“Cease from anger” the Psalmist counsels us (Psalm 37:8). “Get rid of all anger” the New Testament echoes (Ephesians 4:31).
Throughout the Bible we are cautioned about our anger. And many Psalms, particularly the Laments, show us how to deal with anger in a wise and godly way.
But it seems that few Christians today understand their anger or what to do with it.
Anger is a God-given emotion.
We feel angry when our will is crossed, when we’re afraid that we won’t get what we want. Anger is like a headache: it signals to us that something is wrong and needs attention. Maybe you’re not saying no to someone or something when it is important for to do so. Maybe you’re overloaded and not communicating your stress, Or you have been hurt and need empathy.
When we’re angry we may lose our temper, be passive-aggressive, or convert anger into guilt. Or we may stuff anger and live with resentment – perhaps we feel we need our anger to protect us or to give us power. But to hold anger is to let it live in your body like a cancer (it is destructive to body, soul, and relationships) and it will show up in your manner of dress, style of tattoos, cigarettes, a chip on the shoulder, or general aggressiveness (for instance when driving).
We like to say that “righteous anger” is good. But the problem is that when you’re angry it always feels righteous! And when someone else is angry at you it always feels unrighteous! How readily we justify ourselves and excuse our anger!
What to do with Anger
The Psalms show us that the capacity to feel angry is natural and good. God wants us to be honest about the anger we feel when we have been mistreated or our will has been crossed in some other way.
So for all of us it’s important that we learn to listen to our angry feelings, speak the truth in love, and forgive people who offend us (Ephesians 4:15). If you grew up in a family where anger hurt people or it was not safe to verbalize angry feelings then you will need help with this.
In Psalm 34 David shares a beautiful prayer worth memorizing. He show us how not to give into distress by fretting or getting angry (two sides of the same coin), but instead to submit our desires to our Good Shepherd and wait upon him:
Do not fret… Refrain from anger…
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Do not fret… Refrain from anger (Psalm 37:1,3-8).
Submitting our desires to God is crucial, not just for anger, but for all of life.
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1) is another prayer of surrender and trust in God’s all sufficiency. Or Jesus’ constant prayer of submission to the Father, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
To submit to God is to abandon the outcomes of situations to him, trusting that his purposes for us are good and he is ready to redeem whatever bad things that happen to us. Practice submitting all your desires to the Sovereign Lord – learning to be happy in knowing him because he is enough for you – and with time your anger will dissipate.
In this way the peace of Christ will come to rule in your heart more and more (Colossians 3:15).
These are problems of insecurity that come from trying to find our value in the things we have, the way we look, or what we do. This is the way of our culture which says, “Blessed are the rich, the good looking, and the successful because they have the best that the world has to offer.” Social media is totally about "Look at me, look where I am, what I have, and who I am with.
But Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor and the shy because the kingdom of the heavens is open to them.” But don’t stop there. He would also say, “Blessed are the rich, the good looking, and the successful because the kingdom of the heavens is open to them.” In other words, the great opportunity of anyone’s life is to be alive in God’s kingdom—whatever circumstance they might find themselves in. (See Matthew 5:3-10 and Luke 6:20-23).
If you’re rejoicing in the smile of Christ the King then your anger won’t be sparked by jealousy or selfish ambition, or "why can't I be like that?" attitude when you see someone who looks to be fortunate. Instead you will want to share the blessings of Christ that you are enjoying. You will naturally and routinely “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
John the Baptist’s disciples became jealous and competitive when they saw that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people than them. John replied along these lines, “Jesus is the Bridegroom and the people are his bride so of course they want to go to him! I am the friend of the Bridegroom and it’s my great joy to stand at his side, give him praise, and encourage everyone to go to him. Jesus must increase and I must decrease!” (John 3:29-30, paraphrase).
Oh to be a friend of the Bridegroom! There is no greater joy than to draw people closer to Jesus! That’s why we need to eliminate selfish ambition and the insecurity that underlies it by discovering the treasure of God’s kingdom.
Here’s a Breath Prayer to help us cultivate the faith, humility, and generosity of John the Baptist: “More of Jesus… Less of me” (based on John 3:30).
As you breathe in appreciate Jesus… As you breathe out let go of the sin, striving, stress, or whatever it is that distracts you from Jesus…
It helps to name whatever it is in your life that crowds out Jesus, even to imagine that struggle as you pray: “More of Jesus… Less of me…”
Breathing in, “More of Jesus…” Breathing out, “Less of my striving…” (or anger, worrying or trying to please people or…..__________.You fill in the blank)