If we are to ever have greater success at resolving our disagreements with each other, we have to deal with the destructive anger that causes us to start disagreements, fuels the flames of opposition, and keeps us fighting each other even when we have a way out of conflict.
Dealing with this issue means that we address our anger head on, rather than trying to gloss over our rage or quick temper, or pretending the problem either does not exist or is not as bad as other people think it is. Some people deal with being disturbed by using techniques that help them to calm down. While these (and other methods like it) can sometimes help, they are only temporary solutions rather than permanent fixes to the problem. Also, they only deal with “surface issues” of the problems, rather than dealing with the “root causes” for our infuriation.
Relying on these methods also keeps us in the “cycle of conflict”, where our destructive anger and the actions that flow out of it cause us to get in conflict over and over. God does not want us to have to live this way. His desire for us is to turn to him for solutions to this problem, because he has the ability to free us from terrible consequences it has in our lives and relationships. At the Gospel of John chapter 8, verses 31-32, Jesus reveals how we gain this freedom: “ If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free “.
What Jesus is saying is that, as we receive the truth of God’s Word, that truth “transforms us” and makes us free. The truth of God’s Word is what convicts us of our anger, making it clear to us that our being upset is wrong or improper. Once we see that our being offended is unjustified, we are changed by God, as we repent (admit this destructive anger is “sin”, and we ask God, with a sincere heart, to forgive us and change us).
Before I go on, I need to tell you that the change is not all at once or instantaneous. Because most of us have been bound by our anger for a long time, getting free is a process that will take time. God desires to do a thorough, deep work in us, to bring about permanent changes in our lifestyles (See Gospel of Matthew chapter 3, verses 11-12).
I want to quickly point out some of the fruit of a changed life, the things that will happen in our lives when we hear the Word of God and allow God to change us. We stop getting disturbed for all the wrong reasons, and begin to get angry for the proper causes. Instead of remaining upset for days, months (and in some cases, for years), our justified anger lasts only for a day. The rage and fury we exhibit that caused us to yell, scream and lose control falls by the way-side, and is replaced by proper behavior that flows out of the calm and peaceful demeanor we begin to have.
As we move from being “quick tempered” to “slow to anger”, we can more effectively discuss and resolve our differences with others. We, then, also gain the ability to assist others end their strife by helping them abate their anger. Book of Proverbs chapter 15, verse 18 speaks of this: “ A wrathful man stirreth up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” .
The way that Gideon dealt with the men of Ephraim reveals how this works. When these contentious men attacked him with harsh words, he quickly abated their anger with a proper response: Now the men of Ephraim said to him, Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites ? And they did chide with him sharply. So he said to them, What have I done in comparison with you ? Is not the gleaning of grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer ? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you ? Then their anger was abated towards him, when he said that. (Book of Judges chapter 8, verses 1-2)
When we become disturbed, our anger will not control us, or keeps us from properly functioning or doing what we are supposed to do. We see how this works in an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees. The Pharisees did something to Jesus to make him very angry. But it did not cause him to lose his focused or get sidetracked. Also, instead of remaining upset for a long time, his anger lasted for a moment. After this, he quickly shifted to complete the task at hand, which was healing a man with a withered hand): “ And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto them man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other (Gospel of Mark, chapter 3, verse 5).
One of the ways that God deals with our hearts about our improper indignation is to confront us about it with challenging and convicting questions. He does this to make us think about our behavior, see that it is wrong, and be willing to be changed. Here are a few examples in scripture that show us how God does this in people lives.
Why are you angry is the question he asked Cain, when Cain because very upset when God accepted his brother Abel’s sacrifice and did not honor his: “And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry ? And why has your countenance fallen ? (Genesis chapter 4, verses 5-6). God’s goal was to calm Cain down, and to permanently deliver him from this wrath that was plaguing his life.
Are you right to be angry is the question God asked Jonah to confront Jonah about his intense anger that was hurting him: “ But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, Ah Lord God, was not this what I said when I was still in my country ? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish: for I know that you are gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. Then the Lord said, Is it right for you to be angry ? “ (Book of Jonah chapter 4, verses 1-4).
