Most people would agree that times have been pretty tough over the last few years. As our country has spiraled downward into recession, people find themselves in crisis. A lot of their pain begins with financial or career crisis as entire industries that were once cornerstones of our economy are crumbling. Unemployment is at an all-time high, average incomes are down and consumer confidence is faltering across the board.
The bottom line is that people are angry. They’re angry about a lot of things: losing their livelihoods, losing their homes, health care reform – you name it.
Here’s where it gets tricky – before long, that anger begins to seep into other areas of our life that often have nothing to do with the root cause. This ripple effect is especially evident in communities that have taken the biggest hits during the recession. Incidents of suicide, workplace and domestic violence, divorce and substance abuse all begin to climb at alarming rates in these scenarios.
Our emotions were designed as a gift from God, but every single one of us has experienced difficult times, places and circumstances that make us mad. I mean really mad. Unchecked, anger has the power to turn normal human beings, genuinely good people, into people that shut down, leak and even explode anger onto others. Our response when we get mad can easily backfire, bringing out the worst in us and deeply wounding those we love.
Here are just a few examples of some common casualties of anger:
- Anger can transform the tender heart of a loving mother into a harsh critic who destroys the dignity of her child.
- Anger can turn loving parents into neck-bulging, vein-popping adults who say the same things over and over to their elementary and teenage kids.
- Anger can turn good friends and passionate lovers into cold, calculated critical marriage “co-existers” who only do what’s absolutely necessary to live under the same roof.
- Anger can turn a festive family holiday into a gut twisting, name calling, take-sides, no-holds-barred family feud that’s never resolved.
- Anger can change a cool, calm, collected, conscientious worker into a gun-carrying, bullet spraying murderer that no one even realized was upset.
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of anger, we all have personal experience with how devastating its aftermath can be. If your anger has wounded others, you probably struggle with guilt and regret. If you’re on the receiving end then you know first-hand that words spoken in anger can hurt more deeply than physical blows.
So what is God’s perspective on anger?
It might surprise you to learn that anger itself is neither a good or bad emotion. Many of us have grown up believing that feeling and expressing anger is wrong. We have the false idea that “real Christians” just don’t experience this emotion and that because we do it represents a serious spiritual shortcoming.
Anger is a God-given, highly charged, morally neutral emotional response designed to protect someone or something. Here’s a newsflash: anger can be a positive emotion; and God can (and does) use our anger to motivate, correct and right injustices. His ability to do that, however, hinges on how we respond to anger.
Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say in Ephesians 4:26 about anger: In your anger, do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil a foothold.
Now, Paul doesn’t say ‘don’t get angry.’ He says not to SIN in our anger. It’s important that you understand the distinction there. It’s a command, not against the emotion, but about how we RESPOND TO the emotion. The last part of this verse also holds a powerful prediction: ‘do not give the devil a foothold.’
Misdirected, unchecked anger is like handing the keys of your life over to the enemy.
It’s no surprise to God that we get angry – he designed us that way! However, it’s critical that you learn how to identify the true causes of your anger and deal with this powerful emotion in a way that allows God to work in your heart. Until you do, you’ll continue to spew, leak and stuff anger in toxic ways that can decimate relationships, seriously affect your health and even drive a wedge between you and God.
This week we’ll begin a new series called “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.” In it, we’ll examine three primary anger types: Spewers, Leakers and Stuffers. Chances are that you’ll identify strongly with one of these types. In fact, you might even recognize some friends and family members in the process! Once you understand your typical response to anger, we’ll examine some powerful, Biblical techniques that transform anger into the tool of truth, conviction and action that God intended it to be.
I’ve seen the significant spiritual breakthrough that this subject has brought countless people. As you unpack and examine your emotional responses to anger, it’s our prayer that God will bring about healing and renewed understanding of how he can work through and transform even our most volatile, powerful emotions.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
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