Anger is a tricky emotion. It’s easy to write anger off as evil and avoid it at all costs. However, this is easier said than done. The fact is it’s a common human emotion that needs to be addressed. What do you do with your anger? And what do you do with your anger issues?
To complicate things further, God displays anger in the Bible. He becomes angry and punishes people in the Old Testament, and Jesus flips tables and reprimands the religious leaders in the New Testament. How then do you understand your own emotions of anger, when you see God Himself acting in anger in the Bible? This will require exploration.
Anger vs. Anger Issues
Anger is a human emotion. It’s like sadness and happiness. These emotions can be considered good or bad, depending on what is driving them, and how you respond to them. The same is true for anger. However, it should be noted that there is a difference between feeling angry and suffering from anger issues.
Anger issues are characterized by an uncontrollable response to the feeling of anger. If someone insults you unfairly, anger is a natural response. Politely addressing the person directly about what they said is an appropriate response to your feeling of anger. Picking up the nearest object and throwing it at them is an inappropriate response.
This distinction is particularly important. It is important because it will help you process whether you are dealing with anger issues. If you have a one-off experience where you got upset and said something you shouldn’t have, this does not necessarily imply anger issues. However, if you consistently find yourself saying and doing things in the heat of anger that you know you shouldn’t, then you may need to get help.
It is also helpful to note that God never exhibits symptoms of anger issues, but instead responding righteously to injustices in the world and to disobedience.
God’s Anger in the Bible
To understand God’s anger better, you must examine the source of his anger. God is not a petulant and capricious old man in the sky as some would make him out to be. He is a consistent and gracious father who is concerned about correcting injustice.
One of the most famous passages about God and his anger is when Jesus overturns the tables in the temple. In other gospel accounts, it says he forms a whip and chases the men out of the temple. To understand this, you must understand the temple in the ancient world.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” – Matthew 21:12-13
The temple was the key place to worship God. It was where God’s presence resided on earth, making it the holiest site of the Jewish people. This place was to be treated with reverence and respect. Instead, what was happening in the temple courts was basically highway robbery. People would travel from far and wide to worship which consisted of bringing money and sacrificial animals.
The money changers would take advantage of the pilgrims by giving them a poor conversion rate in their money-changing, and the animal sellers had partnered with the priests who would refuse to accept the pilgrim’s animals forcing them to buy from the sellers at the temple. The whole thing was a fraudulent racket.
So, when Jesus came in and began flipping tables, he was addressing injustice. The money changers and animal sellers were taking advantage of poor Jewish pilgrims and standing in the way of the worship of God. The heart of Jesus was to correct injustice. And his response is appropriate to the crime. He chases the men out of the temple.
This passage comes after the Jewish people have built the golden calf and worship it while Moses is meeting with God on the mountain. Right before this, God had just rescued the Jewish people from Egypt through amazing signs and wonders.
“‘I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’” – Exodus 32:9-10
After waiting only a few days, the people abandoned God to worship an idol made by human hands. This is one of the very first things God had commanded them not to do. Remember that these were his people who had covenanted to follow Him and obey His law. At the very first opportunity, they broke that covenant.
God’s anger was not some capricious emotion but was the natural response to betrayal from His covenanted people.
Christians and Anger
After examining God’s anger in the Bible, Christians can better understand how to handle their own anger.
First, Christians need to examine the source of their anger. If you are upset because of injustice or betrayal, then your feelings may be warranted. If you are angry because you didn’t get what you wanted or because someone else succeeded when you thought you should have, then your anger is sinful.
However, even if your feelings of anger are warranted, you need to be careful about how you respond. God is sinlessly perfect and his response to his anger is likewise perfect. As fallen, sinful people, human beings need to be careful to respond to their anger in a godly way. Acting without self-control in anger, even for the best reasons, is a sin.
Christians and Anger Issues
As previously discussed, anger issues are characterized by being uncontrollable. God’s anger is never out of control. It is intentional, balanced, and above all, holy. If you find yourself struggling with anger and are unable to control how you respond to it, then you may need professional help.
Here is a list of symptoms that may help you decide whether you need to meet with someone.
- A tingling sensation in the body
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Inability to think clearly
These are common feelings experienced by those with anger issues. Trying to fix things on your own risks hurting the people around you. As much as you want to change, the more you let your anger bleed out on other people, the more damage is done. Finding a counselor or anger management support group is a powerful first step toward gaining control over your anger issues.
It’s important to distinguish between God’s anger and human anger. They are not the same thing. God’s anger is rooted in justice and perfectly administered with fairness and balance. Human anger issues are characterized by sin, selfishness, and a lack of control. God gets angry, but he doesn’t have anger issues.
As Christians, we can be angered by the things that anger God, but as humans, we need to be careful how and when we respond to those situations. If you find yourself flying off the handle at the people you love, then you may be struggling with anger issues. Meeting with a Christian counselor can help you to resolve these issues and bring you greater peace.
“Studying the Word”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Emoticons”, courtesy of AbsolutVision, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Pray”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “At the foot of the cross.”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License