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 stronghold. Ephesians 4: 26 – 27
“Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” must be embedded somewhere in my soul because all my life I have had trouble sleeping if I am upset with someone, or if I know someone is upset with me – until the situation is resolved or until I accept that I just have to be patient until it is.
Sometimes our anger or frustration can spill over into hurtful words during a discussion or disagreement with those we care about. What turmoil we can experience as we wrestle with all those emotions and thoughts at the words that were spoken on both sides! We may spend time thinking of all the things we wished we had said differently or could have the chance to say again! These upset feelings can build and we can become so obsessed with them, that they can take away our clear thinking, prevent us from putting the incident behind us, or even keep us from seeing the good things around us. What can we do with these painful emotions we have?
I recently read a Bible Study lesson on Anger: How should we deal with it in ourselves and respond to it in others in this angry world we live in? As I read and reflected on its message, I realized I needed to do some soul searching about myself. I don’t like conflict and try to avoid it, but there are certainly times that I have said things in response to others. You start questioning why you do the things you do, and whether you have these feelings of anger, bitterness, or resentment hidden deep within, and you just don’t realize it.
I do recognize that from time to time I can feel frustration and anguish from someone’s words or actions, and sometimes I respond and sometimes I can let it go. Also, I realized that at times – and why at some and not at others – I can let the smallest slight or comment build in my mind and heart. Even if I can manage to keep the hurt inside, it seems to stay with me for awhile until I work through it, and then I may not even understand why I felt the way I did.
I really wanted to discover where these feelings were coming from and I prayed that God would help me look within myself and see what was lying deep in my heart. It is really humbling when you ask Him to do so, and He does. And sometimes it’s not at all what we expected or wanted to see.
Indeed frustration and anger can be powerful and potentially damaging emotions if we give into them. God’s Word instructs us to be patient when we are wronged and long suffering when we are hurt. (1 Cor. 13: 4 – 5) God gave us emotions, but he never intended for them to rule over us. Anger, frustration, or bitterness expressed in words, or especially in actions, will always result in consequences, and usually they include pain and regret.
The author of this lesson said that anger can be manifested in 3 ways:
1. rage (explosive, uncontrolled expressions of anger that lash out at anyone in its path)
2. resentment (unexpressed anger that may turn into hostility as it festers over time until it can no longer be controlled, and it comes out in a damaging way)
3. righteous indignation (an anger in which you stand up for what you believe to be right, to speak for justice, or to defend the powerless).
There are many causes of anger such as not getting our way, losing control, feeling rejected, experiencing loss or disappointment, or having feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes our deep seated anger can result from unresolved issues as a child.
This author stated that most of our anger is motivated by our own self-interests – are we being treated fairly – and often we take our frustrations out on those who least deserve it. It is one of the most destructive emotions we can have.
Yet, even God showed anger many times in Scripture and so did Christ, so our anger can sometimes be a positive thing when we use it in the proper way and for a good cause. Many who feel anger have learned to control their emotions rather than letting their anger turn into rage, and they use it in constructive ways to deal with issues and concerns. Others who are slow to become angry may still feel upset, but they have learned to work through their feelings.
This verse doesn’t command us not to feel anger, but “in our anger”, to not let it cause us to sin or hurt others. This author states: “Anger is not sinful unless it steps beyond God’s law – either to seek outcomes that He does not honor or a desire to use methods that He condemns. Justified anger is purposeful and beneficial to someone who is being mistreated, hurt, or taken advantage of. Unjustified anger is self-motivated and vengeful. It seeks to get even and destroy.”
When we reflect and take a serious look at ourselves, we can discover amazing things as God opens our hearts up to the truth. I soon discovered that thankfully, I don’t think I have any pent up rage or resentment toward anyone, but perhaps my upset feelings would fit more into a category called SELF-righteous indignation caused by my own pride and selfishness. If I was truly honest in searching my heart, I had to admit that at times, I felt as if I was in someway being denied or deprived of something that I truly believed I was deserving or worthy of – such as more respect, acknowledgement, or appreciation. And if I didn’t get it, I got upset.
How easily we can focus on something so insignificant and let it become an obsession with us! It eats at us and takes away our joy and contentment. I finally realized that during those times, I must have been so focused on me that I forgot where my eyes and heart should be, and that is on loving others, and more importantly, on serving and loving God. It is indeed humbling when you come to the realization that you have let yourself become so self-absorbed that it changes who you are and who you want to be.
Anger and frustration are in opposition to the character of God and what He chooses for us. It is a focus on self rather than on Him. Only God deserves our glory, honor, and praise. When we have such feelings of frustration, bitterness, and anger, we need to take them to Him and ask Him to soothe our hearts and minds, and trust Him to do so. May we be reminded to keep our eyes on our loving and gracious God and what truly matters!
Our dear heavenly Father, even we don’t understand why we sometimes act the way we do. Help us to look into our hearts and examine why we might have feelings of anger and frustration. We know that through you, hearts and lives can be transformed. Thank you for your love and presence in our lives and for all our many blessings. Amen