How Do You Deal With Anger?March 1, 2021 Save Article
If a Christian has a problem with anger, it may be hard to admit. We like to think we could never have out-of-control or unjustified anger. Though it’s often a problem, sometimes anger isn’t sinful. How can we know when it is and when it isn’t sinful? This study will shine some light on this tricky issue.
"The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass" (Proverbs 19:11-12).
Today we’re seeing outbursts of anger, both in our nation and around the world, beyond anything we can recall in our lifetimes. Bombings, rioting, looting, a spike in the murder rate, and even terrorist attacks. Some of this anger is rooted in world events beyond our control, but much is homegrown, right within our hearts. God has a lot to say about anger, and not all anger is bad. The Lord Jesus Himself became angry when it was merited. But ungodly anger is destructive. It harms everyone in its path. As believers, we have to learn to govern our emotions so our anger isn’t a stumbling block for His kingdom.
As we study what the Bible has to say about anger, we need to learn these four basic principles.
Sudden anger must be controlled.
If you pride yourself in having a short fuse, you'd better be careful. Proverbs 14:17 says, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly.”
Some people are like loaded shotguns with hair triggers. Anytime they’re jostled, they blast away. They make excuses: “It just runs in the family,” “It only lasts a minute.” So did last week’s tornado, but crews are still out cleaning up the wreckage. Wise people do not fly off the handle.
Do you put your mouth into action before your brain is in gear? God is blunt with His assessment of that: He says you’re a fool. In fact, to be honest, Proverbs 29:20, which we’ll look at in a minute, says you don't even come up to being a fool.
Proverbs 25:8 advises, “Do not go hastily to court…” More literally that translates: “Don’t be so hasty to take someone to court.” It continues, “For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame?” In other words, have you thought this through? Do you have a plan to resolve conflict? You're about to start something you can't finish. When you put your mouth into action before your brain is in gear, you're going to be in a heap of trouble.
- When you get angry, do you lose your temper—or perhaps, find it? Look at these verses on anger, all from the book of Proverbs. What does each verse say to you?
Ouch. That last one stings.
- If you fly off the handle in an unguarded moment, what are some of the things you might lose?
- In contrast, Isaiah 53:7 looks ahead and describes the actions of the Lord Jesus during the most painful moments of His ministry on Earth. Look it up. How did Jesus respond to the people mistreating Him?
- Have you been in a situation in which someone else’s anger made you uncomfortable or even afraid? Describe what that was like.
Only you can control your emotions. You must not love your anger and hold on to it. You must deal with any sudden outbursts of anger.
To control our anger, first, we need to confess we have an anger problem. But we don’t want to admit it. “Who? Sweet little me?” You may say you’re not angry, but you are. If you repress anger, it’s like taking a burning wastebasket, setting it in a closet, and closing the door. It may burn the house down.
Or maybe you express anger, but it’s not handled properly. Your stomach is keeping score. Adrenalin starts pumping, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten.
When “a wrathful man stirs up strife” (Proverbs 15:18) that explosion of anger will harm his Christian testimony quicker than anything. Angry outbursts invariably cause strife.
Don’t let your life be at the mercy of any rascal who can make you angry. No one but you can control your emotions. Bring them to the Lord and say, “There's something moving in me I don't like.” Tell Him about it. He already knows anyway. Open the closet door and say, “There it is, Lord, my wastebasket, and I set it on fire.”
When you feel anger rising, take time to consider what's behind it, what’s at the root, making you angry, so you don't go off half-cocked. Ask the Lord, “Show me,” and He will.
- Do those closest to you, such as your family members, think you have an anger problem?
- Do people tiptoe around you sometimes? Do you remember what triggered a time like that?
If you want to get into trouble, just be one of those quick-to-anger people.
“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11).
Sometimes people will claim, “I don’t know what comes over me. I can't control it.” Oh yes, you can. You’ve been in a situation where you’re in an argument and suddenly someone comes to the door or calls your phone, and with a quick, 180o change in your voice, you answer sweetly, “Hellooo.” You can contain your anger when you want to badly enough.
Sinful anger must be condemned.
We need to slow down and control our anger long enough to find out whether it’s righteous or sinful. If it’s sinful, we need to deal with it firmly, reject it, and repent of it. Unjustified, sinful anger is not weakness; it’s wickedness. God will not accept an alibi for sin. Condemn it and repent of it.
