Have you ever noticed how we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions? We give ourselves a lot more grace than we give someone else. Whenever I accidentally change lanes, but don’t see the car in that lane, I sheepishly duck my head, wave and mouth “sorry” hoping they understand. However, when someone does that to me, I see it as an attack of a negligent driver who is intentionally trying to kill me. I got from zero to angry in .5 seconds, honk my horn, shake my fist and scream at them. Now that I realize I’m judging them differently than I’m asking them to judge me, I’ve had to learn to give more grace in these situations. Chances are high, they simply made a mistake, like I do sometimes, and they’re not intentionally trying to run me off the road.
It’s scary how quickly I can go from singing along with the radio to straight up anger when that happens. The problem is, that’s not the only time or place I have a tendency to do that. We even do that when someone is talking to us. We judge ourselves by the intention of our meaning and others by their words and our interpretation. We can easily get angry without listening to everything they’re saying or the intent of their heart. Once anger comes into play, listening goes out the window and words usually come out of our mouth. Even when they try to explain, our anger has shut out reason and withdrawn any grace we had to give. These things happen to all of us, and if we can understand the hypocrisy of our own thinking, it can help us tone down how quickly we jump to anger.
Another way to slow down the anger train is to keep our mouth shut long enough to listen to their heart. James 1:19-20 says, “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose” (TPT). That last sentence should give each of us pause. Anger is never a tool to promote God’s purposes. When we’re angry, we’re usually out of control and saying thing to hurt the other person. Anger is a legitimate emotion God gave us, but He also told us not to sin while we’re angry (Ephesians 4:26). We’re either promoting or destroying God’s purpose with our lives. Anger has a tendency to destroy it. When we change how we judge others actions and words, we can begin to control those flare ups.
I was recently scammed out of some money through phishing. I’m well aware of phishing scams and have always been able to spot them, but when this one came in, it was the perfect storm of timing. As soon as I figured it out (20 minutes later), I fought to get my money back. I was able to stop them from using the money, but then I began to beat myself up. That anger towards myself shifted to them after a day. I began to plot my revenge. I started researching to see if I could hire a hacker yo hit them hard. Then I decided that I was going to send them a spam bomb. My mind kept thinking of how I could pay them back until it consumed most of my thoughts. In the middle of my research, I heard the Lord say, “Vengeance is mine. Let it go.” That’s all I needed to hear.
A few weeks earlier, I had watched the documentary “Free Burma Rangers”. It’s about a man who grew up as a missionary and now has started a humanitarian movement in Burma, Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. The documentary followed he and his family into Mosul, Iraq. He was on the front lines of an Isis controlled area. After freeing a family on the outskirts of the town, they were happy. They all loaded up in a tractor and headed to be with other family members. They got about a 100 yards away and hit a land mine that Isis left as they retreated. This missionary became angry and talked about how he wanted to kill every Isis member over it. Then God spoke those same words to him. The missionary then said, “Vengeance looks a lot like justice, but it comes from a different place. Justice is done from a place of love and vengeance comes from a place of anger.”
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense and discretion make a man slow to anger, And it is his honor and glory to overlook a transgression or an offense [without seeking revenge and harboring resentment]” (AMP). It’s ok to be angry, but we can’t let it lead us into sinning (Ephesians 4:26). Anger has the ability to consume us, especially when we were wronged intentionally. What we do with it matters. Seeking revenge and harboring resentment is not of God or from God. Those things slowly put you in a prison of your own doing. It’s time to let them go, and let God give justice for how they wronged you. God wants you free from the prison of anger and resentment so you can be used in the way you were created to be used. I know it’s easier said than done, but start by praying and giving it to God. Then ask Him to set you free from the anger and resentment by helping you to let it go.
Thanks to Steve Halama for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁
I read an article on abcnews.com that asked, “Are you angry at God?” They cited a survey of Americans by Case Western Reserve University that showed between 1/3 and 2/3 of the people surveyed said they were angry with God in response to something they’re currently suffering with. It went on to say that anger at God can become a spiritual fork in the road where a person can choose to disengage from their relationship with God and stop believing in Him. I believe it’s something each of face and have to make a decision about ahead of time. Are we going to blame God when bad things happen and get mad at Him because things aren’t going our way?
