I never thought of myself as an angry person. Life had its challenges, but I was able to work through many of them and remain in control, all while having a good, easy going attitude. That was until I married and had kids. Marriage and kids took control out of my hands. I couldn’t make my kids behave perfectly, I couldn’t control their melt downs, I couldn’t control my husband and the responses I wanted from him. And all of a sudden, in seeking to control everything around me, anger began to control me.
I tried counseling and got some great strategies for handling my anger, but in the heat of the moment, they did not help. The strategies didn’t help because they sought to control the behavior, but the problem lay deeper, with what I loved most. I loved control, I loved approval, honestly, I loved myself most.
Anger in its pure form is love in motion. Throughout the Bible, we see that God is a God of anger. In Exodus 34, God describes that he is a God of compassion, mercy, unfailing love but also one who is slow to anger:
“The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,“Yahweh! The Lord!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6
Many people say they want a God of love but not a God who grows angry. But if God never gets angry then he is not a God of love. If I take someone you love and start hurting them senselessly, wouldn’t you grow angry? If you truly love them you would! So if God truly loves his people, he is going to be angry when sin and evil harm them. If God didn’t grow angry then he wouldn’t truly love us!
Humans, made in God’s image, grow angry when what they love most is threatened. The problem is that while God created us to love him most, we often love other things more. Healing from anger can only come when we identify that thing which we love so much that we are willing to fight the world to protect it.
Tim Keller says, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, is is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.”
Your anger is a blessing that helps you identify what you love most, your idols. Sometimes anger is good. If you are loving in line with God and his desires, to protect and love what is important to him, then your anger is healthy. But, if you find yourself quick to anger, if your anger is out of proportion (you are more angry than the situation deserves), or if you find yourself seeking to hurt people through your anger, you are most likely loving something that is not in line with God's heart.
As you identify the root of the anger, turn to Jesus. He went to the cross and absorbed the disordered rage of the world without fighting back. He didn’t just take our disordered rage, he took the rage we deserved from our holy, loving God. On that cross, all the rage, from both man and God was absorbed in LOVE and FORGIVENESS. He has released us from the power of anger by forgiving us once and for all.
Once I truly believed that Christ was the true love that I need most, I didn’t need for my husband or kids to worship me because I had the perfect love of my savior. I could let go of control because I knew he had it in his hands. Jesus was the only one who could set me free.
Once Jesus becomes the true love of our life, anger will take its rightful place as an emotion meant to protect what God loves most!
Turning from anger:
- Turn to God, repent of your love for other things and find that whatever you are seeking in that thing you are protecting can be found more beautifully in Jesus.
- Ask yourself, what is it that you are defending, what can’t you live without? Dialogue with trusted friends and God.
- In the heat of the moment, or even leading up to it, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- Study yourself, know what triggers your anger
- Pray for the love of Christ to sink deep in your heart, allowing his love to be the one thing your heart desires most.
For more information on anger: