Anger is what we feel when we could easily say with our words, “I am against that.” God created us as people who are capable of feeling, expressing, and acting in anger. However, many of us fear that our expressions of anger hurt more than they help. Many people make it their goal to avoid feeling anger altogether, by avoiding conversations or circumstances that trigger negative and angry emotional responses.
If we embrace the Bible’s teaching about anger, we must learn to express anger in its proper place: a place that honors God while loving others and reflecting his heart. The following biblical truths about anger should shape your understanding of how to express anger in healthy ways.
#1 – Anger is a gift from God for our good.
If you struggle to think about anger as good, it is likely because negative feelings and destructive outcomes often follow intense feelings of anger. As Christians, we have often heard teaching about anger equating it with other serious sins and assume that it must be avoided at all costs. However, demonizing the emotion of anger as always wrong is an unbiblical imbalance that needs more careful thought.
Every emotion is a gift from God to help us feel and express our beliefs and experiences. Anger is our God-given response to injustice. If we are to imitate God’s heart as we live in this world, we must experience anger because we will certainly encounter injustice.
Consider what might be the right response to the following situations of injustice:
- The wife who finds out her husband is cheating and living a double life with a woman from work.
- The middle-schooler dealing with the crushing weight of online cyber-bullying over their appearance.
- The boss feeling betrayal as a star employee starts a competing business down the street after whispering in the ear of nearly every customer.
- The college student whose immigration visa and graduate school dreams were unfairly rejected upending their whole life plan.
These painful scenarios reflect the reality that we’ll experience sins of injustice, wrongdoing, and even cruelty. We don’t need to suppress angry feelings, but we do need to evaluate the feelings and respond biblically.
#2 – Anger is important because it magnifies our true heart condition.
Perhaps you never thought about anger like this – but our anger is the clearest window into the health of our spiritual heart, which is most important to God and others. In biblical terms, our heart is our inner man, and through it flow all of the spiritual, relational, cognitive, and emotional parts of man. In fact, Jesus taught that every word, action, thought, and feeling flow directly through and from our hearts.
Anger is really about your worship and trust. Whatever our heart loves we will worship, and who we worship, we will trust to deliver our hearts desires. If we worship and trust self or others, we will experience anger when we are let down by others or ourselves. Our anger is an opportunity to turn to God for what we truly need.
Have you ever noticed that two people can have the same negative experience and respond completely differently? One person triumphs over trouble, and another spirals into self-destructive patterns and outbursts of anger. While it may feel like trouble and anger is something that comes to us from the outside, the truth is that anger will always reflect the beliefs and motivations of our heart. Our anger comes from within us as our desires war with the unwanted circumstances around us. No one makes you angry; it results from your beliefs and desires.
When we mistakenly believe that anger happens to us, our approach is most often to seek to change the circumstances around us. If we change jobs, spouses, neighborhoods, or routines, we hope we won’t be so angry. However, attempts at anger management ultimately fail to do anything more than mitigate some of the destructive habits that we used to pursue in our anger. It changes our focus for a season, but our desires and beliefs seem to always rise back to the surface.
#3 – We sin in anger, because we are sinful, not because anger is sinful.
We can demonize the emotion of anger or simply resolve to avoid it, but we fail to remember that God gave emotions so we can feel the way that he feels about the circumstances in our life. Sadness, happiness, anger, fear, and disappointment all have a purpose in God’s design. We need not fear or demonize the emotions themselves, but rather we need to learn to express them in the right ways, at the right time, for the right purposes. We struggle with anger because we are sinful people in need of change to be more of the people that God wants us to be.
Rather than thinking of every expression of anger as either right or wrong, we should recognize that we have a variety of motivations in nearly every choice we make. We aren’t just motivated by one thing, so it is possible to have anger that is both right and wrong at the same time. I may be selfishly angry that I am being overlooked in my marriage, but also truly desiring to be close to my spouse and have a better marriage. Some part of our anger is almost always wrong because we are that sinful and far from God’s heart. As we mature in our walk, we realize we are the “worst of sinners” but also that God will be “faithful to finish” what he started.
In Part 2 of this article, we discuss two more powerful truths that can help us deal with our anger. We all fail in our anger, but God’s grace is greater still. We can learn to express our anger in constructive ways or we can destroy others in our anger. We need to learn how to express our anger the right way, like the good gift from God that it is.