Read His Words Before Ours!
I stood there holding the severed kitchen faucet handle, adrenaline still pumping. My then five-year-old son had been helping me rinse dishes. Our stubborn hearts were at odds. He was ignoring my instruction. I was being controlling. In anger, I slammed my hand down on the faucet breaking it beyond repair. Shame, sadness, and despair rushed over me.
I never considered myself an angry person, but suddenly, in the trench years of very small children, flares came easily. Anything from obnoxious noises, toothpaste on towels, and spilled milk (I know, I know…), to sibling spats, sassing, and willful disobedience were moments I could erupt.
I knew that fits of anger were a work of my flesh (Galatians 5:19-20), and I began crying out for God to help me. I knew I needed the Word of God to save me from myself (James 1:21). The Spirit began showing me the connection between my anger and whose kingdom I’m bowing to – mine or God’s.
The question isn’t simply, ‘Is anger sinful?’.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26 that to be angry and not sin is possible.
Yet a few verses later he also admonishes the church to
“let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away..”.
Psalm 145:8 explains, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”.
Yet, Psalm 78:49-51 paints a picture of God’s unleashed anger.
So how are we to discern this visceral emotion?
Unrighteous Anger of Man
In their book The Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender and Tremper Longmann bring clarity stating, “the core of unrighteous anger is a hatred of vulnerability and a love of control”.
When we feel pain, offense or exposure, unrighteous anger attempts to secure for ourselves satisfaction right now. It might be triggered by a legitimate wrong, but the defining point is how that anger is directed.
James 1:20 says, “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
This pricked my heart early on in my battle with anger. In my attempt to correct and discipline my children, I had allowed my own satisfaction to be a driving force. Instead of submitting to the Spirit’s control, I was tossed around by my natural reactions to things that jarred my comfort, peace, and control. My own desires were the things I was seeking to satisfy my heart.
Unrighteous anger is a hungry search for satisfaction in our own timing,
and with our own methods.
Ultimately, it is a display of discontent with God.
Righteous Anger of God
Is righteous anger, then, shoving our desire under a rug or ignoring injustice?
Is it playing nice and downplaying an offense?
Not at all.
It is critical for our souls to acknowledge that all is not right in this world. The Psalms are full of laments and questions directed toward God. A re-orienting of the direction of our anger, however, is needed. To be righteous in our anger is to reflect God, whose anger is always directed at sin and darkness.
Looking to God in our anger, we also wait on His timing to show His character.
Psalm 37:7-8 begs, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”
We must acknowledge our anger honestly before God, acknowledging our inability to make things right. Psalm 4:4 tells us to “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.”
This is counterintuitive and uncomfortable.
It can also feel incapacitating.
Yet this is exactly where God wants us:
running to Him in our anger and crying out for His action.
Allender and Longmann explain,
“Righteous anger warns, invites, and wounds for the greater work of redemption.
It is full of strength that is neither defensive nor vindictive, and it is
permeated by a sadness that is rich in desire and hope…..
righteous anger allows the offense to be seen as an issue between the offender and God.”
Is your anger permeated by sadness over sin and rich in desire for God’s holiness?
Or is it a short fuse connected to the hope of your own desires?
When I slammed my hand down in exasperation on my kitchen faucet, I wasn’t thinking about the greater redemption of my son, nor was I full of hope. I was mad and wanted to end the struggle.
But God has more for our anger.
He desires to use us to bring about His greater work of redemption.
As we submit to His Spirit, He will do this through us!
Lastly, consider God’s example.
We deserve His full wrath because of our sin,
but instead received mercy and grace.
God poured out His fury upon His perfect Son, who paid the punishment for you and me.
God’s wrath was satisfied, His holy standard maintained.
Father thank you for your grace.
Use our anger to point us to your holiness, righteous fury, and redemptive work.
Help us embrace utter dependency as we wait on you to make all things new and right.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!