“Cease from anger” the Psalmist counsels us (Psalm 37:8). “Get rid of all anger” the New Testament echoes (Ephesians 4:31).
Throughout the Bible we are cautioned about our anger. And many Psalms, particularly the Cursing Psalms, show us how to deal with anger in a wise and godly way.
But it seems that few people today understand their anger or what to do with it.
Understanding Angry Emotions
Anger is a God-given emotion.
We feel angry when our will is crossed or when we’re afraid that we won’t get what we want. Anger is not bad, it’s a natural human emotion. Anger is like a headache: it signals to us that something is wrong and needs attention. So if we are wise then we deal with the underlying problem — and hopefully that frees us of our anger headache!
Maybe you’re not saying no to someone or something when it is important for to do so. Maybe you’re overloaded and not communicating your stress. Or you’ve been hurt and need empathy.
It’s always helpful to be aware of all our emotions, including anger. If you have trouble feeling angry then that is a problem just as much being easily angered or resentful is a problem. The key is how you and I deal with our anger.
When we’re angry we may lose our temper, be passive-aggressive, or convert anger into guilt. Or we may stuff anger and live with resentment — perhaps we feel we need our anger to protect us or to give us power. But to hold anger is to let it live in your body like a cancer (it is destructive to body, soul, and relationships) and it’ll show up in your manner of dress, style of tattoos, cigarettes, a chip on the shoulder, or general aggressiveness (for instance when driving).
We like to say that “righteous anger” is good. But the problem is that when you’re angry it always feels righteous! And when someone else is angry at you it always feels unrighteous! How readily we justify ourselves and excuse our anger!
What to do with Anger
God shows us time and again in the Cursing Psalms that the capacity to feel angry is natural and good. God wants us to be honest about the anger we feel when we’ve been mistreated or our will has been crossed in some other way.
So for all of us it’s important that we learn to listen to our angry feelings, speak the truth in love, and forgive people who offend us (Ephesians 4:15). If you grew up in a family where anger hurt people or it wasn’t safe to verbalize angry feelings then you’ll need help with this.
Psalm 37 Helps!
In Psalm 37 David shares a beautiful prayer worth memorizing. He show us how not to give into distress by fretting or getting angry (two sides of the same coin), but instead to submit our desires to our Good Shepherd and wait upon him:
Do not fret… Refrain from anger…
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Do not fret… Refrain from anger (Psalm 37:1,3-8).
Submitting our desires to God is crucial, not just for anger, but for all of life.
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1) is another prayer of surrender and trust in God’s all sufficiency. Or Jesus’ constant prayer of submission to the Father, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
To submit to God is to abandon the outcomes of situations to him, trusting that his purposes for us are good and he is ready to redeem whatever bad things that happen to us. Practice submitting all your desires to the Sovereign Lord – learning to be happy in knowing him because he is enough for you – and with time your anger will dissipate.
In this way the peace of Christ will come to rule in your heart more and more (Colossians 3:15).
More Help with Anger
But sometimes we’re not at peace and we just need to vent! The Psalmist shows us how to talk to God like a good therapist and discover that Angry Prayers Can Bring Peace.
Jesus shows us the best way to deal with anger and it’s surprising how helpful it is once we understand it: Jesus Jujitsu: The Power to Turn the Other Cheek.
Be Angry and Sin Not offers the Bible’s wisdom for overcoming problems with anger.
Helping ministers and caregivers with their anger is just one of the ways that we offer Soul Shepherding. Thank you for your prayers and support. Together we’re advancing God’s kingdom.