Getting upset is something we all do. It’s a part of our humanity. Because our anger causes us to start and stir up strife, and do destructive things to others, we need to address and resolve our rage quickly.
Some people deal with anger by using techniques to calm down. While these methods (and others like it) can sometimes help, they are only temporary solutions that deal with “surface issues.” God, who knows the heart of man, and how it causes us to get infuriated with each other, gives us permanent solutions or “deliverance,” by dealing with the “root causes” for our wrath.
At the Gospel of John chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus speaks about how he gives us freedom and deliverance from our anger when we consistently walk in the truth of his Word (the scriptures): “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
To deliver us from destructive anger, Jesus “convicts us” (confronts us about) of the things in our hearts that cause us to get angry and start fights. As he points out and identifies these wrong things (sins) in us, he wants us to repent (ask him to forgive us) of these things. When we repent of these things, God forgives us, cleanses us and changes us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st Epistle John chapter 1, verse 9).
THE CHANGE IN US
I want to point out some of the permanent changes God brings about in us over time as we allow God to deal with us about our destructive anger.
We stop getting disturbed for all the wrong reasons and get upset for just causes.
Instead of remaining upset for days, months (and sometimes, for years), we stay angry for a short time.
Instead of yelling, screaming and losing control, we are much calmer and have more control over our emotions.
We also go from being “quick-tempered” to “slow to anger.” As we yield to God, and God changes us, we can more effectively discuss and resolve our disagreements. We can also help others calm down and end their conflict. Proverbs chapter 15, verse 18 speaks of this: “A wrathful man stirs up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeases strife.”
Also, when we become disturbed at others, our anger will not control us, keep us from properly functioning, or hinder us from doing what God wants us to do.
The way God confront us about our anger is by asking us challenging and convicting questions. God makes us think about our behavior so that we can see that it is wrong and that we will be willing to allow God to change us. Here are a few examples in scriptures that show us how God does this in people lives.
When Cain got furious because God accepted his brother Abel’s sacrifice and did not honor his, God questioned him about his anger: “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).
When Jonah became incensed at God, God confronted Jonah about his intense anger: “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). Again, God asked him a probing question so he could see he was wrong to be upset.
Just as God uses questions to confront us about our anger and rage to change us, I want to point out 4 critical questions that God asks you to help you identify, address and overcome your destructive anger so you can repent and God can change you. These questions are based on what the scriptures say about what causes us to be upset.
IS YOUR ANGER JUSTIFIED?
When God confronted Jonah about his anger, he asked Jonah was his anger justified: “Is it right for you to be angry ?” (Jonah chapter 4, verse 4).
God asked Jonah this probing question to get him to calm down. He also wanted him to see it was wrong for him to be angry.
Just as God asked Jonah if it was proper for him to be angry, we need to ask God to reveal to us if our anger is warranted, because sometimes our anger is justified and sometimes it is not. At Matthew 5, verse 22, Jesus points out that we must have a valid (just) cause to be angry for our anger to be justified: “ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.”
An example in the Bible where righteous anger is displayed is in the 1st Book of Samuel, chapter 11, verse 6, when the Holy Spirit led King Saul to get 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. “
Cain’s anger was unrighteous because it was motivated by his jealousy of Abel. He got furious at Abel and God when God honored Abel’s sacrifice and did not respect his. Job chapter 5, verse 2 is a scripture that points out how wrong and destructive our jealousy is: “For wrath kills the foolish man, and envy slays the silly one.”
Jonah’s anger was unjust because Jonah was bitter at God for extending mercy to the Assyrians, people that Jonah hated.
When we pray and ask God if our anger is justified, we also need to ask God to identify our motive or “why” we get angry so that we can repent and God can fully deal with our hearts about our anger issues. At Genesis chapter 4, verses 5-6, God confronted Cain about why he was upset: Why are you angry ? And why has your countenance fallen ?
We need for God to identify for us and show us “why” we get angry because there are reasons or “sin areas” at the root of our anger (such as pride, lust, envy, hatred, resentment, greed, selfishness, etc…). At Psalm 139, verse 23-24, the Psalmist asked God to search his heart to point out his sins: “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.”
We need to have God identify our problems for us because we cannot accurately identify them ourselves. Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9 indicates that we do not know our hearts and when our motives are improper: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it.”
In some cases our hearts and minds deceive us. We think we are justified to be disturbed when we are not.
Our heart is like a tree with branches. Our anger is often a branch of the tree, with some sin area (or areas) being the root or cause for why we get infuriated. So, if we repent only of our anger, we are dealing with the branches, and we are not fully resolving the problem because branches of anger that we cut off can re-grow.
When these branches re-grow, it means that we continue to do the same things that make us angry over and over. To gain full deliverance over our anger, we must deal with the “root” or what is causing us to become furious.
DOES YOUR ANGER LAST TOO LONG?
This is important for us to consider because God’s word places a time limit on how long our anger is supposed to last. Anger that lasts more than a day is unacceptable in God’s eyes. Ephesians 4, verses 26-27 points this out: “Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath. Neither give place to the devil.”
This means we should not go to bed angry with anyone. This one-day limit also applies when our anger is warranted. We have no right to say, “Because I am justified to be angry, I can remain angry as long as I want.”
If we have been angry more than a day, God wants us to repent of our anger and let it go. If we cannot calm ourselves down, God wants us to seek his immediate help.
If we allow ourselves to remain offended or upset, we will suffer.
At Ecclesiastes chapter 7, verse 9, King Solomon points out how foolish we are if we allow our anger to remain in us: “Be not hasty in spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”
Hebrew word for resteth is NUWACH (Strong’s 5117). It means to rest, settle down, dwell, stay, remain. This speaks of anger that stays with us a long time.
We are foolish to remain infuriated or irritated because it can cause us to have health problems, such as ulcers, depression, and nervous breakdowns.
I witnessed the great suffering people endure when someone I know remained angry for a very long time. One day, I noticed something was troubling her. When I asked her what upset her, she admitted 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 she felt a heavy weight lift off her shoulders. Seeing her get her freedom was a beautiful sight.
Since the day of my friend’s deliverance 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 have not spoken to family members 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.
When we remain angry, we also become bitter and resentful towards each other. This causes us to hurt many other people: “ 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).
According to the scriptures, we are not to allow ourselves to remain bitter: “ 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 tells us we have no right to remain offended, as so many people who have been hurt, or abused feel they do. We are 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?
When God confronted Cain about his anger, we know he was dealing with him about the intensity of his anger because he said to him, “Why are you wroth” (Genesis chapter 4, verse 6). The word “wroth” means Cain’s anger was very intense: “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Genesis chapter 4, verse 5).
God convicts us of the intensity of our anger to get us to calm down and immediately repent so that he can deliver us. We will look at intense anger to see how it operates and its destructive nature.
In the Bible, these words describe intense anger: fury, rage, indignation, red-hot anger, fierce anger, kindled anger, wroth, burning anger, and wrath. People who are this upset have little 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).
Such fury caused Cain to kill his brother Abel: “And Cain talked with Abel, his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”(Genesis chapter 4, verse 8).
King Nebuchadnezzar also had intense anger that plagued him and caused him to do destructive things. When things did not go his way, he got angry and threatened people. When his wise men could not interpret his dream, he planned to kill them: “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 infuriated because the consequences can be severe. Book of Proverbs chapter 19, verse 19 says “men of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.”
Men who regularly get furious will suffer great punishment because the terrible things they do (like assaulting and killing others) are crimes that will cause them to go to prison. The fact that these men need to be delivered “again” reveals that they cannot control or stop their behavior. They will do these destructive things over and over.
Although this problem with intense anger plagues many people, there is hope. God can deliver us, and He will do so if we seek him with our whole heart. I witnessed God do this when he delivered Thomas Adams, my father. Here is a brief version of this testimony.
In September 2001, I cared for my father, who had a relapse with cancer. In December 2001, at about 4 am every morning, he would wake me up to ask me questions about the Bible. When my father did this for about a week, we started having a daily Bible study and prayer session each morning.
We covered different areas of the scriptures every day. On a particular morning, I 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”.
After I read this scripture, I could see my father had something 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 God’s conviction had come upon him, leading him to respond this way. I then, gently, said to him: “Daddy, you do not have to 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 mighty work God did because this problem plagued my father 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, it was not fun for me. When I understood his anger better, I saw it was not fun for him either. After seeing him suffer like this for years, it felt terrific to see him free finally.
Just as I saw how God convicted him and allowed him to be free, I believe 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.
DO YOU GET ANGRY TOO QUICKLY?
God may ask you this question because he desires to transform us from being “quick to wrath” to being “slow to anger.” He wants to set us free because having a “quick temper” leads us to do very destructive things. As we repent of getting angry “too quickly,” God’s deliverance and transformation take place in us.
Let’s first look at being quick to anger and its consequences. People 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 inappropriate things in response to what we perceive their actions to be. Our wrong actions upset people, and they start arguments and quarrels. This scripture confirms this: “ A quick-tempered man acts foolishly” (Book of Proverbs chapter 14, verse 17). Proverbs chapter 14, verse 29 also confirms this: “But he that is hasty of spirit (impulsive) exalteth folly.”
Our quick temper also causes us to act on impulse and do violent things to others. I believe this is what caused Cain to kill Abel: “And Cain talked with Abel, his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew “ (Genesis chapter 4, verse 8).
People who get angry hastily often lash out at people, and falsely accuse them of wrong behavior. This behavior causes their relationships to suffer, and they end up in disputes they should not have been involved in. Because they lack the ability to control their behavior, people who are quick to anger cannot 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 appropriately 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 typically gets angry only when he has heard the facts, and he believes the situation merits his anger.
If he conflicts with someone, he knows that engaging in discussion is the solution (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 with calmer, rational words 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, 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.”
Since being slow to anger produces all these positive and mighty 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 the Bible says that God wants all of us to become slow to anger, perhaps these words will allow all of us to handle emotions and our clients' emotions more productively.
I hope you find the freedom from the oppression of destructive anger that is available to you. I also hope you can use this insight with your clients when their anger intensifies.