Compiled from the writings of David Brandt Berg
I spoke a word in anger to one who was my friend.
Like a knife it cut him deeply, A wound that was hard to mend.
That word, so thoughtlessly uttered, I wish we could both forget,
But its echo lives and memory gives the recollection yet.
A Christian writer relates the following true story: “During early childhood I had a fiery temper which often caused me to say and do unkind things in the heat of anger.
“One day, after I had bawled out one of my playmates and sent him home in tears, my father told me that for each thoughtless, angry word I said, he would hammer a nail into our gatepost. And each time I was patient and said something kind and gentle, one nail would be taken out.
“Months passed. Each time I entered our gate, I was reminded of the reasons for those ever-increasing nails! Until finally, I decided that to get them out would be a challenge and I’d try my best!
“At last the day I longed for arrived! Only one more nail! As my father pulled it out, I danced around proudly exclaiming, ‘See, Daddy, the nails are all gone!’
“I remember Father gazing intently at the post riddled full of holes, and he thoughtfully replied, ‘Yes, the nails are gone, but the scars remain!'”
How true the saying, “The anger of today is the remorse of tomorrow”. How deeply we regret words spoken in angry impatience, words that we wish we had never said. Uncontrolled anger can be a vicious and terrible thing! Someone has said, “When anger was in Cain’s heart, murder was not far off!” You are never so vulnerable to the thoughts of the Devil as when you are unreasonably angry. Self-control is at an all-time low, reason decreases, and common sense usually forsakes you! Anger is just one letter short of danger!
It was in a sudden burst of anger that Moses killed an Egyptian and had to flee for his life! (Exodus 2:11-15). It then took him 40 years of patiently, humbly tending sheep in the wilderness, with time to listen to the Voice of God instead of his own impulses, before he was ready for the slow, laborious, patient work of delivering the Hebrews from Egypt.
The Bible has a lot to say about anger–mostly against anger! At least against unloving, impatient, selfish, proud, hurtful, unjustified human anger! Paul tells us to “Get rid of your bitterness, rage and anger.” (Ephesians 4:31). Solomon warns us, “Do not be hasty in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). God’s Word also warns, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24,25) because an angry person is apt to become violent and cause you and others harm and trouble!
But all anger is not necessarily wrong. After all, anger is a natural, God-given emotion, and is, in itself, neither right nor wrong. The rightness or wrongness depends on our reason or motivation for being angry. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, rightly wrote, “It is easy to fly into a passion–anybody can do that–but to be angry with the right person at the right time and with the right object in the right way–that is not easy, and it is not everyone who can do it!”
Most Christians today seem to think that anger is a sin, and sad to say, in most cases it usually is. But sometimes it is actually a sin not to be angry! God Himself frequently gets very angry, particularly with the rebellious, Truth-rejecting wicked who oppress, persecute and mistreat others! In fact, His Word says, “God is angry with the wicked every day!” (Psalm 7:11).
Wise King Solomon wrote, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). and there are definitely times when we should be angry! Otherwise, how are we going to have the fight and the spirit, the ardor and the compulsion to “fight the good fight”, “war a good warfare”, “resist the Devil”, “preach the Word, reprove, rebuke and exhort”, and do all the many other things that we as active Christian soldiers must do in order to resist and fight sin, evil and the forces of the Devil! (1Timothy 8:12; 1:18; James 4:7; 2Timothy 4:2).
Although there are many examples in the Bible that clearly illustrate the bad effects of uncontrolled anger, there are also many examples of men of God who became angry for good reasons, for the right reasons, and their Godly anger compelled them to fight evil, right wrongs and set things straight!
The New Testament tells us that even Jesus Himself was frequently stirred up with Godly anger, or righteous indignation. In Mark Chapter 3, we read that Jesus went into a synagogue of the Jews and found a man there with a withered or shriveled hand. Some of his hypocritical religious enemies were watching closely to see if He would break the Laws of Moses by healing this poor man on their holy day, the Sabbath. Jesus ordered the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone!” He then turned towards the hypocritical religionists and asked them, “Which is lawful to do on the Sabbath: To do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
They were silenced by His question. “And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” And the man’s hand was completely restored and healed! (Mark 3:1-5). So here we see an example of Jesus Himself being angered and grieved at the hypocrisy and the hardness of His accusers’ hearts.
Another time that the Bible says Jesus became angry was when the people were bringing little children for Him to touch and bless. But His disciples rebuked and tried to send away those who brought the children. “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant. And He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me! Do not hinder them, for of such is the Kingdom of God!'” (Mark 10: 13,14). The sight of His Own disciples trying to prevent small children from coming to Him, angered Jesus. And it was no doubt with an “indignant” tone of voice that He ordered, “Let the little children come to Me!” So why should we not also be angered at anything or anybody who would try to hinder or stop folks from coming to Jesus?
Of course, the crowning example of Jesus’ anger was when He launched an all-out attack against the falsehood, fakery and Pharisaical phoniness of the religious leaders of His day! When He found the religionists robbing and exploiting the poor in the name of God. He made a whip with His Own hands, stormed into the Temple and personally beat and drove out the money changers, overturned their tables, poured out their money and loudly rebuked them, saying, “You have turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves and robbers!” (John 2:14-16 Matthew 21:12-13).
Later that day, Jesus delivered His final message to the Pharisees, in which He became so infuriated at their self-righteous hypocrisy, their merciless oppression of the poor and their rejection of God’s Truth, that He absolutely exploded with a blast of Truth that exposed, condemned, cursed and literally damned them to Hell! A message that so stung them, that from that moment on, they were determined to murder Him, and had Him crucified only a few days later! (See Matthew 23)!
