Remember this, my dear brothers! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Man’s anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose. — James 1:19
What a profound statement.
Man’s anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose, yet so very often this is exactly our justification for our outrage.
There has been an injustice of some sort or the other, and we want it righted. But anger will never be the solution to any righteous cause. God does not use the vehicle of our rage to serve His purposes. The truth is, we have tried to use our rage to serve our own purposes. We mistakenly thought it would protect, provide, guide, and empower us. Instead it has turned on us and attacked, robbed, misled, and isolated us.
Walk in the Truth
We know the truth, and now it is time to walk in it and be set free. It is my prayer that this will equip you to structure your study of the Word and give you practical and personal applications. I have summarized what I hope will be helpful guidelines in the following six steps:
1.Make the choice not to overreact in anger. Decide to exercise constructive anger. This must be a conscious choice and decision. You must set your heart and mind to change, to turn from your old ways, patterns, and habits, and to allow the Word of God to transform you. This is not unlike when you made the decision to follow Jesus. The first step is repentance, or turning from one path to another. The children of Israel were given just such a choice:
This day I call Heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. — Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV
At first this will be a deliberate, almost mechanical, decision you’ll make in response to each and every situation you encounter that angers or upsets you. For example, we recently moved from Orlando to Colorado. It had been nearly twenty years since I had driven in snow. I was raised in Indiana and had memorized certain responses to driving on ice, but I had forgotten them through lack of use. The first winter that I was out in bad conditions, I temporarily lost control of my car. It was spinning and swerving. Without thinking I heard, Turn the wheel in the direction of the slide. What I had learned years ago was brought back to me without any effort on my part, and I was able to bring the car back under control.
2. Allow yourself a chance to step back from what has happened to you before you react. Proverbs 29:20 warns us,
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. — NIV
I am a student of the Scriptures and have learned that God does not offer much hope to fools. To be effective you must answer the question why. What is it about this encounter or situation that upsets you so much? Is it a control issue? Is it a fear issue? Is this an unresolved hurt issue? Do you feel violated? Often the reason is an obvious one and there is no need to dig deep for the answer, but you still need to regroup before you respond. For example, if one of my children speaks disrespectfully to me I will not like it, but I don’t need to figure out why. I do, however, need to carefully choose my response. Being angry and disrespectful in return will not model godliness in their lives. They will only feel justified if I snap back. I need to respond in a way that will help them to realize their behavior is not acceptable and they need to figure out why and resolve it. Often this stems from a bad habit. But if my reaction runs deeper than this I must slow down and take a closer look.
3. Take responsibility. Remember, responsibility is a good thing. It is not something to be avoided, but rather embraced. It is the empowerment, ability, or enabling to respond. When you blame others for your reactions, you are reduced to a slave of their whims or actions. Be responsible and own up to both your good and bad responses. First Peter 5:6 exhorts us to
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. — NIV
Humility is an integral part of taking responsibility. Responsibility and confession go hand in hand.
Confession means to own up to something, to humbly say it is your fault, and to resist the ever-present temptation to lay blame on the back of another.
Humility deals with your part of the puzzle without worrying about anyone else’s reaction. It is also an abandonment of yourself to God. You are saying, “God, I trust You that if I humble myself, You will lift me out of this situation and set my feet on higher ground.”
4. Learn from your mistakes. This is actually a natural progression of taking responsibility. Whenever you take responsibility you are in the position to grow from your mistakes. Proverbs 24:16 encourages us,
For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. — NIV
The wicked do not choose to get up; they remain in their fallen state. Their mistakes are not their instructors; they are their downfall. They do not learn from their mistakes; they become entangled and overcome by them. It is not so with the righteous. They humble themselves and grow stronger from each fall.
5. Forgive yourself and others. Forgive those who have hurt you. In Luke 17:4, Jesus told us,
If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. — NIV
Forgiveness is to be given to those who repent even if they repeat their offense seven times in one day.
We are not in a position to judge them because they have repeated their transgression. Have we not many times repeated our own? We are forgiven the way we forgive. When we don’t release others through forgiveness, we find it difficult to release ourselves. When we freely release others we will find it easier to release our own mistakes. But what if they fail to repent? Do we still need to forgive? It is hard to pray,
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors — Matthew 6:12 NIV
if we in fact have not forgiven those who have outstanding debts. This debt may well be an owed apology for a previous transgression.
6. Step out of the way and make room for God. When the situation still seems hopeless after you have forgiven and done what is necessary to reconcile, then you are in a position to step back and echo the words of David:
May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. — 1 Samuel 24:12 NIV
God will accomplish His plan in our lives. We will live in frustration and anger if we think we are ultimately in charge. Rage seeks a target or payment for wrongs done; fury and wrath seek revenge or recompense. But this is an area God does not want us to touch. God’s Word tells us,
‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people’. — Hebrews 10:30 NIV
God wants His daughters to be passionate and powerful. If you are not constructive with your anger, if you turn it in on yourself or lash out at those around you, you will lose your passion and become depressed or oppressed.
Freedom is not found in rebellion to God’s ways and wisdom. Freedom is found when we operate within His life-giving instructions.
Then we can live life without regret, without fear, and without dragging along the chains of our past.
Excerpted with permission from Be Angry But Don’t Blow It by Lisa Bevere, copyright Lisa Bevere.
* * *
Anger will never be the solution to any righteous cause. Yes, we will get angry when we’re wronged, but what we do next matters! What are you going to do when you’re righteously angry? Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about not blowing it when we’re angry! ~ Devotionals Daily