Abundant Life

Teaching: Processing Anger in a Healthy Way

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[The following article is an edited transcription of our March 2003 Tape / CD of the Month, Healthily Processing Anger by Karen Theisen.]

As a small child, I had somehow internalized the idea that God Almighty would be very displeased if I ever got angry. You can imagine my dismay when as an older teenager I finally began to read the Bible on my own. Frankly, I was quite shocked at the Psalms. I was beginning to read the Psalms because I wanted to know more about praise and how to have a relationship with God. The word praise is actually used more often in the Bible in Psalms than any place else. Unbeknownst to me, a lot is in the Psalms about anger and other issues with which I had struggles.

Frankly, it really surprised me to find that my heavenly Father displays Himself as having the emotion of anger. Today, I want to take a look at that because perhaps some of you also have struggled with this concept. We are going to be taking a look at the two categories of anger that are displayed in the Bible. The first one is justifiable anger. That is the kind of anger that our heavenly Father displays and that our Lord Jesus Christ displays; therefore, we should assume that we too at times would have justifiable anger. The second is unjustifiable anger. We will be taking a look at situations of unjustifiable anger.

We will also be talking today about the physical, the psychological, and spiritual prices that we pay when we choose not to resolve or healthily process our angers. We pay huge prices, not just as individuals, but I am going to assert that as a community of believers that we pay huge prices when we do not process our anger.

We are also going to be talking about strategies for dealing with angers. The strategies will vary depending upon whether you are the recipient of someone’s anger or whether you are the person who is angry. Finally, we will be closing with a look at the Lord Jesus Christ, his life, and how he chose to deal with anger.

I would like to begin in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:26 and 27
(26) “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
(27) and do not give the devil a foothold.

It is interesting that it says, “In your anger do not sin.” I shared with you that as a little Christian girl I had the idea that anger was a sin in and of itself. Actually, the Webster’s New World dictionary defines anger as this, “A hostile feeling of displeasure because of injury or opposition.” The emotion of anger is just that; it is an emotion. It tells us that something is up. We have in someway been possibly violated. Our boundaries have been violated.

I was really surprised that as I began to read through the Psalms I discovered that our heavenly Father says that He gets angry. This tells us that the emotion of anger, again, in and of itself is not a negative emotion. I would like to begin with Psalm 78. What exactly was God communicating? In this particular situation, we will see that God’s justifiable anger involved unbelief, the unbelief of His people.

Psalm 78:12 and 13
(12) He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
(13) He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall.

I cannot wait to see the rerun of that. That will be amazing.

Psalm 78:14-18
(14) He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.
(15) He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
(16) he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
(17) But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High.
(18) They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.

This whole section goes on to talk about basically how the Children of Israel tested God. They complained about foods that they missed. God in His loving provision did provide, and yet, if you read through this whole section, you will see that our heavenly Father gets angry and rightfully so. His anger was justified.

Psalm 78:38a
Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger…

The anger in and of itself was not evil; it was healthy. His people had betrayed His trust. He was frustrated and rightfully so.

Psalm 78:38b and 39
(38) and did not stir up his full wrath.
(39) He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

Let’s look at Jeremiah chapter 44. This is another example of our heavenly Father getting angry. In this particular example, we will see that the anger involved idolatry. God is very clear on His boundaries. God did not want His people to do certain things because it hurts us.

Jeremiah 44:1-3
(1) This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt—in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis —and in Upper Egypt:
(2) “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins
(3) because of the evil they have done. They provoked me to anger by burning incense and by worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your fathers ever knew.

Again, it is all about idolatry. God goes on.

Jeremiah 44:4-7a
(4) Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’
(5) But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods.
(6) Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.
(7) “Now this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says:

This is very telling, and as we read through this, I want you to be considering, “What are the idols that you and I face today?” You might not be tempted to burn incense to an idol, but what about the idol of self? What about the idol of beauty? What about the idol of pursuing fame? What about the idol of pursuing great monetary wealth? I am not saying that having wealth is necessarily evil, but I am saying how you hold it in your heart could be. What about the idol of TV watching or pornography? Fill in the blank, what idols might you be considering as we read these Scriptures. [For further study on idolatry, please read Cleansing the Temple and Destroying the High Places.]

Jeremiah 44:7b
Why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant?

Idolatry costs all of us a lot.

Jeremiah 44:8
Why provoke me to anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves an object of cursing and reproach among all the nations on earth.

We, as individuals, pay a mighty price when we are involved in idolatry. God has justified anger here in this Scripture. We live in a time of an Administration of Grace. You do not see people who are bowing down to false gods being zapped off the face of the earth during this time period, absolutely not. We have the privilege of taking a stand and helping people to understand who God is, who Jesus Christ is, what is the holy spirit, and how it can operate in the Church today.

Read the rest of the article here.

Here’s a video on how to “Fight Like a Christian.”

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Thanks for reading.

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