Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
When Is It OK to Be Angry?
By Dr. Gregory L. Jantz with Ann McMurray
CBN.com Anger is clearly a part of life. Most people experience some level of it on a daily basis. Sometimes, anger is appropriate to the circumstances and sometimes it’s not. There is a balance to anger that many people haven’t learned to negotiate: you get angry about things you shouldn’t; you are complacent over things you should be angry about.
The answer isn’t to expunge all anger from your life; that isn’t possible. Anger is an emotion and a reaction you will continue to feel and experience. The answer is to learn how to craft a role for anger in your life that is within appropriate boundaries. Because you’ve found it difficult to come up with those appropriate boundaries for yourself, I offer the boundaries developed by what has been called “a higher power.” According to God, there is a list of things that it is appropriate to be angry about. The catch is, the list isn’t very long.
The Power of Anger
There are times when it’s appropriate to be angry. The issue isn’t anger itself, it is the context of the anger and how that anger is expressed. God is actually angry a lot in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament. Of course, he has humankind to deal with, so it really doesn’t surprise me that much.
God gets angry, and he gave people the ability to get angry too. The role of anger—both God’s and humankind’s—begins in Genesis and permeates the entire Bible. The words anger, angry, wrath, and fury appear around six hundred times throughout Scripture. Reading over all of these references, I was struck by the imagery used for anger and its synonyms. Anger is an extremely powerful and dynamic emotional response. When expressed, it always brings about some sort of change, either to the one who expresses the anger or to whatever or whoever is on the receiving end. Anger is, in other words, highly effective. Listen to how anger and its synonyms are described:
Anger, then, is described as a raging fire, with the ability to burn and consume everything in its path. It is portrayed as a destructive change agent. I am, frankly, amazed that God would entrust you and me with so potent an emotion. Yet, he has, so anger has a God-given role to play in your life and mine. The dilemma is to determine what that role is. The challenge is to contain your anger within the boundaries of that God-given role.
Do you remember when I wrote earlier that there is a list of things it is appropriate to be angry about but that you don’t get to dictate the contents of the list? If you asked me today what are ten things I’m angry about, I could rattle them off rapid fire. I know what makes me mad. This list, however, is not necessarily what should make me mad. My list would probably tell you more about me and my personality than what truly exists in the world as a source of anger. The ultimate Anger List does not belong to me; it belongs to God. God determines what is acceptable to be angry about. No matter how right, how justified, how clear cut you may feel your anger is, God is the ultimate judge of its appropriateness. No matter how intensely you feel your anger, the depth and intensity of your emotions do not trump God’s judgment on the matter.
So, what is God’s judgment on anger? What does God deem appropriate to be angry about? Certainly the place to start is back in Scripture, to see what God himself is angry about. God is angry when:
People oppose God’s plans for their lives. In Exodus 4, God has a job he wants Moses to do, but Moses gives excuse after excuse for why he can’t do it. Moses becomes a naysayer to God’s plans. This makes God angry at Moses.
People use their power to set themselves against God. Over and over again in the Old Testament, God expresses His anger at people, including leaders and nations, who go against God.
People willfully disobey God’s commands. When people are disobedient and intentionally choose to defy His instructions, this makes God angry.
People reject God. God provided the people of Israel with manna, the bread from Heaven, to eat in the wilderness. The people, however, got tired of the manna and began to complain and whine about the “good life” in Egypt under slavery and oppression. They rejected God and His salvation, all because they were bored of eating the same thing every day. They were tired of being God’s people and all it meant. They wanted something else; they wanted someone else besides God. This made God angry.
People fail to trust God. After scouting out the land that God promised to give the people of Israel, the 12 spies came back with a report. Ten spies were negative and said the land couldn’t be won, even though God said He would do it. Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, were positive and expressed their trust in God to fulfill His promise. The people sided with the ten, making God so angry He refused to allow that generation to enter the land He promised to give them, except for Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 32).
People practice idolatry. When God gave the land to His people, He was quite specific that it was not because of their own righteousness but because of the wickedness and idolatry of the indigenous people. He also warned them repeatedly not to engage in the same evil practices. When they did, He became angry and caused both Israel and Judah to be carried off into captivity (Deut. 32:16).
People oppress others. God has never been happy when people oppress others, in big and small ways—from taking advantage of the powerless, such as widows or orphans (Exod. 22:22), to cheating people by using dishonest scales (Prov. 11:1). Jesus gives an example of this in Matthew 18, when he tells the story of the unmerciful servant who uses the forgiveness his own master gave to him as an opportunity to oppress his fellow servants.
People turn away from God. One of the saddest stories from the Old Testament is the story of Solomon. I don’t mean the first part of Solomon’s story, for that is uplifting and amazing. I mean the last part of Solomon’s story, where he is corrupted by his foreign wives to sin through idolatry. In I Kings 11:9, it says that “the Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” When people who have known God specifically turn away from him, that makes God angry.
People fail to live up to their word. God always fulfills His word and every promise made. It angers him, then, when you fail to do the same. This is especially true if you bring God into the promise or the vow. If you swear to do something, you had better make good or God will be angry (Eccles. 5:4-5).
Now, these are some of the things on God’s list, but what do they tell you about your own list? Is there a way to look at what God becomes angry about and determine acceptable areas of legitimate anger for yourself? I believe there are some general situations that are cause for what has been called “righteous anger”because they mirror what God is angry about. God becomes angry when His plans are opposed, His will is thwarted, His trust is rejected, His commandments are disobeyed, when those He loves are oppressed. He becomes angry when evil triumphs, good is mocked, sin is chosen, perversion is practiced, vows are broken. He becomes angry when people honor and rely on created things and not the Creator, slipping into useless idolatry.
To read more, get a copy of Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Your Anger.
Used by permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2009. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
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