Many of us are uncomfortable with anger, likely because we’ve seen the damage the emotion, uncontrolled, can produce. We’ve probably, on occasion, created wreckage ourselves. I’ve done both. I’ve been deeply hurt by the rash actions of others, but I’ve also allowed corrosive words to erupt from my mouth.
All that pain and ugliness from the past can motivate me to squelch my anger. But God has shown me, while He is pleased when I guard what I say—the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of self-control, after all—He’s not so thrilled when I suppress and deny my feelings.
Instead, He wants me to investigate and untangle them. To get to their root.
Scripture says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26a). In other words, some situations and encounters will make us mad. And the emotion itself isn’t sin, but it can easily, much too easily in fact, lead to sin—especially when we see it as a signal to spring into action. We simply cannot handle the intensity of such an emotion on our own, not if we want to respond with godliness.
We need to learn to pause. To really sit in our anger, to wrestle with ourselves and with God. Most importantly, to find Him—His heart—in our emotional angst.
As we do, we begin to understand, on a soul-deep level, what grieves and provokes His Father’s heart. When my anger stems from selfishness or pride, He’ll show me, lovingly drawing me into His cleansing embrace.
Other times, He’ll take me deeper, revealing where our souls connect, where we grieve together. As Dr. Allender, co-author of the Cry of the Soul states, “Righteous anger” —like what burns within me when I see a child abused, the weak oppressed, and a life destroyed— “warns, invites, and wounds for the greater work of redemption. It is full of strength that is neither defensive nor vindictive, and it is permeated by a sadness that is rich in desire and hope. … Righteous anger grieves and struggles with God: ‘What are You doing, God? What am I to understand about You?’”
My deepest angst becomes a call to intimacy, to discover more of my heart and God’s and where they intercept. A call to worship, and then, and only then, to action. Because as Dr. Allender so wisely states, “Our reaction to the pain and injustice of life will only move toward godly anger if we own up to our struggle with God and move toward Him with our questions.”
About a month ago, God walked me through this journey. It’d been a tough weekend where I felt bombarded by evil on every side. Someone using their religious authority to break up a marriage and friend groups. Another using their power to wound a young heart. And still another, a leader, creating ripples of dysfunction that drove numerous people from the church.
Ignited by the injustice, the wrongness, of it all, I immediately became engulfed in spiraling thoughts. Thoughts that, frankly, centered on me. On what I wanted to say or do or how I would “fix” the situation. But then I sensed God’s gentle whisper, “I’m here.” So I paused, right there in my bathroom, to pray.
To see Him and His heart, one that was even more grieved than mine.
There was beauty and comfort in that. In sharing that moment with my Savior, the loving and self-sacrificing lamb, absolutely, but also the sovereign, all-powerful lion of Judah who fights for His beloved. The One who always has a plan, and who will show me, in His timing, the role I am to play.
He is just.
He is righteous.
He is the defender of the vulnerable and oppressed.
I know many of you have experienced inner turmoil over all that is and has been occurring in our world at large and your more personal world. Righteous anger God shares. And we know that one day He will make all things right. Until then, we wrestle with ourselves, with Him, and seek His heart and His will, trusting in and waiting on the God who sees, hears, feels, and acts according to His perfect timing, His perfect love, and His infinite wisdom.
Let’s talk about this! How do you typically respond to feelings of anger? Do you suppress, lash out, or investigate? How might seeking God’s heart in the middle of your anger deepen your understanding and intimacy with Him? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.