Where did you come from, and where are you going are the questions God, through an angel, asked Hagar, when her conflict with Sarah caused her to flee to the wilderness: “And he said, Hagar, Sarah’s maid, whence camest thou ? And wither wilt thou go ? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarah” (Book of Genesis chapter 16, verse 8). God asked her these questions to get her to see that it was a mistake to go into the wilderness, to get her to return home to Sarah and reconcile.
Just as God uses questions to confront us about our rage and destructive issues in us to change us or get us to change directions, the rest of this article is written to confront you about your wrath by challenging you with four critical questions which will help you identify, address and overcome any destructive anger that you have in your life.
IS YOUR ANGER JUSTIFIED?
To get us to think about this issue, God sometimes asks us “why we are angry”. This is what he did with Cain: “And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry ? And why has your countenance fallen ? (Genesis chapter 4, verses 5-6). He may also asks us are we justified to be angry, just as he did with Jonah: Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. Then the Lord said, Is it right for you to be angry ? “ (Book of Jonah chapter 4, verse 4).
God wants us to pause and consider these critical questions because our anger is sometimes justified. And sometimes it is not. The apostle Paul points this out in the Book of Ephesians chapter 4, verse 26: “Be angry, and sin not”. His words reveal that there is an anger that is “without sin”. We commonly call this righteous indignation. But there is also an anger that is caused by our sinful behavior, which is the destructive anger that we are speaking about and against in this article.
The thing that determines whether our infuriation is justified or not is whether we have a proper “motive” for being angry. Jesus points this out in his Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment (Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verse 22).
In this passage, Jesus points out that the “cause” for us being upset is critical. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for cause is EIKE (Strong’s 1500). Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon indicates that this word means inconsiderately, without purpose, without just cause. What this passage is saying is that we cannot be angry for any cause that we want. We need to have a “just cause” in the sight of God to be upset. God’s Word is the standard that we use to determine whether or not our anger is proper.
At this point, I will share with you a few scriptures to help you better understand the difference between righteous wrath and unrighteous indignation. We will start with acceptable anger. One example is when King Saul got enraged because the Ammonites were attacking Israel: “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused “ (1st Book of Samuel, chapter 11, verse 6). This was righteous because it was anger motivated by God. God influenced him to become enraged because of the unrighteous things these people were doing to the children of Israel.
A second example is when Jesus took a righteous stand against people who were using the temple for improper purposes: “And when He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business, when he had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, Take these things away ! Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise. Then his disciples remembered that it was written, zeal for your house has eaten me up (Gospel of John chapter 2, verses 14-17).
These and other passages reveal that it is proper to become disturbed when people have done wrong to us, or to point out our disapproval and address and correct wrongs and injustices. But, the wrath that is motivated by our selfishness and to pursue our own desires is often unrighteous. I want to share a few examples of the improper anger. In Cain’s case, it is clear that his becoming infuriated was unacceptable because he was upset because of his jealousy of Abel, and being offended with and bitter towards God: “ Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. (Book of Genesis chapter 4, verses 4-5).
In the case of King David’s brother Eliab, he also got indignant with David because of his jealousy and pride. Eliab was upset because the prophet Samuel had anointed David to be king, and Eliab wanted this honor for himself. This is why he called David names and attacked his character: “And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger kindled against David, and he said, Why camest down hither ? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness ? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle (1st Book of Samuel chapter 17, verse 28).
In cases like that of Eliab and Cain, it is very easy to see why their anger is unacceptable. But, in other cases, it is more difficult to distinguish between righteous and unrighteous anger. This is why we need to seek God to show us what is acceptable and what is not.
Sometimes God’s confronts us about our anger because we think we are justified to be disturbed when we are not. One of the reasons we are deceived like this is because we do not know our own hearts and how improper some of our true motives are: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it (Book of Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9). It takes the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the “true” motives of our hearts and reveal to us whether our infuriation is acceptable or not: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifested in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Book of Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12 13).
For this reason, we should ask God to search our hearts, and give us clarity on our motives and whether or not our anger is justified: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me: and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139, verses 23-24).
DOES YOUR RIGHTEOUS ANGER LAST TOO LONG?
