Why Are You Angry?
Can you remember the last you got really mad? What was it that upset you? Anger is common emotion that humans feel living in a fallen and broken world. We are oftnened angered by some injustice or wrong done to us or done to another. Or we are angered simply by us not getting our way or by circumstances not turning out like we expected. Anger can be fatally destructive if it’s not handled appropriatley or it can a helpful indicator in discovering what’s not right within us or around us.
The first place we see destructive anger in the Bible is in Genesis chapter four after Cain and Abel had both offered a sacrifice to God. God looked favorably upon the sacrifice of Abel and didn’t regard Cain’s sacrifice for some reason. Perhaps Cain didn’t offer his best offering to God in faith. We know that Abel offered his sacrifice in faith (Hebrews 11:4) and it appears that he offered his very best, the firstborn from his flock (Genesis 4:4). This angered Cain that his offering wasn’t regarded as his brothers was. God addressed Cain and said “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” (Genesis 4:6 ESV). God directed Cain to examine himself and discover the underlying reason for his anger. God also warned Cain of the danger of sin lurking if he didn’t resolve his anger appropriately. There was something good and right about Abel that irked Cain because there something wrong within him. It seems that jealousy and anger mixed together was a destructive combination when left unresolved.
The Apostle John shed light on this when he wrote:
“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 1 John 3:12 ESV
Anger can often reveal something that is not right within us. Jesus expounded on the sixth commandment you shall not murder and said:
“…everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:22 ESV
So lingering anger within us is a serious issue that must be examined and resolved. I wonder how people are locked up behind bars because they allowed anger to get control of them.
Jonah’s story is another example of anger being an indicator of needed heart maintenance. God called him to preach a message to Nineveh and He ran from God’s presence and His marching order. Jonah went AWOL. After some loving fatherly discipline being sent to a 3 day time out in the belly of a great fish, Jonah then preached the message God gave him and he waited for Nineveh to perish. Lo and behold just as Jonah had suspected God showed them mercy to Nineveh by sparing their city. This angered Jonah so much that he threw temper tantrum. While Jonah was seething with anger God and loathing his life God said to him: “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah 4:4 ESV
Jonah knew that God is gracious, merciful and slow to anger but he was resisting alignment with God’s character. Jonah sought to reserve the right to be angry. From his perspective Nineveh should not have been shown grace and mercy and this ticked him off. Merely knowing that God is gracious, merciful and slow to anger won’t necessarily mean change in us. But rather when we adore God and treasure Him for these characteristics then we will begin to bear the marks of them more and more in our lives. Jonah had room to grow in his relationship with God and in his ministry. His reluctance to obey God, lack of compassion for the Ninehvites and seething anger revealed areas in his heart that were not right and didn’t reflect the heart of God.
Anger can be a revealing indicator that something is wrong within us. I liken our human emotions to the lights on the dashboard of your car. When your gas is low it’s time to fill up. When your oil light comes on it’s time to change the oil. When the check engine light is on it’s time to bring in a mechanic. The emotion of anger is often a helpful indicator that it’s time to look under the hood and ask God to search our hearts to find any hurtful way in us (Psalm 139:23-24).
Ed Welch in his book Side By Side wrote that our emotions “usually proceed from our hearts, are given shape by our bodies, reflect the qualities of our relationships, bear the etchings of both the goodness and meaninglessness of work, provide a peek into how we fare in the spiritual battle, and identify what we realy believe about God”
While emotions aren’t to steer and drive the trajectory of our lives they let us know when it’s time to look under the hood of our hearts. I have a friend who drove his vehicle 30,000 miles without changing the oil. He damaged that ride by simply not changing the oil. Our hearts and lives need on going care and maintenance. Many of us live such fast paced lives that we rarely give sufficient time to reflect on where we are emotionally and spiritually. And our emotional life is much more intricately connected to our spiritual life then many people realize.
