What Is Anger and How Do We Deal with It?
The Bible shows us that anger is a response towards evil, whether at sin or sinners or both collectively. We know that anger, like all emotions, has its perfect display and use in God Himself.
The Psalmist writes that God is a righteous judge, and “a God who feels indignation every day,” (Psalm 7:11, ESV). God’s anger then is a righteous response towards evil; it is good that God is angry towards sin and sinners.
And as God’s image bearers, we have been given the emotion and response of anger. However, because we are fallen sons and daughters of Adam, our hearts are enslaved to sin, corrupt, and lead our wills. This means that our anger can be much different from God’s anger because we are sinners by nature.
Robert Jones provides this helpful working definition of anger with careful and purposeful crafting: “anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgement against perceived evil.”
Root of Anger
When we are angry, like the Lord, we are responding with a negative moral judgment against evil. However, our navigation system is off. We wrongly perceive, understand, think, and judge people, actions, and circumstances.
This is why it is defined as a perceived evil because we may be (and often are) believing that what we are angry at is indeed sinful. Thus, it is possible to be angry and not to sin, just like our Lord does every single day (cf. Ephesians 4:31-32).
A crucial distinction needs to be made about where anger comes from and what the root of our anger is. It is common for us to say things such as: “That made me angry,” or “He caused me to be angry.”
These are common, everyday excuses that all of us make when we become angry and blow our lid. Jesus tells us that our problem is not outside things, such as people or traffic or loud children; instead, our problem is our hearts (Mark 7:20-22).
The seeds of anger reside within our very nature. As it has been said before, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
Putting Anger to Death
First, we must cultivate a longing for godly and Christ-like desires in our lives. Like firing a rifle, over time the sights become off and our shooting down range is off-center.
So it is in the Christian life; we must daily re-sight our faith and our heart’s affections onto Christ as we aim to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). By fixing our eyes on Jesus, our desires, thoughts, and affections will begin to realign and intertwine with Christ’s will and desires.
This is God’s purpose for us in which He begins to conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). All of our circumstances, lives, situations, and even the simple details are all God’s providential and sovereign means by which He chisels away our sinful emotions and flesh in order to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we must look and evaluate our anger as a means of dissecting and exposing the roots of our anger. We should first ask ‘why’ we are angry as a way to sift through the beginning source of our anger.
Good doctors examine and evaluate symptoms, and we must likewise evaluate our sinful anger in the moment. Asking ourselves “I’m angry because…” is a helpful start to unravel what in us is causing our anger. In doing so, we can easily see the dragon that breathes the fire of anger that has control over us.
God’s righteous anger met our unrighteous anger on the cross of Christ, freeing us from the enslavement of sinful anger. May God help us to be angry at sin, to love Him, and to tame our emotions by His cords of love.