Anger exists because we all have feelings—we’re human. Sometimes fury erupts due to our own weakness, and other times it surges because someone has sinned against us. Yet, “God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
No matter how righteous our anger may be, we can be pretty sure it’s mixed up with a bit of self-righteousness. This should lead us to be cautious about how we respond to hurt, especially because James notes that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). Psalm 141 explains why I must ask God to “set a guard over my mouth” when I’m mad—it’s so that my heart is not drawn “to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers” (Psalm 141:3-4). It’s awfully easy to lash out, to imitate those who hurt us instead of imitating Christ.
When we are furious, Scripture advises that we should “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4). That well-worn advice my father used to offer about counting to ten (or ten thousand, if needed) rests on a piece of truth: Feelings pass. Or more accurately, most feelings pass if we let them. Once the clouds of emotion have cleared, we’re more likely to be able to respond than react.
Dealing with being hurt is hard; anger seems the first defense. Yet we know that hurt and suffering are part and parcel of the Christian life; the Bible doesn’t promise that we will find happiness in this world. It is only in heaven that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Most of us recognize that we need to let go of anger, that holding on usually hurts us more than the one we’re mad at. But the problem with letting go of anger is that it tends to resurface…day after day. If you find yourself in this situation, pray Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away…along with all malice.” If the person you are angry with feels like an enemy, follow the command of Matthew 5:44-46 and pray for his soul and well-being. Finish by asking God that “no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble” (Hebrews 12:15) between you and this person.
“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). The burden that anger places on our hearts can be lifted when we lift our hearts to God.