The easiest solution on earth is to blame someone else. Adam and Eve both did it the moment they were caught sinning. When things don’t go right, we look for a scapegoat. Many times that is God. I’ve been mad at God a few times because of unanswered prayers and circumstances that have happened. Once I told Him, “I’ll never ask you for anything again!” It lasted for a while, but it turns out I can’t live this life without His help. God is big enough for me to be angry at, but as the Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and sin not.”
Job was a person who had a right to be angry. In one day he lost everything he owned including his children. He could have blamed God for the sudden disasters that hit him, but Job 1:22 says, “Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God” (MSG). You and I can’t see into the spiritual realm. We don’t know everything that’s going on nor can we always see the effects of our decisions. Instead of being angry at God or blaming Him, try doing what Job did and worship a God instead recognizing that everything you have is His.
One thing I’ve learned is that every sin lives within me, and I’m capable of committing any of them. The sins living within each one of us is just waiting for the right circumstances to show up and it will give us the opportunity to commit them. I learned this one night while I was very angry and bitterness was growing in me. The thought and desire to murder was so strong in me that it frightened me. I never believed I was capable of such a thing until that moment. Like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, I ran and didn’t look back.
Anger is a powerful emotion that can tempt us to do the unthinkable. It is a dangerous emotion that desires to control us. It is like a furnace burning within us that continuously heats up the more we feed it. It begins to consume our mind, our thoughts and eventually our lives. I was at the point that I couldn’t sleep. My anger was burning so strongly that every time I closed my eyes to sleep, all I could imagine was the situation that created my pain and my heart would begin to race. I began to be consumed with how I could get revenge.
Let me be clear, anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is an emotion that God has given each one of us. I believe it becomes sin when it begins to control us. Psalms 4:4 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (NLT). Too many times we have a knee jerk reaction of retaliation when we get angry. We scream, we curse, we throw things, we fight or do something else. The Psalmist here suggests that instead of reacting, we should proactively step away, remain silent and think about it.
Many times in my life, my anger hasn’t frightened me away from sinning. Instead it has lead me right into it. As Christians, we need to understand that uncontrolled anger leads to sin. Instead of letting it have its way, we need to step away, think about it overnight and remain silent. In many cases, our anger will dissipate and we will be kept from sinning. It is possible to be angry and sin not as the scripture says. We just need to learn to be proactive with our anger instead of reacting with it.
I’m not someone who gets angry often. I’ve been angry many times in my life. At one point, I got so angry I couldn’t sleep. I allowed the anger to consume me. Every time I closed my eyes, I would visualize how I would exact my revenge. I wanted to lash out, hurt, and even destroy the other person. The anger boiled inside and pushed me to the edge of bitterness. I tried fighting back, but it was pointless. I tried to reason with myself, but I got nowhere. I ended up putting the TV on one of the Christian stations that played praise and worship all night while showing images of nature with scriptures superimposed on them.
When an opportunity arose for me to get revenge, I had to make a choice. Was I going to do something I’d regret for the rest of my life or get away from the situation? Before I could think too much, I got in my car and drove about an hour away. I got to the edge of town, pulled over on the shoulder, and weighed everything out for what seemed like forever. I ended up going to a friends house. I gave him my keys and said, “Whatever you do, don’t give me these back until at least tomorrow.”
Years later, I’m thankful God saved me from acting on my anger that night. Psalm 4:4 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (NLT). Every time I read that, it reminds me that no matter how angry I get, I still have a choice in what I do with it. Being angry when bad things happen is a God given right and an emotion He gave us for those occasions. However, He didn’t give us the right to exact our revenge from that anger.
When we let anger control us, we act very selfishly. We might be deemed justified in our actions by people around us, but God is the only one whose judgement matters. Anger is best released by letting go of it, not by directing it at someone. When you hold onto it and allow it to consume your mind, you hand over the reigns of reason to a volatile emotion. God’s desire is that we let go of it so it doesn’t control us. Let Him take revenge for you. It may not come when or how you want it to, but if you let Him do it, you’ll have fewer regrets and a better life. I’m proof of that.