Overcoming Anger

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) 

Lucy had a short fuse.  When Linus asked for one good reason why he must memorize the Christmas script, Lucy numbers her fingers, forming a fist.  Linus says “Those are good reasons,” adding that Christmas is getting too dangerous.  Then Snoopy mocks Lucy, and she spins around pronouncing, “I ought to slug you!”  No wonder she only charges a nickel for psychiatric advice.

Making a fist for beating the pulp out of someone is not the approach God encourages for our dealing with anger.  Nor is letting anger fester into bitterness.  Likewise, immediately jumping to judgment or shoving it down to deal with it later (all the while, just letting it ruminate and consume every thought) are also poor responses.

narrow waySo how do we Overcome anger? 

Consider a better use of time and action.  You see, there exists a bridge of space and time between offense and punishment.  Some offenses rightly require immediate action, but others don’t need prompt reaction.  With Kingdom vision, actions, and time frame, we can span this time and space in God-honoring ways.  We have many choices, only some of which are good (e.g. with anger, love, resentment, patience, bitterness, mercy, forgiveness, revenge, peace, etc.).

God’s approach is to let Him be in charge of that narrow bridge because it is all spiritual.  The narrow bridge is at our feet and God’s Word illuminates the way in which we should go.  But fall off the narrow bridge in one direction and we find it’s flanked on one side with anger.  Fall off the other side and we fall into judgment of our fellow human beings.  Both spiritual chasms are too dangerous for humans to navigate safely so we’re better off staying on the bridge instead of descending into the pit of anger, judgment, and hatred.

Ultimately all offenses against God’s image bearers are against Him.  

Only God is fully capable of resolving anger with proper judgment.

On the other hand, human anger points inward.  We can turn ourselves into victims.  Anger infiltrates our spirits and takes root.  It draws us inward to lavish self-worship by which we focus on our hurts, how offended we feel, and how we were wronged!

Furthermore, jumping headlong into get-even-with’em-ism, we fail to appreciate that only God knows someone’s heart, has perfect understanding, and sees how the narrow bridge of space and time can lead sinners to repentance before punishment must happen.  God doesn’t punish so He gets His pound of flesh.  He punishes as discipline to bring us to godliness and repentance.

Just as anger leads us to focus inward, judgment against our fellow image-bearing humans also brings us face-to-face with another self-worship trap.  We pride ourselves as being more like God than others when, in fact, we become less like Him the more we judge others’ hearts.  Judging can be very god-like.  But each of us has probably encountered a situation which (upon learning the backstory or Paul Harvey’s “the rest of the story”) revealed that what we thought was going on, really wasn’t correct at all.  Better to leave rash judgments aside and rely upon God’s judgment in His timing and to fill our time with choices certain to honor God.

In Romans 12:21 it reads, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  God has given us a narrow way on which to walk with humility, love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy toward others.  Ultimately our leaving anger and judgment to God alone demonstrates our love for Christ and our trust in Him.


Questions for reflection:

  1. Think of some offenses against you that have made you angry.  Picture yourself walking across that narrow bridge from offense to punishment.  What might be some strategies you can use to lay the burden down at the offense and leave the judgment and punishment to God?  What might be some strategies to keep from being tempted to take it up again?
  2. Can carrying an offense or a grudge become a habit?  What happens to offenses and grudges over time?  Identify ways grudges can cause you to focus on how you feel and provide reasons to reinforce your right to be offended.

Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on October 4, 2013

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