Last night, I fell asleep angry.
Things did not go the way I had planned, I looked quite silly in front of a crowd of people, and I felt put-upon by someone else's mistake. It was a rough evening, and I was mad. So I went to bed.
How did I feel when I woke up today? You guessed it: still angry, and my heart was no more forgiving than the night before. What does Scripture have to say about all of this?
Not all Scripture verses can be read in the same way. Some of it is poetry or song, some of it is historical records, some of it is parabolic storytelling -- there are many other literature types found in the Bible as a whole.
But some of its teachings can indeed be taken at "face-value," or even literally. Believe it or not, Scripture can actually be really applicable to our every-day lives! God's teachings on the purpose, the place, and the power of anger are particularly applicable in this way.
It says in Ephesians 4:26-27, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."
Why am I angry? We must ask ourselves this question forthrightly when we feel the burning sensation under our skin. It is so easy -- too easy -- to assume we are totally righteous. But, there's an alarming chance that we could give our enemy a foothold in our anger. So take a moment and a deep breath. Is my anger truly justified? Will it lead to a loving solution if I hang onto it? Is there anything I can do to subdue it? And please, do not sleep on the anger. This is just plain, good advice.
It says in James 1:19-20, "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."
We must put anger in its proper place. Most times, I feel that one of the reasons I am so angry is due to the fact that I have failed to truly close my mouth and open my ears first. If we are not willing to stop defending ourselves and to give someone our attentive ears at the very least, then we will spend our lives angry and miserable. Plus, James adds, human anger does not often lead to the righteous solutions that God desires. It is a powerful emotion.
Scripture is chock-full of bite-sized wisdom on the incredible power of human anger. In Proverbs 29 it says, vs. 8 "Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger," vs. 11 "Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end," and vs. 22 "An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins."
In other words, anger can bring down a whole city, make one foolish, and lead to more and more sinfulness. It is powerful, and it can hurt people, let alone ourselves. There are several Proverbs on the benefit of controlling our anger, how it leads to wisdom and furthers the calm of a community or a relationship. But, controlling our anger takes practice, and requires a great deal of humility in admitting when our anger is unjustified.
I should not have fallen asleep angry last night. Instead of listening to the one who made a mistake, I self-righteously justified how I had done my part and he/she had not done his/hers. Even if I did not blatantly yell down at this person, I was hard-core judging them inside my heart. And, I woke up bitter, unfit to do my work for the day in a God-glorifying way.
If you are put-upon today, or have the chance to get really mad about something, try to remember these wise words from Scripture, and take them at face-value. Take them literally, and let us do our best to apply them to our thoughts, words, and actions.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES