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 NIV)
Oooooh, I get so angry at myself when I get angry. I know anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires, so when I feel a wave of anger rush over me—I also get angry about getting angry. Anger and I have a longstanding difficult relationship. In the old days, people called it a “besetting sin.” The word “beset” implies persistent. I honestly don’t struggle with a desire to steal. Most days, I don’t have trouble with envy, but since toddlerhood, I’ve had to fight against anger, and the behavior that comes when I give way to it.
Thankfully, I am learning. Slowly. Here are ways God has taught me over the last six decades. If you, too, struggle in this area, I’m praying that one of these life lessons will be helpful to you.
- Human anger, as James calls it, is innately selfish anger. It flares because I don’t get my way or I feel inconvenienced or slowed in my busy little life. Simply remembering that most anger stems from my own selfishness helps me curb it.
- Sometimes I think I have a “right” to be angry, I feel it’s somehow justified. Even then, James asks me to note that I should be quick to listen and slow to speak. If I respond instantly when I feel that anger flash inside, I will have given way to emotion instead of listening first, then choosing my words with care. That old adage of counting to ten is a good one, but a better choice is to listen and pray before I speak.
- When someone else’s anger directed at me is the cause of my anger flare, I reflect on a scripture that I memorized back when I had teenagers: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). I acknowledge the truth of that proverb first, as I silently note that someone else’s harsh words have stirred anger in me. Then, I ask myself, do I want to stir up more anger with my response, or do I want to help a fellow struggler in the anger realm with a gentle word?
- Sometimes the best course of action is to simply acknowledge my anger and take myself away to deal with it before my words hurt a loved one. God’s Word says, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah” (Psalm 4:4 ESV). I need to ponder in my own heart what the root cause of my anger is and bring it before the Lord, asking for His help and direction.
- Stuffing my anger is never the answer. First of all, it hurts too much to hold it inside. Next, it robs me of joy and hurts those I love with my coldness of heart. Paul advises “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV). I love this verse. All I have to do is ask myself, do I really want to give an opportunity to the devil?! Of course I don’t. I want no business with him. Anger left to simmer turns into bitterness and stoniness. I must bring my anger to the Lord and resolve it, not letting the sun go down until I’ve at least brought it to the One who can help me sort through the whole emotional deal.
Why does anger make me so angry? Because it wounds and injures and leaves horrible scars when we use it as a weapon in the heat of the moment. May God help each of us to recognize the flare-up before it causes harm.
Dear Father, help me to turn from selfish, human anger and toward You, who love so well and so unconditionally. Thank You for Your Word, full of wisdom on this subject. Make me an eager student of Your guidance, as I continue my journey away from anger and toward a life lived in love. Oh, how I want to be remembered as someone who loved well. Help me, please! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
Vision To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)
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