What is anger?
Anger is a torrential downpour in the middle of a seemingly sunny day. It is dark clouds and thunder and lightning striking the earth. It is a huge wave crashing down onto a beach with ferocity. Anger is salt burning into your open flesh. It is glass biting into your feet. It is blood seeping from an open wound. Anger is the sun’s searing hot rays. It is an avalanche of rocks shaking the earth. It is an endless marathon. It is a stampede of terrible thoughts. It is your heart being pulled two different ways. Anger is a crown of thorns digging into the skin of Christ’s brow. It is a whip against his back. It is the spitting and the mocking as he carried the cross to his own execution. It is nails tearing through the flesh of his hands. It is the spear that pierced his side. This is anger.
Anger is what you feel when you have been betrayed. Forgotten. Used. Judged. Mocked. Hated. Stepped on. Pushed over. Ignored. It’s what you feel when something is wrong and you can’t do anything about it. It’s what you feel when your walls are crumbling around you and you don’t know what to do. And so you get angry. You get angry at yourself for not being able to stop what’s happening. Angry at the people around you that won’t accept you or love you or help you or listen to you. You get angry at God, for allowing bad things to happen to you. And you get angry at the world, for being so terrible.
And your mouth sets firm and your eyes begin to blaze and your mind clouds over. You want to scream until your lungs give out. Your heart is full of fury and your hands shake and clench into fists. You are bitter about the way things are and you are terrified of what you feel and you are lost in it with no understanding of how to win the war raging inside of you. Eventually you simmer down. You are worn. You get over it, and go on with your day. Another time comes around when you get angry, and you go through the whole process again, like clockwork, but unconsciously. But there is always one thing you forget…you forget to deal with it. You forget to go to God. You let it happen again and again…you keep fighting. But do you ever stop and think what it would take to win the battle?
Close your eyes in just a minute, will you? And while you do that, take a deep breath and let it out. And think about everything around you, your entire life and the people in it, and pretend time is standing still. This is your moment. This is your time to stop and think. Let’s win this war together…no, not you and I…you and God. This war is for YOU AND GOD.
There are different kinds of anger, but the majority of the time we only recognize the one. What we don’t recognize is our righteous anger. It’s not as big a problem as that normal angry feeling we are all so familiar with, but I still want to touch on it. In Exodus 32:19 it says, “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.”
This is one of those times when the Israelites started worshiping false idols/gods. In this particular passage, the idol was in the form of a calf and they were dancing around it when Moses appeared. And then we have an example of righteous anger, as he throws the tablets out of his hands. So what makes this anger righteous? How does Moses have the right to be angry?
In 2 Kings 22:13 it says, “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
God’s anger, also, is righteous and rightfully so. Back in Exodus Moses threw down tablets…those tablets were the Ten Commandments. The Israelites knew them and therefore knew that it was sinful to worship anything or anyone other than God, yet they disobeyed and did so anyways. And that is why Moses’ anger was righteous, because of what it says in 2 Kings; because of their disobedient actions. As we live our lives in a world so incredibly full of false idols and gods and disobedient people, there are always going to be times when we have that same righteous anger. And as long as we are obeying God and His word and acting according to it even within our righteous anger, than it isn’t a sin to feel that specific type of anger, but it’s the other kind that is the big struggle.
Often people don’t think of anger as a “prevalent teen struggle”, but I think it is. Too often anger is a leading emotion in choices teens make, and it’s something that needs to be changed. If you are a Christian, then you should know it leads to sin, so the next few verses we look at will be advice or guidance for those times you feel angry. Keep in mind, that the foundation for your anger is fear. It is what drives that anger forward. Letting God take control of that fear and therefore that anger is a huge step in winning this war, but here are some ways that you personally can apply this to your life.
Okay, so I’m going to give you three verses that I want you to read…exactly 3 times each…just because.
- Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Now, this verse doesn’t necessarily talk about us getting angry, but talks more along the lines of controlling our actions and words in order to prevent anger. You see, the whole topic of anger isn’t just about how we can better control our anger and win that war; it’s also about how we can better control our attitudes, actions, and words so that we do not anger others, and also, so that we don’t hurt others in our anger. Because our anger doesn’t just affect us and our mood, it also affects the people around us…like a domino effect. And we need to be aware of that when we do get angry.
- Proverbs 29:11 – “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Again, with control. We obviously aren’t all perfect, and there have and will be times when we let our self-control slip, but that’s why it’s important to notice that’s why this verse is in the scriptures. There is no handy pocket-book guide to being wise and controlling anger, BUT there is God’s word. And may I mention…that there is PRAYER! We seem to forget often that as Christians – in having a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus Christ – we have a direct link to God through prayer. This doesn’t mean that you only pray when you’re in trouble or sick, but whenever and wherever. If anger is an area in your life that you especially struggle with, it is most definitely something you should be talking to God about. And it is also the only way, that and reading God’s word, that you will gain the wisdom needed to keep yourself and your anger under control.
- Ephesians 4:26-27 – “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
What I said earlier, about anger leading to sin, is evident as we read this verse. This is a direct command, “In your anger DO NOT SIN.”…but guess what? There’s more! Your anger does not confirm that you will sin because of it, but that doesn’t mean that you should have this mindset that being angry is okay as long as you don’t sin. Read that last part again: “…and do not give the devil a FOOTHOLD.” Being angry is one thing, holding on to that anger is another. Talking to God about it or reading His Word won’t guarantee that you’ll instantly be at peace again, your anger will last sometimes. But it’s important not to let it continue, otherwise it will plant itself into you and grow like a weed, and that is what Satan will use as his foothold. It’s as if you were to open a door, walk through, but not close it all the way…he can easily sneak his foot in there and prevent it from closing. It will allow him into your heart and mind easier than before, and tempting you will become less and less of a challenge for him. And that’s what we want to avoid. Get on your knees and pray. Open His Word and read. Think through what happened and what made you angry and how you can ease that feeling. Tell God everything, every single detail. Sometimes, just sitting in silence and listening is what it takes. So just be still if you have to.
I urge you, write these verses on a note card or something, and tape them to your wall or mirror, put them inside your Bible or other favorite book, somewhere that you’ll constantly see it and be reminded of it. Memorize it! Do something. Don’t let this opportunity, this reminder, slip out of your grasp. You might not get another one as soon as you think.
Okay, I know this “article” is a bit long, but one more verse, then I’ll be done: Exodus 34: 6-7a – “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Here is my challenge: be like Christ. (WHAT? THAT’S CRAZY!!) I know. Do it anyways.
BE LIKE CHRIST. In your attitude and your actions and your character, do whatever it takes to STRIVE to be like Him. Because He is compassionate and gracious and He abounds in love and faithfulness and He is forgiving! But most importantly, while we’re on this topic of anger, HE IS SLOW TO IT.
Strive for that. Strive for that until the sun peeks out again, until the sky clears way to pure blue. Strive for that until the oceans are completely still, until the salt is washed away. Strive for that until the glass disappears and your wounds are healed, until you’re resting under the shade and the earth isn’t shaking. Strive for that until you cross that finish line and your mind is at peace and your heart is full of nothing but love. Strive for that until you are kneeling before the throne of God, before your RISEN SAVIOR, completely bathed in glorious light. This is your challenge.
This is how you win the war of an angry heart.