We have all been angry.  I know that I have. There is a form of righteous anger (righteous indignation) that is not sin (see John 2:14-17 and Ephesians 4:26) but it is extraordinarily rare. Most of the occasions that I vented and displayed the venom of anger it was not about a righteous cause but about me and my issues. In other words, the outward anger we display is not the real problem (or disease) but the symptom of a deeper spiritual or emotional issue. If we are honest with ourselves (and this may come too late to retract or correct our offensive outbursts) the real virus lies within.

So what are the spiritual and emotional root causes of our angry thoughts, words, and behavior? They include:

  • Pride/Arrogance – we feel embarrassed by ourselves, another person, a or situation.
  • Selfishness/Desire to Control – we don’t get our way and we can’t stand it.
  • Shame/Guilt – our sin is exposed.  We know we are wrong but react defensively to the truth.
  • Jealousy/Resentment – another person’s superior position triggers our rage.
  • Bitterness – our life or situation hasn’t turned out the way we wanted it too.
  • Innocent Hurt – although this is the exception, sometimes people wound us when we are truly blameless. In these situations, however, often our vengeful counter-attack is a feeble attempt at “judging” others when that is God’s work alone (Romans 12:19).

Some practical thoughts on anger:

  • Unmanaged and ungodly danger is wrong and damaging (to us and others).  Sometimes the consequences of our outbursts are not easily remediated. See James 1:20.
  • The problem is usually internal not external. Blaming others does not get to the root of the problem.
  • Our anger is a symptom not the disease. Sin and its corresponding shame is the virus that is at the heart of the problem.
  • We must call upon a God’s healing power to deal with our anger.

Some Biblical thoughts on anger:

  • God is sovereign – the situation that angers us exists because He has a greater purpose – His glory. We must learn to trust that there is God’s grander scheme at work in all of our circumstances (Romans 8:28) and not react as if He is not in control.
  • We are not God – we do not understand everything that happens to us (Isaiah 55:8) nor are we expected to. Anger is, in a real sense, a subtle distrust of Him.
  • Anger with God is always wrong. In essence, anger towards God is accusing Him of moral wrongdoing or denying His sovereign omniscience (He does not knowing what He is doing). See Genesis 18:25 and Revelation 16:7.
  • When angry, pause and pray in order to rely on the Holy Spirit to control us when we can’t control ourselves. James 1:19 says, “be slow to anger”.  Consider the ramifications and consequences of lashing out.
  • We must understand God’s grace toward us so that we can forgive others. When we acknowledge the depth and breadth of our sin and we see the amazing mercy He has displayed towards us we are more tolerant of others (Luke 7:47).

John Piper says this about the solution to anger: “I think the key is probably, ironically, discovering the exceeding sinfulness of our sin, owning it, being broken by it, and then tasting as never before the sweetness of the cross of Christ, the blood of Christ, and the forgiveness of Christ…So I think the solution lies right at the center of the Christian faith: namely, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, taking away all our sins. But you won’t ever taste that as anger-relieving sweetness until you know how great your own sins are”.

Clearly, in all of this we must recognize that we need Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to do His mighty work in us in order for our anger (or any other sin) to be dealt with. Knowing that He has the power to still the wind and the waves (and even forgive all of our sins) should help us recognize that He is also big enough to calm our internal storms. Because my sinfulness is great and pervasive, I know that I desperately need Him in every aspect of my life – anger included.