Taming Your Anger - God's Stragegy for Change, Part 1

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Does this admonition make you squirm in your seat? Let’s face it: We live in an angry, stressful world, and it’s easy to justify a hot temper when tensions run high. We also live in a hurtful world. People say and do things that wound us deeply. Anger provides a handy means of self-protection.

So, if you’re thinking, “I don’t have an anger problem, this blog is not for me,” think again. Anger doesn’t always express itself with a booming voice. Ask yourself:

  • How do I react when someone treats me unfairly or disrespectfully?
  • How do I express my frustration when difficult circumstances can’t be changed?
  • Do I grumble and complain when I don’t feel like doing something?
  • Am I defensive, critical of others, or open to receive gossip or slander?
  • Am I always looking for someone to blame?
  • Do I have a short fuse? Do I use verbal assaults to intimidate and control others?

Jesus never promised us freedom from everyday tensions and strife, but a deep, controlling inner peace in the midst of them. If you’re not experiencing that peace, you have an anger problem.

Be honest: Is anger like an old friend—someone you go to when the going gets tough? Then take note: So long as anger remains your friend, you will never attain the righteous life God desires for you.

Worse still, your anger will lead to evildoing (Psalm 37:8). (Perhaps it already has.) It will become a weapon in Satan’s hand—a wedge—for enabling more damaging forms of sin to creep into your life (Ephesians 4:26-27). In the end, anger will destroy you, your relationships, and the people you abuse verbally.

Getting free of anger is easier said than done, however. Anger is like that stain on your carpet that just won’t come out. No matter how many cleaning solutions you try, nothing works. And no matter how many times you ask God to take it away, your anger persists.

One possible reason, I believe, is that your objective is not in line with the will of God. You’re trying to obliterate or at least suppress your anger when God wants to redirect it.

Drawing from personal experience, I’m going to show you how to approach the problem of anger from this direction. I want you to see how God can take a man or woman’s anger and harness it for his glory.

My Battle Against Anger

Before I became a Christian, anger was my biggest problem. People who know me now find that difficult to believe, but anger literally consumed me. I’d get mad and irritable for little reason. I’d hit walls and get into fights over trivial issues.

As a kid in school, I had learned that the best way to protect myself was to act angry, because the more I acted angry, the less people would want to fool with me. Anger also helped me deal with frustration and perform better in sports. If someone made me angry, I could run faster and play more aggressively on the football field. So I learned to treat anger as a friend, not an enemy.

But, when I came to the Lord, God delivered me of my anger. It was gone immediately. But, here was the problem. I didn’t take anger seriously after that. I played with it by allowing petty irritations to come into my life unchecked. I didn’t repent of them or even see them as sin. I justified irritability because my anger had once been so much worse.

Then one Saturday morning, my anger returned with a vengeance! I don’t remember why, but I was in a bad mood that day—and I took every opportunity possible to express my frustrations. I slammed doors and made cutting remarks to my wife. After hours of stewing, I finally exploded.

I was standing at the door of our walk-in closet when my wife said something I didn’t like. All of a sudden, I felt something burning in the pit of my stomach. Like a fire, it swept up over me and exploded out of me. Do you know the feeling? It’s called rage. I swung as hard as I could and I ran my fist right through the closet door. I looked at my wife. Her eyes were as large as softballs, because she’d never seen rage in me before.

At that moment, I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. Because I already knew what the Word said about anger. “Please forgive me,” I said. “I have to get out of this house. It’s not because I’m angry at you. I’m angry at myself right now.”

Come back next week to read more of this classic series on anger