Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is It Really Worth Being Angry?

What does one do with anger? We can't lie about it because we all get angry from time to time. Some people get angry more than what is healthy and often times over silly things. When I was a young adult I had a terrible time with anger. I wasn't very expressive with words so I would express myself in action. Not a good thing when dealing with anger. I asked Jesus for help with this and he developed a great deal of patience in me. It wasn't easy and I have experienced a lot of difficult seasons but now I have a greater understanding and love for others, so forgiveness comes quickly. However, there are still times when certain things are able to provoke this emotion in me.

Jesus got angry, right? It was different than what most of us feel. It was a righteous anger, not about some injustice against himself but against his Father. He didn't sit on that anger and let it develop into something else. He took action. Some may say it was negative action but put into context it was a positive action that brought about positive change. He didn't strike anyone but he sure let them know that what they were doing was wrong and it would not be accepted. Sometimes we can deal with certain situations in like manner, and it is healthy to do so. We can confront people and tell them to stop what they are doing. If we have the power or authority we can make them stop and if we don't we can go to someone who does have the authority to make them stop.

However, there are other times when we have to accept that we can't get the tooth paste back in the tube. There are some actions that once they are taken cannot be undone. It may be some kind of injustice done to us or to someone we love. What do we do with that?

Anger is a terrible emotion that is strong enough to tear apart our insides if we don't do something with it. It shouldn't be an emotion we are overly familiar with but once it has been provoked in us we need to respect it enough not to ignore it. Don't let it build a home in you because it will produce ugly children like bitterness and unforgiveness. It will even provoke malice toward the object of your anger. It can become a negative and ugly part of your character. It destroys. The Psalms, the place where many emotions are revealed and dealt with, gives us a few answers. The psalmists did not deny what they were feeling and sought help in dealing with it.

We are told first of all not to allow anger to provoke us into sin. In other words, do not be rash in your anger, reflect for a moment before taking action:

In your anger do not sin;
   when you are on your beds,
   search your hearts and be silent.
(Psalm 4:4)

Do not allow it to become something that separates you from God. When something is beyond your influence and power it is a matter of coming to accept that God is sovereign and you have to trust him. Nothing is so important that it is worth losing your relationship with Jesus:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
   do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
   but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
(Psalm 37:8-9)

If we leave the psalms for a moment and enter the wisdom of Proverbs we discover the same idea, that we cannot allow anger to control us into "knee jerk" reactions. Angry action often only births further angry action:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
   but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

The bottom line is that angry words and actions are not cool. They reveal our level of maturity and make us look foolish:

A fool gives full vent to his anger,
   but a wise man keeps himself under control.
(Proverbs 29:11)

It comes down to the fact that anger is a negative emotion that can be turned into something positive when under the control of the Spirit. It is an emotion that we are told to put off from us, never giving it an opportunity to take root. It doesn't mean you won't feel it from time to time but a heart of love does not allow it to come easily or to take root. In the great description of love we read:

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

This is a heart that is possessed by the knowledge it is loved and forgiven by Jesus and being in such a condition it allows love to win over the emotion of anger every time:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31)

So what do you do with anger in a situation where you have no control, power or influence? You set it free. You reflect on the situation and ask yourself whether it is worth allowing this thing to change you, your character and your relationship with God? Or, in comparison to what God has forgiven you, can you afford not to let it go? We have to trust God and allow his peace to dwell in us richly as he fills us with hope? It comes down to that question: Is it worth it?

At the end of the day what will anger ever do for you compared to the joy and peace of Jesus Christ? Knowing him will always produce in us a good supply of love and forgiveness and we know that love covers a multitude of sins. So forgive whoever or whatever has angered you and end this day and every day in the peace and joy of Jesus Christ.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

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