What is sinful anger?
Anger without a cause
Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
Many times the problem is not what someone else has done, but the sin in our own lives—our own frustration and lack of peace. But we focus our anger on someone or something else.
Anger centered on a person rather than an offense
Sometimes we’re so angry at someone, we hate the person rather than what the person has done. That's sinful anger. It burns and desires revenge.
“An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
Anger that will not forgive
People often cherish their sinful anger, hold onto it, and store it up in their hearts. We must not stir it or store it up. We have to deal with it as we would any other sin—in repentance, turning from it.
- This is a good place to stop and take inventory. When you think of the last time you were really angry, was there another person involved? If so, write down the person’s name and what happened.
- Why did this trigger an angry response? Don’t state the obvious reason, but look below the surface. Why did that specific incident elicit such a reaction? Continue that inward look until you get to the root of the offense.
- Talk to the Lord about it. Your emotion may be justified, or it may not. Either way, have you forgiven, or do you still harbor resentment against the person?
Stubborn anger must be conquered.
“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11).
A smart person doesn’t get mad quickly.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
God wants you to be victorious. To conquer that anger is better than to take a city. Alexander the Great conquered the world, but he wasn't able to conquer himself.
You were meant to rule your spirit, not the other way around. God has given you the ability to overcome. It will be a genuine victory when we learn to forgive and pass beyond it, but some people don't seem to be able to do that. Some have been angry over an issue for years—even decades. You were never meant to be ruled by your anger. Instead, you were designed to rule it.
One practical way to do that is to follow Paul’s warning in Ephesians 4:26-27, which teaches, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”
- Have the first six words of verse 26 seemed impossible to you? How can we be angry but at the same time not sin? This is a direct quote of King David’s words in Psalm 4:4. Here are several ways this part of v.26 has been translated:
Don’t get so angry that you sin.
When you are angry, don’t let that anger make you sin.
If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin.
In your anger, do not sin.
Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin.
When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin.
What new understanding do you have of this verse?
- This command first appears in Psalm 4:4 as “Be angry, and do not sin.” Here is how Psalm 4:4 has been translated:
Stand in awe, and sin not.
Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin.
Each of you had better tremble and turn from your sins.
Be moved with anger, and sin not.
You may be upset, but do not sin.
When you are disturbed, do not sin.
Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
What do you see here about the balance of anger and not sinning?
These varied translations of Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 help us get a more complete picture of the full meaning of “Be angry, and do not sin.” Now it doesn’t seem so out of reach.
- In your own words, what is God, through David and the Apostle Paul, saying in Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26?
“Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” is another way of saying, “Don’t go to bed angry.” When you do, you're giving the devil a toehold of stubborn anger.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says,
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…
Paul is saying we’re in a war. If you haven’t known it before, you know it now: a follower of Christ can’t live long on this earth without coming under attack from the forces of Satan. Verse 5 has important battle instructions for us.
- Where is the center of the battle?
- Why is it important to control our emotions?
- What does it mean to “give place to the devil”? (Ephesians 4:27)
When you “let the sun go down on your anger,” that is, when you live with your anger, you've opened the door to the devil. When a husband and wife get into an argument, if instead of kneeling by the bed and getting right with God and one another, they “let the sun go down on their wrath,” they’ve given an open invitation to the devil to come in, wreck their home, and ruin their testimony.
Don’t give the devil a foothold or even a toehold. He stands ready to come in and set up camp in your home. Stubborn anger is his campground.
When you open this door, Satan has six steps to destroy you with. Ephesians 4:31 names them: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
These are the downward steps Satan has planned for you.
1. Bitterness – that feeling of resentment when someone has wronged you or you think they've wronged you. Your heart becomes bitter.
"…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:15).
If you’ve ever tried to rid your lawn of dandelions, you know that pulling the tops off absolutely won’t work. Below ground, there’s a root about as long and sometimes as thick as a carrot. If you don’t dig deep and get that subterranean root completely out, you’ve wasted your time.
This is what it’s like to rid your heart of bitterness. If you leave it there, it becomes…
2. Wrath – A slow burn starts, and bitterness begins to burn.
3. Anger – Wrath is on the inside, but anger is open and outward. Those smoldering rags in the attic of your mind now burst into flames. Anger is out in the open.
4. Clamor – Anger now becomes vocal, loud, often shouting. When we lift our voices that way, it quickly becomes…
5. Evil-speaking – Open hostility breaks out. We begin saying things we don’t really mean and never intended to say, but we begin to verbalize them because bitterness turned to wrath, then anger, then clamor, and now evil-speaking.
6. Malice – This is the last step down. Now you want to hurt someone. If you can’t hurt them physically with your fists, you’ll hurt them some other way. This is often where it becomes violent: a parent will slap a child or a husband will abuse his wife. Someone goes for a weapon.
The devil is grinning, and you are the one who invited him in to wreck your home, your relationships, and even your health. You gave a place to the devil because you let the sun go down on your wrath and that smoldering anger began taking its toll.
Hebrews 12:15 has already told us exactly what the devil wants to do: hurt us, harm us, wreck us, destroy our testimony.
If stubborn anger is to be conquered, how can we conquer it?
Analyze what brought you to this point. Trace it back. Ask, “Why am I such an angry person?” Find that root of bitterness, admit it and confess it.
Repent of it.
Are you willing to put it away? If not, forget it—God isn’t going to do it for you. The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means a change of mind. You turn around and say, “I reject it. I don’t want it.” Choose against it, then determine you will be done with it. No one can do that for you but you.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Put him out. You gave the devil a place. Now take it back. Tell him, “Devil, I gave you a place and I'm taking it back. The blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed that, and you no longer have a place in my life, my home, or my family. Out you go in the name of Jesus.”
Rely on the Holy Spirit.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). He is there, giving you the power to do as He commands. Then you will be able to… “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Some of you have been angrily holding a grudge for a long time. Quit it. It’s not worth it.
Sanctified anger Is to be channeled.
Some anger isn’t sinful at all. Sanctified anger is real. It does exist. It’s alright to be angry about certain things. If there aren’t things that move you to anger, something’s wrong with you. Jesus was angry at injustice. Scripture records several times He was moved with righteous anger.
It was love that motivated Jesus. He never got angry when someone harmed Him, even when they nailed Him to the cross, but He was moved with righteous indignation when He saw other people being misused and abused.
One of those occasions was in Mark chapter 3.
- Read Mark 3:1-6.
What grieved Jesus and made Him angry?
Two opposing desires met head-to-head on this Sabbath day.
The Pharisees were filled with selfishness and pride, having no concern for hurting people. They were insensitive in the face of human need. When Jesus saw people being taken advantage of, He became angry. Changing the life of the man with the withered hand won the day.
- What are some of the righteous causes of our day that God would have you take a stand for? Ask Him what those are, and write them here.
We think love keeps us from being angry. But when we see people God loves, made in His image, being destroyed, it's love that makes us angry. If the killing of little babies by abortion doesn’t make you mad, there is something wrong with you. Sometimes anger is love’s clearest expression. God will help us when we take a stand for those being harmed or hurt. Martin Luther said, “When I'm angry, I pray better and I preach better.”
Righteous anger is to be channeled. When we get angry about the injustices we see, we need to do something about those injustices. Godly people, working together in the right way, could change their city, their state, and this nation. We should get stirred up about the wrongs that are happening.
In this study, we have learned that:
- sudden anger is to be controlled.
- sinful anger is to be condemned.
- stubborn anger is to be conquered.
- sanctified anger is to be channeled.
God will help you when you let the love of God stir you to take a stand.
If you want to know what you're filled with, just see what spills out when you're jostled. If you're filled with Jesus and someone jostles you, Jesus is going to spill out.
As we end this study, let me ask, do you know that if you died right now, you would go to Heaven? Remember the verse we began with: “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass” (Proverbs 19:12).
Jesus is The King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15). He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). You choose: face His wrath or have His favor.
If you want the king's favor, like dew on morning grass, sweet, gentle, and loving, you can be saved by receiving Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. To be saved means every sin is forgiven, Jesus Christ now lives in your heart, and when you die, you will go to Heaven. You need to be saved, born again, born from above.
You won’t be able to conquer anger or anything else until you have Christ on the inside. It’s not victory over the devil you need. It’s the Victor over the devil, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you need.
This Bible Study was taken from the message, "God's Answer to Anger" (#1009).
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.
Learn more about this subject by reading Mastering Your Emotions by Adrian Rogers.