Anger is a powerful force. And this world contains many angry people. It’s not just nonbelievers who experience anger and who vent their rage. Even Christians struggle with the powerful forces of anger. Anger is a rampant problem that wrecks families, harms children, tears apart churches, and divides the body of Christ. Are you an angry person?
Most people can probably identify times in their life in which they have been angry. Others can identify those things that really tick them off. We all have our areas and we all have our pet ways of responding to angry circumstances. But how do we deal with anger?
Dealing with anger doesn’t take a simple step-by-step formula. It’s not realistic to think that Christians can undergo some kind of behavior modification to get rid of sin. There is only one antidote to sin. It is the gospel. It is the good news that you’re a sinner, God loved you, Jesus came to earth to take the penalty for sin that you deserve. It’s the good news that by accepting His sacrifice for you, you can be forgiven and life a new life for Jesus.
But isn’t there such a thing as “Righteous Indignation?”
To answer that question, turn to the Bible. You’ll never find the term “righteous indignation” in the Bible. What you will find is hundreds of references to God’s anger. You will also find that Ephesians 4:26 the Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” So, is there such a thing as good anger? Sure there is. However, if you’ve have a lurking hope that your anger is a good thing, be honest with yourself. Is your anger directed toward that which God would be angry at (idolatry, rebellion, sin, etc.)? Are you expressing your anger with godly behavior? There is a reason why the Bible commands anger in the same sentence as “sin not.” Anger so easily spills over into sin.
Antidotes to Anger
Truly dealing with anger starts with the gospel. The life-changing message of God’s infinite grace must pervade our understanding of how we respond to anger in our life. As part of that, the Bible has a lot to say about about anger. Here are the ways that the Bible tells us to deal with our anger.
- Put off anger, and put on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The way that the Bible tells us to deal with symptoms of anger and malice is to put them off–just to stop doing it. But it doesn’t stop there. It also requires putting something on, since the only way to effectively to put off anything is to put something on in its place. Rather than focus on your anger, put on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
- Avoid angry people. Proverbs 22:24, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” Angry people make other angry people. You may see an example of this in the way that people respond to an angry talk-show host. If you listen to an angry talk-show host on your drive home from work, chances are you’ll come home from work frustrated and angry. The Bible instructs us not to avoid friendships with angry people, because it is a major cause of developing anger in ourselves, too.
- Realize the consequences of anger. Proverbs 29:22, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that 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. ” Anger produces strife and transgression. As you consider your anger, realize that the end of anger is usually sin. That’s why Jesus tells us that anger must be met with judgment.
- Ask God for the wisdom to be slow to anger (Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 14:29, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Proverbs 16:32, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Wise people are slow to anger. The Bible calls it “good sense” and “great understanding.” It’s wisdom to be slow to anger. God promises that He will give us the wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5-8).
- Be slow to speak and slow to anger (Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” James 1:19-20, “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.” Contrary to pop psychology, the way to handle anger is not by safely giving vent–hitting something with a foam bat or screaming into a pillow. Instead, the Bible tells us that a soft answer turns away from wrath–in you and in whomever may be angry with you. Rather than cutting loose with angry gestures and cuss words, speak softly. Pray.
- Walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:18-24 “Now the works of the flesh are…fits of anger…and things like these….But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” etc.” The fruits of the Spirit produces behavior that is contrary to anger. Walk in the Spirit, and by doing so, your life will be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- Rest in God’s sovereignty (1 Timothy 2:8, “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.” Perhaps one of the most reassuring and comforting attributes of God is His sovereignty–the biblical truth of God’s control, arrangement, and loving direction of everything that happens. If you look at your anger through the lens of God’s sovereignty, it begins to look very small. Rather than stare down at the little things that make you angry, look up at the majestic sovereignty and character of God. It really puts things into perspective. Pray–the honest acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty–is the way to see God in this way. As James 1:19 says, it allows us to “pray, lifting holy hands without anger.”
Rely on God’s grace. Eph. 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” We are saved by grace and we are sanctified by grace. As discussed above, fighting anger isn’t something we can accomplish on our own. It’s part of submitting to God’s marvelous grace–His unmerited favor toward us.