These, and many other examples from the Bible, make it clear that there is a time to be angry, and that such “righteous indignation” is of God! His Word even tells us, “Be ye angry and sin not!” (Ephesians 4:26). So the Lord actually instructs us to be angry if it’s for the right reasons and about the right things. Such as against hypocrisy, injustices or against innocent people being hurt or taken advantage of. Such Godly anger should motivate us to try to correct injustices and right wrongs and take positive action to remedy needy situations!
This is the difference between Godly anger and the “wrath of Man”, of which the Bible says, “the wrath of Man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20). Whereas righteous wrath, or Godly anger, brings about good results.
How To Handle Anger
Sad to say, we do not usually become angry for such noble reasons as those mentioned above. Often our anger simply results from concern about ourselves, from selfishness. We don’t get our own way, our pride is wounded or we somehow feel slighted or mistreated by others, so we become frustrated, upset and angry.
When you realize and recognize that you are becoming angry or upset like this and that it is obviously not “righteous indignation”, you should try to consciously take an effort to keep such anger under control instead of letting your bad feelings spill out in uncontrolled actions or words! The Bible says, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19).
To “be quick to hear” is another way to say, “Listen carefully”. If you can patiently listen to what’s going on and hold back long enough to think and pray about what you’re going to say or how you’re going to respond, you can usually control your anger and express your feelings in a healthy way. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control”. (Proverbs 29:11). Do not talk when you are angry and upset in your own spirit, but after you have calmed down. Hot words never result in cool judgment. A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes, hurts those who we love and destroys friendships!
Anger is a strong emotion and it does need to be expressed in some way. But it’s a sad thing about your temper: You can’t get rid of it by losing it! It’s true that expressing anger with violent passion–yelling, sharp words and high emotions does get results, but the results are usually not too positive! “Hitting the ceiling”, as they say, “is a poor way to rise in the World!” And, “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing!”
Of course, we are referring here to the “wrath of Man” that is generated by our own spirits, not about righteous indignation, which is inspired by the Lord. Because if you are stirred up with righteous anger, then sharp words and high emotions can get positive results, as you stir others up and take them aware of the sin, evil or injustices that have stirred you up in the first place! As the Lord told His Prophet Isaiah, “Cry aloud, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet and show My people their sins!” (Isaiah 58:1).
God’s Word even tells us, “You that love the Lord, hate evil.” And, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride, arrogancy and the evil way!” (Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 8:13). If you really love and fear the Lord and have genuine conviction and Godly enthusiasm, you will not sit idly by and remain silent about or respond passively to outright evil, wrongdoings and injustices, but you’ll stand up and speak out against such things. Angrily if necessary!
Such righteous anger is healthy and should be expressed. The Prophet, Jeremiah, when beholding the rebellion and iniquity of his backslidden people, said, “I am full of the fury of the Lord!–And I cannot hold it in!…If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name’, His Word is in my heart as a burning fire, a fire shut up in my bones! I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot!” (Jeremiah 6:11; 20:9).
However, if you know that your anger is merely the result of your own hurt feelings or pride, you still need to do something about it if it has built up inside of you. But as we’ve already shown, it is usually very unwise to vent such anger on others.
One solution that many people have found works for them is to redirect their anger. Redirecting the pent-up energy that their anger has generated by cutting the grass, working in the garden, taking a walk, exercising, washing the car etc… gives them something to get their mind off of what made them angry in the first place, thus giving them time to “cool off”, to think and pray about a solution to the problem.
Of course, a lot of Christians feel guilty for being angry, so they simply try to ignore the fact that they’re upset and pretend that they’re not. But ignoring anger can be like taking a waste-paper basket full of burning paper and hiding it in the closet! True, the fire may burn out. But more likely, it may eventually burn the house down! Pent-up, unexpressed anger is unhealthy and has been medically proven to cause all kinds of problems ranging from ulcers, anxiety and headaches to even depression!
So if you recognize that you are getting unreasonably angry with someone, try to confess it before your feelings get out of control! For instance, you might say to your mate when a conversation is heating up and getting a little tense, “You know, with the way this discussion is going, I’m afraid I’m starting to feel upset. Now, I don’t want to get angry, and I know you don’t want me to get angry, so perhaps we could stop and pray and start this discussion over again later, after we’ve asked the Lord to help us solve this situation.” This is an excellent response, to confess your anger in such a way that will let the other person know that you’re getting angry, without them getting angry too! You might say, “I’m sorry but I’m getting upset. What can I do now so we can work this thing out? Could you please pray with me?”
If it’s too late and you’ve already been unjustifiably angry with someone, don’t be too proud to say you’re sorry! Temper gets people into trouble, but pride keeps them there! And if someone’s been unjustifiably angry with you, forgive! The best cure for a short temper is a lengthy prayer! Pray and ask Jesus to help you if you have a problem controlling your anger! You can even ask others to pray unitedly for you, for there is great power in united prayer together! Memorize Scriptures that speak of anger, and how we as Christians should behave towards others! Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that controls his temper than he who conquers a city.” Ask Jesus to help you today!–He never fails!
Of course, there are times when we are justifiably angry or upset with someone, such as when they willfully, purposely wrong or harm us or others. Jesus said, “Whoever is angry with his brother without cause, shall be in danger of judgment” (Matthew 5:22), which shows that sometimes there is a “cause” or reason to be angry, even with your “brother”. Which is why the Lord said, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3). “Rebuke”, according to the dictionary, means “to reprove sharply, to reprimand”.
But remember, love, humility and prayer solve all problems, and that “as you forgive others’ sins, so your Heavenly Father will forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14,15). “And as you wish that others should do to you, so do unto them” (Matthew 7:12), for this is God’s Law of Love! So may God help you to be loving, kind and forgiving, and only to get stirred up and angry if and when the Lord moves you to! Amen? God bless you!
Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International