Having righteous indignation is acceptable. But, in cases where our proper anger lasts too long, it can become sinful: “Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath” (Book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26). This means that, anger that lasts more than a day is problematic and we should do our best to try to calm down. Most married couples interpret this passage to mean that they should not go to bed angry with each other. When we are in the position where we know we have lost control and cannot calm down on our own, we should seek the immediate assistance of God to help us. If we allow ourselves to remain offended or upset, we will suffer.
King Solomon made an important declaration about allowing anger to remain with us: Be not hasty in spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. (Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 7, verse 9). The Hebrew word for resteth is NUWACH (Strong’s 5117). It means to rest, settle down, dwell, stay, remain. Solomon reveals that we are fools if we allow ourselves to remain disturbed for an extended period of time. In the natural realm, our wrath can cause us to have ulcers, depression, nervous breakdowns and other health problems. This is particularly true when we become annoyed and suppress that anger by pretending we are not upset with anyone. I witnessed the great pain and suffering that people go through when someone I know remained angry for a very long time. I knew something was terribly wrong with this person; but, I had no idea what it was that was troubling her. When I asked her about this, she admitted that she had been angry with God since her mother had died. Her mother had been dead at this point for about twenty-two years. When this young lady repented as we prayed together, she said that she felt a heavy weight lift off her shoulders. Seeing her get her freedom was a beautiful sight. But, since that day I have thought a lot about others who are suffering like she was and have not yet found their freedom. She was offended with God. But I know of others who are family members of each other who have not spoken to one another for ten, twenty and thirty years. Twenty two years is a long time to be in pain like this. Why should we hold grudges and suffer this way when God can quickly deliver us ? I ask people this question because I want them to allow God to end their suffering just as he did for my friend. Besides suffering personally, our remaining angry causes us to become bitter, resentment and even hateful towards each other. This hurts many others: “ Following peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Book of Hebrews chapter 12, verses 14-15). As the scriptures also indicate, we are not to allow ourselves to remain in this condition: “ Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Book of Ephesians chapter 4, verses 31-32).
All of this tell us that we have no right to remain offended, as so many people who have been hurt, or abused feel that they do. What we are to do is to turn to God for help, and allow him to heal us of the pain we feel from being deeply hurt or wounded by others.
IS YOUR ANGER TOO INTENSE? Dealing with Cain about his intense anger was why God questioned him about this subject. Cain had a murderous spirit controlling him. And God, who knows the beginning from the end, intervened to keep him from killing his brother Abel. Unfortunately, Cain did not listen to God and ended up slaying Abel. We will briefly look at the issue of intense anger to see other reasons why God issues a warning to us when we are plagued by this problem.
In the Bible, intense anger is described by these words: fury, rage, indignation, red-hot anger, fierce anger, kindled anger, wroth, burning anger, and wrath. People who are this upset have little or no control over their emotions or their behavior. They start fights with others: “ An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression” (Book of Proverbs, chapter 29, verse 22). They also do violence or destructive things to hurt others: “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy ?” (Book of Proverbs, chapter 27, verse 4).
King Nebuchadnezzar was a person whose intense anger plagued him and caused him to do destructive things. When things did not go his way, he would get angry and threaten people. His plan to kill the wise men who could not interpret his dream shows this: “ For this reason, the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. (Book of Daniel, chapter 2, verse 12).
We cannot afford to allow ourselves to remain this way, because the consequences for this can be severe. Book of Proverbs chapter 19, verse 19 says that “men of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again”. The need to deliver this man “again” reveals that he is suffering from the “cycle of conflict” we spoke of earlier in this article. When we do these destructive things over and over, this warns us that we will suffer because of our terrible acts.
Although this problem with intense anger plagues many people, there is hope. God is able to provide us deliverance, and He will do so if we seek him with our whole heart. I witnessed a demonstration of God’s power to do this when he delivered Thomas Adams, my father. Here is a brief version of this testimony.
In September, 2001, I began to care for my father, who had a relapse with cancer. At some time in December, 2001, every morning at about 4 am he would wake me up to ask me questions about the Bible When this pattern continued for about a week, I got the sense that we were to have a daily 4 o’clock or 4: 30 am Bible study and prayer session.
We covered different areas of the scriptures every day that we studied. But on a particular morning, for some reason I felt led to read aloud this passage at 1st Epistle Of John chapter 3, verses 11 12: “For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother righteous”.
When I finished reading this scripture, I could see that my father had something that he wanted to say. These were his words: “Lester, you see that man Cain. I get angry just like he did, and I hurt people with my anger”. His words shocked me. When this happened, I sensed that God’s conviction had come upon him, leading him to respond this way. I then, gently, said to him: “Daddy, you do not have stay angry this way. God can set you free. Do you want us to pray and ask God to set you free ?”. When my father said yes, I led him in a prayer of deliverance that took away his anger, and brought peace into his heart. After this happened, I sat amazed and pondered at what God was doing right before my eyes.
This was a very powerful work God did, because my father had been plagued with this problem for years. Sometimes he would get angry quickly, and be filled with rage or fury. In many cases, he would become very disturbed but suppress it. And, after holding in his anger for long periods of time, like five or six months, he would explode into a fit of rage. Having been on the receiving end of some of his explosions, I can tell you that it was not fun for me. When I came to understand his anger better, I could see that it was not fun for him either. After seeing him suffer like this for years, it felt really good to finally see him free.
Just as I saw how God convicted him to allow him to be free, I believe that he wants to set others free of the anger in them that hurts others. All things are possible with God. If you have a problem with your temper, you should go before God and repent now and ask him to make you free.
ARE YOU TOO QUICK TO ANGER?
God may ask you this question because he desires you to become slow to anger and to reveal to you the consequences of being quick tempered. Let’s look at being quick to anger first.
The Book Of Titus chapter 1, verse 7 points out that a leader should not be “soon to anger”. People who who get annoyed quickly generally get upset without hearing what the other person is saying. This often causes them to misjudge, misunderstand or misread what is being said or done. When we misjudge others and their actions, we often do and say improper things in response to what we perceive their actions to be. Our wrong actions make these people upset, which starts arguments and quarrels. This scriptures confirms this: “ A quick tempered man acts foolishly” (Book of Proverbs chapter14, verse 17). Proverbs chapter 14, verse 29 also confirms this: “But he that is hasty of spirit (impulsive) exaltelth folly”.
People who get angry hastily often lash out at people, and falsely accuse them of wrong behavior. This keeps them in and out of conflict. This behavior can cause relationships to suffer, and it leads people to needlessly end up in disputes that they should not have been involved in. Because of their inability to control their behavior and make proper responses, people who are quick to anger have very little ability to settle their own differences. Let’s now look at being slow to wrath.
God’s Word instructs us to be slow to anger: Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Book of James chapter 1, verses 19 20). In this passage, God makes it clear that being offended will not bring about anything productive in our lives. But, being slow to anger helps us properly deal with conflict and build good relationships.
A slow to anger person gets disturbed . But he takes a great deal of time before he gets upset because he listens to what people say and he evaluates it. This is why the Book of Proverbs chapter 14, verse 29 says, “ He who is slow to wrath has great understanding”. Such a person normally gets angry only when he has heard the facts, and believes that the situation merits his anger.
If he is in conflict with someone, he knows that the solution is to engage in discussion (See the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18, verse 15). Because he wants to deal with his conversations and conflict in a Godly fashion, he is not in a hurry to speak. He will often respond in calmer, rational tones instead of angry, harsh tones. His calm demeanor allows him to give proper answers which help him settle his differences with a person he has a disagreement with. And, if the person at odds with him is angry at him, his disposition of being slow to anger and his gentle responses may calm the other person down. Proverbs chapter 15, verse 1 indicates this: “a soft answer turns away wrath”. Proverbs chapter 15, verse 18 also confirms this: “ A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife’. This allows him to be effective at settling his differences with others.
Since being slow to anger produces all these positive and powerful things, it is no wonder that Proverbs chapter 16, verse 32 says: “ He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city”. As you can see, there is a big difference between being slow to anger and quick tempered. Since God wants all of us to become slow to anger, you should allow God to deal with your anger, to change you.
It is my hope that you find the freedom from the oppression from destructive anger that is available to us as we receive God’s Word and are changed.