Eugene Peterson eloquently And insightfully wrote about the emotion of anger that Jonah manifested:
“Anger is most useful as a diagnostic tool. When anger erupts in us, it is a signal that something is wrong. Something isn’t working right. There is evil or incompetence or stupidity in the neighborhood. Diagnostically it is virtually infallible, and we learn to trust it… What anger fails to do, though, is tell us whether the wrong is outside or inside us. We usually begin by assuming that the wrong is outside of us—our spouse or our child or our God has done something wrong, and we are angry. That is what Jonah did, and he quarreled with God. But when we track anger carefully, we often find it leads to a wrong within us— wrong information, inadequate understanding, undeveloped heart.”
So ask yourself the next time you get angry. Why am I angry? Here are some diagnostic questions with Scriptures to reflect on as you seek to discover and resolve what’s going on under the hood in your heart:
- Does your angry have more to do with the plans and purposes of God or are you angry about your own plans and earthly pleasures (see James 4:1)?
- Are you angry because of unrealistic or unbiblical expectations of others or towards yourself (see Matthew 23:4)?
- Are you angry because your trying to do too much in your own strength (see 1 Corinthians 15:10, 1 Peter 4:10-11)?
- Are you angry because your not getting proper rest, solitude and the spiritual and physical nutrition that you need (see Matthew 11:29-30, John 6:35)?
- Are you angry because you haven’t taken time to talk to someone about your pain and struggle that you are currently experiencing (See Galatians 6:1-2)?
- Are you angry because you think God should have prevented something, provided something and did something different then what actually happened (see Psalm 22:1-5)?
- Are you angry because you feel rejected, hurt and neglected by someone close that has failed to love you (See Isaiah 53:3-5)?
- Are you angry because you just can’t see any way that things are going to get better (See 2 Corinthians 1:8-11)?
- Do you have overwhelming pressures of responsibilities that you need to ask others or God for help with (Romans 15:1-3)?
- Do you feel angry because your not seeing the bigger picture (Jonah 4:9-11)?
- Are you angry because you feel misunderstood and inaccurately judged (see 1 Corinthians 4:3-5)
- Are you angry because you are unable to identify and articulate what’s goin on inside of you (see Psalm 139:23-24)?
The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians Christians to manage their anger in this way:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:26, 31 ESV
So don’t allow anger linger within you and don’t let it lead you to sin. Put it away. But you may ask how do “put away” anger I feel towards another person. The next verse tells us how:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Treat others the way Christ has treated you. We had the wrath of God upon our lives until we turned to Christ in repentance and in faith (John 3:26). Jesus forgave us not because we deserved it or earned but simply because of His grace and kindness. Jesus bore on himself the wrath of God directed towards sinners when He died upon the cross (Romans 5:6-10). God’s wrath for our sin was satisfied and your anger against others who have sinned against you can be brought to the cross and resolved there as well. You can forgive others because Christ has graciously forgiven you. You can be free from anger dominating your life because of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Slow Down & Listen
Often we get angry because to jump to conclusions in certain situations. If we are going to address our angry in a healthy way then we need to heed the extortion of James:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20 ESV
You can avoid outbursts of wrath by simply pausing to hear what others have to say about a situation, especially when you pause and pray to hear God’s accurate perspective. Being quick to listen and slow to speak will tremendously help you be slow to anger, like our Heavenly Father who is slow to anger. I’ve often brought to the attention of my children that they have two ears and one mouth by God’s design. So we should listen twice as much as we speak. By listening we gain wisdom and perspective that we need to make the best and right decisions (Proverbs 2:1-5). If we allow anger to dominate our lives it won’t lead to doing what’s right. The “anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”. It’s foolish to neglect addressing anger our lives. We would do well to head the wisdom of Solomon who wrote:
- “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV
- “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” Proverbs 29:22 ESV
Knowing that anger can be so destructive we must not only resolve it but we must seek to refrain from it, as David wrote:
- “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Psalms 37:8 ESV
And remember this nugget of wisdom when your around others who are letting angry get the best of them:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 ESV
Answering the angry person softly with grace with keep you from adding fuel to the fire of their anger and stir you to anger. Too many people have lost their lives because they didn’t heed the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1. Life is too short to allow anger to hinder you from enjoying the good gifts of God. So purpose to resolve your anger with the help that the gospel provides and refrain from anger and respond with gentleness to the angry person. Do this all with the help of the Holy Spirit brings about in our lives the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
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