What has the power to turn normal people, who on most days are good-natured and nice to be around, into people who explode in anger or shut down emotionally?
It’s the same power that can turn loving parents into neck bulging, vein popping, screaming adults who say the same thing over and over into the blank stares of their kids.
What is it? Our emotions.
Our emotions are designed as a gift from God, yet there are times, places and circumstances that bring out emotions that destroy.
Jesus’ half brother James addressed people who were under tremendous pressure and stress. Their conversion to Christianity caused them to lose their homes, suffer a lot of persecution and discrimination. It was likely that their circumstances were causing them to feel the powerful emotion of anger.
James addresses their anger specifically: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Every human being experiences anger – whether we’re aware of it or not. We feel angry most often when we’re frustrated, when we have unmet needs, someone upsets us, or our expectations aren’t fulfilled. But anger in any form has the potential to destroy our relationships unless we identify it, deal with it, and then learn how to let God deal with our hearts.
Ever wonder, how does God view anger? Contrary to how many of us believe, anger is not a “bad” emotion. Many of us have been taught growing up that it’s not ok to be angry. So we have a great majority of people out there who don’t even know they’re angry.
What most of us don’t know is that anger is actually a God-given emotionally charged response designed to protect someone or something.
The Bible clarifies this. The Apostle Paul commands us, “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
In other words, “It’s OK and even good to be angry; but don’t sin!” Paul is making the distinction that being angry is normal. It’s the way that we choose to express it that makes it sinful.
Is it possible to use anger in a positive way?
Anger can actually be a healthy emotion that motivates us to correct our attitudes, behaviors or injustices that we perceive to be wrong.
There are a lot of positive things that can come out of our anger. For instance, Jesus got angry with the moneychangers and was motivated to do something about the injustice He witnessed. David got angry with the giant and decided to do something about it as well.
When’s the last time most of us got ticked off about an injustice and said, “I’m going to do something about this!” Some of us think our anger itself is a sin, but if we believe this then we could undermine the very emotion God gave us to do something significant.
So, what’s the negative side of anger?
Anger can be an unhealthy and destructive emotional response that we use to protect ourselves from (real or perceived) hurt, frustration, or personal attack.
Holding a grudge against someone is destructive. Blowing up in a rage and attacking your spouse or child verbally or physically is extremely damaging. This is why the Bible warns us against the consequences of expressing our anger in unhealthy ways.
Proverbs 19:19 says: “A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty” and Proverbs 29:22 says: “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.”
When we’re angry and out of control (whether we’re spewing out our anger or pushing it down), we do and say some of the most foolish things that cause some of the most harmful consequences in our lives. And we’ve all made these mistakes when we were angry.
But there’s hope!
God wants to teach us how to take control of these powerful emotions that have the power to destroy our lives. My hope and prayer is that as we open our hearts and ears to hear God’s voice, His truth will set us free from the negative ways we view and express our anger.
For additional information and free resources related to this topic, browse our Small Group resources page or listen online to our Weekday Radio Broadcasts.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip