Dealing with Anger

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Anger is like a toxic waste. Sooner or later it will come out. When anger is turned inward, emotional exhaustion manifested as depression is often the result.

Eph.4:26, 27 gives us some very valuable steps for dealing with anger. It states: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

The first step in dealing with anger is to be honest and not deny your anger. People usually relate to anger in one of two ways. They are either intimidators or enablers. The intimidator uses anger to intimidate, while the enabler keeps it all inside until an internal explosion has taken place. Intimidators destroy other people with their anger, while enablers or internalizers destroy themselves and destroy other people by denying that anger exists when asked about it. Eph.4:26 says: “Be angry but do not sin.” In other words, you must be honest in admitting that you may be angry, but you may not have all the facts and, as a result, your anger may be on the wrong basis. That is why Jesus said that if we had anything against anyone, we must go to them, one-on-one, and sort out the facts.

The second step we are given in verse 26 is to not sin in our anger. We are not told never to get angry, nor are we told to feel guilty over our anger. Instead we are told to not sin when we are angry. Verse 31 of this chapter 4 of Ephesians goes into further detail. There it says, “get rid of all bitterness.” Anger that has turned into bitterness is sinful anger. Verse 31 goes on and tells us to get rid of rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice.

We are not to let anger fester in us. That is why we are given the third step to deal with anger in Eph.4:26 when it says, “do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Anger that is not dealt with is anger that will develop into emotional toxic waste that will poison everything that the angry person tries to do. That is why it is so critical that one does not go to bed with yesterday’s anger. Verse 27 says, “and do not give the devil a foothold.”

When anger is allowed to remain and forgiveness is resisted, a root of bitterness is allowed to grow and the devil is given a foothold. From a foothold, the toxic poison of persistent anger enables Satan to build a stronghold. Once this satanic stronghold has become established, then the devil, whom Jesus referred to as the father of lies, proceeds to deceive the one filled with the toxic waste of anger. “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”(John 8:44)

When one chooses to hold on to yesterday’s anger, the devil is given legal license to come in and establish his foothold and whisper his lies. He convinces the angry person that it is all right to steal and let unwholesome bitter language flow like water. Paul, in Eph.4:28-32, continues giving practical direction for resisting the foothold and schemes of the devil. He writes, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer but must work, doing something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Unresolved anger results in grieving the Holy Spirit who lives in each believer (Romans 8:9; 1 Cor.16:19). The Holy Spirit, as the Third member of the Holy Triune God, can experience grief like Jesus, the Son of God, did. (Matt.23:37, John 11:35) When a follower of Christ lets the sun go down on his anger, he lets the devil get a foothold, producing such un-Christ-like actions that the Holy Spirit is grieved. Such grieving of the Spirit is dangerous because it leads to resisting the leading of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 7:51) This can lead to putting out the Spirit’s fire and rejecting the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. As Paul warned the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1Thess.5:16-22) To willfully persist in “bitterness, rage and anger” (Eph.4:31) is dangerous and can result in actually insulting the Spirit of grace. “How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace.” (Heb.10:29)

When one refuses to forgive and insists on angrily holding a grudge, such an individual is in essence trampling the forgiveness that Jesus provided through His death and resurrection. Jesus says in Matt. 6:15 the result is, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” To refuse to forgive is to directly insult the Spirit of grace. The word forgive occurs over 140 times in the New Testament. It means to let go of the anger, leave the offense behind, and cancel the debt you believe the offender owes you. The teachings of Scripture clearly state as we saw in Matt.6:15, and in the parables that Jesus taught, such as the one we find in Matt.18:23-35, that if we want to be forgiven by God, we must forgive others. If we insist on refusing to forgive and extend mercy to others, it will block the flow of God’s mercy and forgiveness to us. (Heb.12:15, James 3:11,14) Unforgiveness is totally incompatible with all that it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

To forgive does not mean to condone wrong or injustice. As Christians, our love for the offender compels us to go humbly to them on a one-to-one basis and point out the error of their ways. Our approach is motivated by our desire to see the offender repent from action that is destructive to them, rather than a desire on our part to confront them, resulting from personal anger. The offense may anger us but it need not blind us to all that is right or moral. That is why Eph.4:26 says to be angry but sin not.

Robert Ingersoll said, “Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, everyone should be serene, slow- pulsed, and calm.” In James 1:19 we read, “Wherefore, my beloved, let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” The poison of unresolved anger keeps this from happening. As this cancer of unforgiveness spreads within, as a result of the root of bitterness, the angry person finds it becomes easier and easier to let the poison manifest itself in one outburst after another. Because of Satan’s deceptions, each such action seems totally justifiable to the one from whom such venom comes forth. For that reason Heb.12:15 warns, “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile

The root of bitterness, deep inner unresolved anger, can result from suffering, personal tragedy or the hardships encountered in daily living. Such difficulties can actually result in anger towards God. Heb.12:5-8 warns, “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as a child! Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children.” When trouble comes, we must trust God and not let it result in a root of bitterness. Trouble may come as a result of
our spiritual warfare with Satan (Eph.6:11-18). It could be a test to strengthen our faith (1 Peter1:6-7), or prepare us for a ministry of support and comfort for others who are facing similar situations (2 Cor.1:3-5) We must never forget in the fires of adversity “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”(Romans 8:28) We are also promised that no matter what problem or trouble we may face, we do not go through it alone, for “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”(Heb.13:5,6)

As you face hurt, pain and injustice, never forget you are not alone. Don’t let anger fester within. Ask the Living God to show you any unresolved anger. Then by faith release the offender through forgiveness. Be set free from the prison you have been placed in of bitterness and hatred resulting from the anger upon which many suns have set. When someone has angered you, go to them and “speak the truth in love,”(Eph.4:15) following the directives given in Eph.4:26-32.

Jesus has come to set us free from all that holds us in bondage. That includes the bitterness of unresolved anger and its toxic poisons of the past. Confess this anger which has been with you for so long. Believe that Jesus will set you free. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Gal.5:1)

Yours in Christ
Larry Rice