Maybe you’re looking for an instant fix to your anger. You want to be changed overnight. But a real and lasting fix seldom arrives instantaneously. God morphs our life little by little, bit by bit.
Goliath taunted the Israelites every morning and night. The Devil prowls around continually and wants to devour us every day. The key to real, lasting change in our spiritual life is consistently filling ourselves up with faith. Giants seldom go away quickly. Our invitation is to continually remind ourselves that Jesus has already won. We continually need to link up to what he has done and who He is in us. Then we talk to ourselves like God talks to us. We tell ourselves biblical truths. When we do these things and align ourselves with the plans of God, then little by little things change. We replace anger with reading God’s Word. We replace the angry conversations in our minds with praying for the people we’re angry at. We begin to see others through Jesus’ eyes. We invite Christ to have the full rule and reign in our hearts.
What follows are smooth stones of truth we can throw at the giant of anger. Jesus has already done the real work, and the giant has already fallen. But as we’ve discussed, ridding ourselves of giants is both a now-and-not-yet reality. The battle is over, yes. But the struggle continues. By God’s grace, He has won the victory for us, and He will win the victory for us, day by day by day.
How is anger dealt with? How does this giant fall?
1. We remind ourselves we aren’t perfect to begin with.
When we are angry at someone else, we must understand that Someone has already been angry at us. This can be a tricky thing to grasp, because the “Someone” is God, and we don’t like to think of God as angry. We misunderstand the wrath of God. When we think of God’s “wrath” we tend to overlay it with our understanding of human wrath. We picture someone strutting around a room, shaking his fist, throwing things at the wall. That’s how we picture wrath. But God’s wrath and human wrath aren’t the same thing.
The Bible indicates that God does indeed hold out wrath toward people who don’t know Him and toward sin in the lives of believers. God is both loving and wrathful at the same time. He is wrathful because He is righteous. He is wrathful because He is holy. The things we tolerate, He doesn’t tolerate. The small sins we let creep into our lives, He does not let creep into His. His righteousness burns like a flame of glory. His wrath is the eternal flame of the holiness and the perfection of God. Really, God’s “wrath” just means that He exists. God walks into the equation of human life with its sin, and a holy God exists with the fire of righteousness and supremacy.
God’s wrath means He can’t have anything to do with sin.
J. I. Packer goes to the dictionary and writes,
Wrath is an old English word defined in my dictionary as “deep, intense anger and indignation.” Anger is defined as “stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism, by a sense of injury or insult”; indignation as “righteous anger aroused by injustice and baseness.” Such is wrath. And wrath, the Bible tells us, is an attribute of God.
It’s important to grasp this, so we need to keep a new picture in mind. God’s wrath doesn’t mean He is out of control and pitching a fit. His wrath is much more a “positional” wrath than a “raging” wrath. It’s a character-driven refusal to have anything to do with that which is unholy. God, by nature of being a holy God, must turn away from sin. Yes, He’s a God of wrath, but He is not a God of outrage. Yes, there’s still a fierce anger on behalf of God that we need to contend with. It’s an intense anger, a severe anger, an anger where there is no gray area. Yet it’s always a positional anger of God’s righteous character refusing to be associated with sin.
Paul describes it like this:
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. — Romans 2:5
So let’s use this biblical definition of God’s wrath — a righteous wrath — and clothe ourselves in the truth of this extended definition. Although God’s wrath is not human wrath, it’s still a very serious wrath. Using the biblical definition of God’s wrath, we are reminded that long before anyone ever betrayed or belittled us, we betrayed and belittled God. And we were forgiven! So the person who has been forgiven much has much room to forgive others.
That helps us put our anger into perspective.
When I’m angry because I haven’t received respect or if I feel belittled or betrayed, then I can remind myself of the fire of God’s wrath.
In my sin I have betrayed God. Yet God forgave me. So I can forgive others.
Psalm 85 is so strong here. Notice the first few verses. The psalmist couldn’t even go very far without saying, “We’ve just got to stop right here.” That’s what Selah means.
You, Lord, showed favor to Your land; You restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of Your people and covered all their sins. [Selah.]
You set aside all your wrath and turned from Your fierce anger.
Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away Your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger through all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us Your salvation. — Psalm 85:1-7
That’s the perspective we need to keep in mind. God has already forgiven much in our lives. That helps to keep us humble. That helps us stay off our high horse of moral superiority. That helps us forgive others.
2. We believe God is our avenger.
The third smooth stone of truth is that God is our avenger. When we are wronged, too many of us want to take matters into our own hands. But God does the avenging for us. Do you believe that?
The reason why the giant of anger must fall in our lives is because it demoralizes us and diminishes the glory of God.
How? Because it robs God of His own rightful declaration about who He is. God says, I am the One who’s going to avenge all wrongs. If we really believe that, then we would say, “Wow, okay, so there legitimately is an injustice here. But God has promised that He’s going to avenge what I can’t avenge.”
Too often the expressions of our anger only throw gasoline on an already burning fire. We lash out at a person. We withhold love or communication or encouragement from a person. We seek to hurt a person back. We think our gasoline is going to make things better, but it only causes things to blow up. When we seek to avenge, we only become more bitter and broken. We can’t alleviate what caused the anger in the first place. We can’t change people’s hearts.
The way we righteously deal with anger is by aligning ourselves with God’s justice. He gives us the power to make peace with other people. He is the avenger of all injustice and all wrong in the world. Justice will come. It will either come today on earth or in the future in Heaven, but rest assured, justice will come.
One day God will right every wrong. And He’s going to be fairer about it than you and I could ever be.
He’s going to be more comprehensive about it. The situation will find true justice, true peace, true reconciliation.
To relinquish avenging to the Lord is not to brush our unresolved conflicts under the rug. There may be a needed step of confrontation, open communication, or restitution. But we must approach any such process from the position of forgiveness. Our release from their wrongful actions will never fully come from man’s decision or the outcome of a process. Our freedom comes from anchoring our hope in the fact that our great God defends us and rights all wrongs. Therefore, while we are waiting on God’s justice we can operate from forgiveness, not for it.
Paul in Romans 12:14 offers us this counterintuitive instruction:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
And in verse 17:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. — Romans 12:17
That doesn’t sound like how most people today deal with anger, does it? The giant of anger says we need to repay evil with evil. If someone hits us, then we need to hit that person back. Surely that will make us feel better, won’t it? Hey, let me know how that goes.
What do you do instead of hitting back?
- You say you’re hurt. Fine. Let Jesus heal that hurt.
- You say you’ve been wounded. Fine. Let Jesus deal with your wounds.
- You say you’re aching. Fine. Let Jesus deal with your sorrow and heartbreak.
God is bigger and more powerful than we can ever imagine. We may be hurt, yes, but Jesus is bigger than our wounds. Jesus is bigger than our sorrows. He is able to “repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). The things that have been destroyed by injustice, Jesus is able to restore fully.
The world tells you to hate and feel wronged and hold a grudge. But Christians are called to walk through the world with the heart of Christ. We offer people a different model. We show people a different picture. Is there a wrong in our past we’re still worked up over? Hey, we’ve known God too long to be bitter about that. We’ve walked with Jesus too far to still be jacked up about this. The Holy Spirit has filled my heart too much for me to hold that grudge against you.
Our God is too big for us to hate others.
Excerpted with permission from Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio, copyright Louie Giglio.
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Hear from Louie Giglio about Goliath Must Fall
As Christians, we want to rid ourselves of unrighteous anger because we know it’s not God’s best for us. And we want it gone now! But, it’s a longer process and takes a great deal of reminding ourselves of God’s Word and submitting to biblical truths. Because our God is too big for us to hate others. Come share your thoughts on the giant of anger on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily