Question: Battling That Anger and Bitterness



Anonymous asked:

I have a really hard time dealing with anger. I bottle it up inside because I don’t know how to let it out. When I do let it out, it’s an explosion! What is the biblical way to deal with anger and how do I keep myself from getting angry/bitter so fast? P.S. You answer peoples questions very well and straight forward. Thank you for taking the time to answer! P.S.S. I think you’re quite handsome!

 

Hey friend: First of all, thank you for saying I am “handsome.”  I’m guessing you saw my recent pictures from Alabama.  I hardly ever get told that (except by my girlfriend and mother), so I really do appreciate it. 

And hey: I am right there with you on anger, more than you could know. 

Before I go on, I’d like to shamelessly plug a sermon I preached recently on anger here called “Prioritizing Your Outrage.”  I’ll go over some of the same points.

 

1) Anger by itself is NOT wrong.

Every emotion we experience is a gift from God, but because of our condition called sin, sometimes those emotions go bad.  So jealousy is protection gone bad; worry is concern gone bad; greed is love turned inward; even grief is an indicator that something is not as it should be. Left unchecked, our anger can go rotten like a fruit — but anger is not necessarily “wrong” in the Bible. 

There’s a righteous anger that’s more like passion, and even God Himself is righteously angry against injustice and oppression.  Ephesians 4:26 says “In your anger, do not sin,” and some translations say, “Be angry, but do not sin.” James also writes in 1:20 that “human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.”

So there’s definitely a correct type of anger.  Think of when Jesus flipped the tables of the businessmen around the temple.  They had turned a sacred place into a money-scheme.  I’m not saying you should go flip tables at a megachurch: but I’m saying, Jesus was able to do this without sinning at all.

 

2) Anger has a purpose in your life.

If God created you with hot blood and a quick tongue, He did it for a reason.  But your personality will go one of two ways.

1) Towards your selfish agenda to control others and overpower them for a sense of authority and wholeness.

2) Or to passionately care about the things that God cares about and use your anger to heal what is broken.

Think of every kid who writes a selfish tweet saying, “I didn’t get an iPad for Christmas, eff my parents.”  That’s stupid anger.  But imagine a kid punching a wall and yelling, “I’m so mad about the poverty in Thailand!”  That’s weird, but it’s righteous anger.

God specifically wired you to be an aggressively outspoken ambassador for His justice, goodness, and Kingdom purposes.  So please don’t feel like your personality is wrong somehow.  God made you the way He wanted — and there’s no point suppressing it.

 

3) The more you redirect your anger, the less that “unimportant priorities” will bother you.

I used to think that when I get extremely angry — you know, the red-hot, ready-to-blow-up, throwing-things explosion — that I was supposed to count backwards from ten and repeat a mantra and think of unicorns.

This never worked.  The more I said, “Don’t be angry” at myself, the more exhausted I became.  Techniques can help you, but they don’t cure your heart.

But when I realized that God wired me to be passionate for the things that God is passionate about, I began to look at the suffering around the world.  The needs, hurts, lacks, misfortunes, disasters.  I became angry at death, disease, slavery, poverty.  I became involved in LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) and began donating everywhere I could (mostly to Samaritan’s Purse and Medical Teams International), and last year gave half my salary of $10k to fight human trafficking.

But all that to say: When I actually began caring about these bigger issues, the smaller stuff stopped bothering me as much. When you are angry at the right things, you are less likely to get angry at the wrong things.

 

Being on mission for God has a way of re-prioritizing your outrage for God’s work through you.  It doesn’t mean we are suddenly superior to “small problems,” but that we have fundamentally shifted our orbit around what really matters.  Nothing else so radically re-orients you than embracing what God actually cares about.

Doing what is truly important always turns down the volume of the less important.  When we chase after God, we automatically find sin less attractive.  When we funnel our emotions as fuel for God’s purposes, we find our emotions are more consistent, more sharp, more steady.

So I began having less “meltdowns” to contend with, and even after those explosive moments, I am quicker to apologize and admit my wrongs.  Even the other day, something that would normally set me off (cell phones in a theater) hardly bugged me, and I didn’t notice that I didn’t notice it. 

I am less likely to get bitter because I am so enraptured by God’s mission and His passion for people.  And I am learning that my “anger” — my passion — is meant to be used for His Glory.

This is a slow process.  It’s better than beating yourself up but it takes more time for God’s heart to become a part of you.  It’s not like you won’t ever go off, so show yourself some grace when you do.  It’s also okay to use some techniques to calm down your tantrums.  But all the while, press your heart into Christ.  Press your heart into the needs of the world.  The joy of serving with passion will overtake you.

Ultimately we are not doing these things just to overcome anger.  That’s not even the point.  As you approach the heart of God, something  greater happens. You will find that even your pride, greed, lust, jealousy, insecurity, and anxiety will melt away.  His life fills yours.  Find Him — you find yourself.

— J.S.

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