and Sin Not

Usually in seeking to understand this biblical phrase we skip directly to examples. Most often we begin with an example where we (or someone else) displayed righteous anger (in our opinion). To take a fresh approach, but hopefully not a novel one, let’s begin with the passages. However, this post will assume the “trigger” for your anger is legitimate.

In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul says:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

And he is quoting from Psalm 4:2-5

O men, how long shall my honor be
turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words
and seek after lies?  Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart
the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on
your beds, and be silent.  Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

The first thing we notice is that the psalmist’s primary reference point is not how late a married couple is willing to stay up to reconcile an argument. The psalmist reference point is the sleepless believer who is troubled by the folly of lost people.

The primary application is not self-control (i.e., biting his tongue), but to recognize that God is both active (setting apart the godly) and aware (listening). Sinful anger, by implication, is anger that assumes that God is neither active nor aware.

The secondary application is reflection (ponder). The folly of sinful culture reveals the lies that our culture believes. Sinful anger focuses our attention on the deceived sinner rather than on unmasking the lie used by the Deceiver to keep them in bondage.

Strangely, the psalmist advises the reader to be silent and to live rightly. The culture (and every individual in that culture) needs conviction before they will assimilate any new information. Our living in God’s freedom spotlights the bondage of Satan’s lies. Notice how Hebrews 11:7 speaks of the life of Noah.

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The cure of sinful anger is remembering (1) God is aware and active; and (2) our missional purpose in each relationship. We should only be angered by sin. Sin reveals the activity of Satan—the Deceiver. Our goal is to consider the situation until we understand and can unmask the lie, so as to rescue not merely “prove wrong” the sinner.

This is hard (under-statement). As you prepare for this challenge consider I Peter 3:14-17

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.