Observers are explaining our current crazy politics in terms of anger. One writer said that hope fed the campaign of Barack Obama in 2008 and anger has shaped the current election season. “A lot of voters are angry. Very angry,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz wrote in a recent analysis. “Now voter ire appears to be shaping both parties’ 2016 presidential nomination races.”
Much closer to our own lives, we say of an angry man, “Wow, he is really mad!” Rage can, and sometimes does, make a person temporarily mad, out of their mind. It is like a fire that escapes boundaries that burns down the house! Do you ever get so frustrated by life that you start to smolder?
Anger that is left unresolved, that is allowed to burn out of control will destroy us – burning our relationships with others, making ashes of our faith in God, and charring our self-image. Anger conceals itself under layers of excuses (I’m just so tired right now, I’m a little on edge!). It burns behind justification (If anybody else had to deal with my life right now, they would be angry, too!). It even can be hidden from the person who is enraged by denial (What is the matter with YOU? I’m NOT angry!). Anger wears many disguises. Some rename their anger to make it more acceptable. “I’m not angry, just upset.” Anger does make us ‘upset’ but call it what it is. We might say, “I’m indignant.” There are plenty of situations where we are manipulated, frustrated, or abused that can make us indignant, but it is still anger.
So, is this strong emotional, so often expressed in negative ways, always a ‘bad’ thing?
Anger is a legitimate human emotion. A person who is incapable of anger can become a victim. He will be passive when action is needed. Anger is useful in stirring up the courage needed to start to make change, to right wrongs, to seek justice. Apathy ( to be “without feelings”) leaves us half-dead! The problem with a lot of our anger is that it is about misplaced focus on the Self. Self-love can fuel an explosive rage when life is not what we want it to be, when people won’t do what we want them to do, when God just won’t let us live as we desire. That ungodly anger is destructive precisely because it is selfish.
Godly people will become passionate when the weak are abused, when others are oppressed or robbed of their dignity. That passion may find itself expressed in anger. Actions that diminish God’s honor or that potentially harm those He loves will cause His people to rise up with anger to take corrective anger– and rightly so! That was shown powerfully in Jesus’ angry display at those profiting from Temple worship by selling in the courtyards of the Lord’s house.
However, the Bible warns us of the potential for danger that accompanies anger. The Scripture says, …”don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26, NLT) Two things are important about anger’s limits:
– we must not lose rational control over anger, for then it morphs into rage which is always destructive! And,
– anger must have limits. We can’t just ‘stay mad’ for days on end. Unresolved anger eats away at us – body and soul.
Is there anger smoldering just below the surface of your life?
Are you trying to deny it, or call it something other than what it really is?
How can we put out the fire of anger?
First of all, we must face the facts, without excuse. It’s hard to say aloud – “I am angry at God. I don’t like this situation. Life feels out of control.” However, that kind of honest confession starts a process of healing, freeing the Spirit to help us deal with our anger. Admitting that you are really angry with your wife or child can be difficult, too. Once in open, we have to do something with it. But, once we start, we can find a way to resolve the conflict or, failing that, we can work on acceptance. Both involve ‘dying to self.‘ Ugh, nobody enjoys that!
Second, there is repentance. Naming our rage as the sin that it is will lead us to turn from it and to God. That repentance brings a choice to change. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31, NIV)
Third, there is submission to God. When we surrender to God’s will we pour water on the fire of rage. When we finally step down from the need to be ‘in charge’ and invite the Holy Spirit to direct, accepting each day as an opportunity to see His grace at work in us and through us, the fire goes out. It is replaced by the sweet peace of knowing His care.
Here’s a word to think on today: “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.“(Proverbs 14:29, The Message)