There’s a verse in Ephesians 4:26 which says “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” From this, I have to assume that feeling angry is just something that’s going to happen. It’s part of life. It’s an emotional response to the things that bother us. But our response should be to deal with it, and put it away, rather than letting it take hold of us. Recently I failed at this in a big way. I was badly hurt and became angry, and instead of dealing with it, I savored it, I let it melt in my mouth, and it became part of me.
I forgot God, and anger became my friend. We talked together often, anger and I. And I began to see everyone as an enemy – first the individuals who had hurt me, and then those associated with them, and then “people like that” and then “people” in general. The world seemed to me full of demons and God seemed irretrievably far away. And predictably, I began to be unlikeable myself, uncomfortable in my own skin, and full of unreasonable and irascible thoughts and words, for “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20
God and Anger: Escaping with Jonah
I knew I had two options: return to God and draw from His strength or escape. I chose escape, not because I did not trust or love God, but because returning to God meant (in my mind, at the time) that I would have to return also to those Christians who had hurt me – that I would have to approve of them, and accept their judgements of me – and that thought was intolerable. So, I began to wander away from the Bible, away from ministry, away from people who could help, away from the very thought of God. Like Jonah, I was commissioned to minister and help others, and like Jonah, I wound up “angry enough to die”.
I just wanted God to provide me a shady place to sit and watch the world go to hell.
I am fully aware that my response was wrong, and sinful. There is no place, nor justification for anger. But there is a lesson here for believers and the church. Our words and actions matter. We can hurt others deeply when we disregard their feelings, and we can cause a chain reaction that extends far beyond ourselves. When the root of bitterness springs up, it defiles many (Hebrews 12:15). I love this verse from Romans 15:1-3:
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
God and Anger: An Exhortation
I heard once that “the measure of a man is not in the way he treats his superiors, but the way he treats his inferiors”. Spiritually speaking, some of us are stronger than others, the Bible says. To those who are spiritually “inferior” (that is, less mature, or weaker, or newer in faith) the strong have this obligation: bear with their failings, for this mirrors Christ. Christ bore our reproaches, and we should bear one another’s sins, failures and reproaches in a similar way. Like one organism, the body of Christ is meant to build itself up, cutting away all the little tumors of anger or bitterness that appear before they cause even more damage.
By Tiffany Wismer