A former inmate said anger is the only acceptable emotion in prison. There are many reasons to be angry behind bars: loss of freedom, disrespect from fellow inmates, and so-called friends and family that have vanished. Besides, some days it seems if you aren’t angry, you’ll get run over. You don’t dare let your guard down and show a weak underbelly. Anger can seem like your best friend.
In contrast, what the Bible says about anger seems strange. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger … be put away from you, along with all malice.” Put all anger away? What’s wrong with being tough when you’re in a tough environment?
God apparently knew we’d ask. He answers the question in James 1:20. He said, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Righteousness is talking about being in right – or healthy – relationships with God and with people around you. Healthy relationships build others up and make them better people.
Instead of building people up, anger tears them down. It destroys relationships. It may achieve your immediate goal, but it leaves destruction in its wake. If we want peace, we need to build up individuals and relationships.
Put all anger away? What’s wrong with being tough when you’re in a tough environment?
RESPONDING WITHOUT ANGER
If that’s the case, how do we respond when someone threatens or wrongs us? Jesus said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). Does that sound like a recipe for disaster?
Before you picture what could happen if you turn the other cheek, consider David. David lived in Bible times and tried to please God and the king, Saul. Saul was jealous of David and commanded his men to kill him. Even though an army was after him, David saw God as his shield. He ran to God, took refuge in Him, and God kept him from harm.
The Lord will be our shield and deliverer, too. We don’t have to be angry to defend ourselves. Jesus promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). No matter what situation we’re in, He is available to protect and deliver us if we run to Him.
I recently heard of a former inmate – we’ll call him Jose – who was alone in a restaurant, cleaning up after the lunch crowd. It was almost three hours before the supper rush when four local toughs came in and spread around the room, moving toward him. Jose figured he could take three of them out. He instinctively grasped the neck of a bottle on a nearby table. He was ready.
But a thought crossed Jose’s mind, Do you want to be like you used to be? He froze. He enjoyed the freedom he’d found in Christ. He didn’t want to go back to the old lifestyle.
He slowly put the bottle back on the table and took a deep breath. Watching. Waiting.
The door opened. A couple walked in and sat down at a table. It opened again and more people entered.
The troublemakers turned and walked out the door. Jose was amazed. He had waited, and God had delivered him.
We all have a choice. Do we want to continue our old life? Or, like David and Jose, are we willing to put down our weapons and trust God to be our defense?
When you’re threatened or tempted to be angry, stop and ask yourself:
- Will anger make my life better, or will it keep me in the same old rut?
- Who is better able to protect me? Myself? Or the One who made me and promised to be my shield?
WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN
We have all known people who seem to listen and obey God, but terrible things happen to them. Why? Where’s God for them?
Jose was amazed. He had waited, and God had delivered him.
A glimpse at the life of Joseph – whose story is told in the book of Genesis – shows how we can trust God to use even bad things for good, even when we don’t understand why God would allow them to happen. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous older brothers. While serving faithfully as a slave, Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison, where he remained for years. Joseph didn’t know what God’s plans were for him, but he chose to live righteously, and God honored him. God made Joseph second to the king of Egypt, allowing Joseph to save his family from starvation during a famine.
After 13 years of hardship, Joseph finally saw his brothers again when they came to him for food. They were afraid of Joseph, but he told them not to fear, that God sent him to Egypt to preserve life. He later said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
In the same way, God can use your hard circumstances for a great purpose if you place your trust in Him – even when it seems like His promises of protection and help don’t look the way you thought they would.
For more information and an extended list of resources download the full PDF here.
This resource was first published in 2008.
Kay Camenisch is the author of Uprooting Anger, a Bible study to identify roots of anger, and thus overcome it.