None of us like to be described as an “angry person,” but anger is a sin issue that most of us face regularly, even daily. However, instead of calling it anger, we like to give our anger more acceptable names such as irritation, disappointment, or frustration. Anger by any other name is still anger. I call this boiling pot of denial “Anger Soup.” We can’t even begin to mortify this sin that God abhors and that robs us of our joy and sweet fellowship with our Lord and Savior until we identify and label it the way God does – sinfulness.
Scripture on Anger
A quick analytics search on my Bible software tells me that words to describe anger are used 244 times in Scripture. But the most interesting portion of the analytics was that there are twenty-five different words used to describe anger within Scripture. God certainly knew that weak humans like us would need lots of descriptors of this particular sin!
Let’s look at a couple of the most direct references to the sinfulness of anger:
“Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm.” (Psalm 37:8)
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check.” (Proverbs 29:11)
“Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
We are told over and over in Scripture that anger brings disaster to our lives. Christians should not be angry people. Yet, some of the most angry, bitter people you’ll find are often professing Christians. This should not be so!
In contrast, the Bible teaches us that our God is slow to anger. If a Christian is supposed to walk in the Spirit and reflect Christ to the lost world, should we not be slow to anger as well? Why do we get this so wrong? And how can we tame the angry beast within us?
Identifying Your Own Anger
Anger is often lurking in disguise within our own hearts. We have conveniently deluded ourselves into thinking we aren’t angry by calling our anger anything and everything but anger. How often have you said “I’m so frustrated!” or “I’m not angry, I’m just irritated.” Really? Is that what God thinks? The next time you’re irritated at your circumstances or at another person, ask yourself why you got so irritated. Take a moment to take a full inventory of your attitude. Look in the mirror at your face. Check the tension in your shoulders. Are your fists balled up without even remembering you did it?
Scripture uses 25 words to describe anger. You might be surprised to find that four of those words describe physical expressions of anger. The Bible uses the words nose, nostrils, face, and breath to depict anger. Think about it. When you’re irritated, or frustrated, or disappointed, how is your breathing? When you read that political Facebook post from the other side of the aisle, how rapidly are you exhaling from your nose?
Many of us have these special little devices on our wrists called smartwatches. While convenient and helpful, these little wearable computers can get downright meddlesome at times. My smartwatch has both a heart rate monitor and an oxygen sensor. Wearing this little nosy machine has made me even more aware of my own anger issues. When they call these watches “smart,” they aren’t joking. I have been blessed with a notification that I need to relax more than I like to admit. It’s really bad when you’re so habitually rooted in a sin that you need an electronic device to remind you that you’re sinning!
Taming the Angry Beast
Now that you have some tips on how to recognize your anger as actual anger and not just a harmless irritation, disappointment, or frustration, let’s learn to deal with it and gain some victory over this habitual sin.
Dealing with it
1) Recognize that your anger is almost never of the “righteous” variety. We like to fancy ourselves as the world’s morality police. So, when we see something that violates biblical principles, we get angry about it and we justify our anger as “righteous anger.” This will probably make you mad (see what I did there?), but nine times out of ten, we are just expressing plain old sinful anger, not righteous anger. There is really only one Person who always expresses righteous anger and that’s God. And you’re not Him.
Sure, it’s right and good to be angry about what breaks God’s heart. But we almost never stop there. We take it so much further and become sinfully angry at the people behind the sinful acts. Take the example given above about a political post on Facebook. In a split-second, we go from grieving over sin to the place of God Himself, and we stand as judge, jury, and executioner over that other human. We quickly make a hateful comment dashing someone’s character, or better yet, we craft our own unique post with our own clever attempt at tearing down the other person. Friends, we must remember that there are souls behind the screen that need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
2) Recognize that you are weak. You can’t fight this beast alone or in your own strength. You will fail if you try. You have failed multiple times and you will continue to if you don’t seek the Lord in prayer for help from the Holy Spirit. You must pray. You must ask the Lord for the courage to see your sin as He sees it and for the grace to confess and repent. Confession is agreeing with God that it is sin. Repenting is turning away from that sin and walking in a new direction. You must have the Lord’s help with sin as gripping as anger.
3) Be transparent with others. In addition to the help of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has given you the body of Christ to walk alongside you and help you fight your sinful anger. Don’t pretend you are stronger than you are. Admit your weakness to your brothers and sisters and ask them for help to fight this sin. Confess before one another and walk in each other’s messes. I’m thankful that Twin City is a place where this behavior is modeled from the leadership and throughout the church body. Don’t be fearful to confess your sins to one another. Confessed sin has far less power over you than hidden sin.
4) Die daily. You must die to this sin daily. Like all other sinful patterns, this is not a “one and done” sort of confession. It is a daily wrestling with the flesh that requires daily time spent in the Word and in prayer. This battle is active and continual. Do not let your guard down. Take your sinful confessions to the Lord every time He brings this sin to light in your life. Shine His light on it, get it in the open, and deal with it. Daily.
You are not alone in your fight against the “anger soup.” I’m prayerful that these practical tips can help you recognize and fight your angry beast. I write to you as one who is often angry. The words of our Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount called our anger murderous (Matthew 5:21-22). That’s a serious charge and it requires a serious look at our own anger.
The Gospel PostScript