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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

A Christian And Anger: How To Overcome It

Anger from Microsoft Publisher ClipartI Was Angry

I mentioned in my last post that someone made me angry.

So I asked — How should Christians view anger?  And I saw from Matt 5:22, Eph 4:31, and Col 3:8 that I should see my anger as wrong.

Then I asked — Why is it wrong?  And I saw that anger means trying to satisfy my pain by getting back at the person who hurt me — by thinking bad thoughts about them, giving them the silent treatment, slandering them, and so forth.

But that’s wrong, because God tells me not to get back at people, and because only Jesus Christ can fully satisfy my heart-pain.

OK.  But that leaves one more question –

How Can I Overcome My Anger?

This is something God calls Christians to do –

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph 4:31)

 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Col 3:8)

So God calls me to put away all my anger.  But how?

Many of us try will-power or psychological techniques, like –

  • Taking a deep breath.
  • Counting our blessings.
  • Letting go of what is troubling us.
  • Focusing on positive thoughts.

These might bring temporary relief.  But the relief won’t last, because none of these techniques deal with the root cause.

What Is The Root Cause?

In 1 Samuel 18 we read that Saul became very angry –

And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  And Saul was very angry. (1Sam 18:7-8)

Why was Saul angry?  It’s because David’s victories, and the women’s song, had taken away Saul’s fame.  This loss of fame caused Saul pain.

At this point Saul could have turned his heart to the Lord, confessed his desire for fame, and sought his heart-satisfaction not in fame but in knowing God, beholding God, and worshiping God.

If Saul would have done this, God would have met him.  Saul would have been filled with fulness of joy in God’s presence (Psa 16:11), and his heart-pain would have been fully satisfied in God Himself.

But that’s not what Saul did.

Saul turned his back on God.  Saul tried to satisfy his heart-pain by being angry at David — by getting back at David.  So Saul nurtured bad feelings toward him, entertained evil thoughts about him, planned ways to hurt and even kill him.

So what’s the root cause of Saul’s anger?  It’s that Saul had turned his back on God and was seeking to satisfy his heart-pain by getting back at David.

Is That What I Was Doing?

Yes.  To my shame, it was. Someone had caused me pain.  But I was not bringing that pain to God.

Instead, I was seeking to satisfy my pain by getting back at this person — by thinking of how wrong he was, grumbling about him to my wife, having imaginary conversations where I told him off.

That’s the root cause of our anger.  Someone causes us loss, but we turn our backs on God, and seek to satisfy our heart-pain by getting back at those who caused it.

So What Can I Do?

When I saw the root cause I could see what I needed to do.  I needed to stop trusting that getting-back-at-someone would satisfy my heart-pain, and I needed to turn to Jesus Christ and trust Him to satisfy my heart-pain.

That was not going to be easy.  But Jesus has already put my anger to death on the Cross (Rom 6:6).  Which means that now, by His Spirit, He can put it to death in my heart (Rom 8:13).

So I turned to Jesus Christ just as I was — angry, upset, and bitter.  I confessed that I had turned my back on Him, and was looking elsewhere for heart-satisfaction.  I asked Him to forgive me through the Cross.  And He assured me of complete forgiveness (if you struggle with this, pray over 1 John 1:9, Isa 53:4-6, and Rom 4:7).

Then I prayed and asked for more of the Spirit’s work in my heart.  I asked the Father to strengthen my faith so I could see and feel Jesus once again as my all-satisfying Treasure.  I prayed verses like Luke 11:13, 2Cor 3:18, Jer 2:12-13.

Then I set my heart on God’s majesty, power, glory, and love — using verses like Gal 2:20, Rev 1:5, Psa 138:5-6, and John 20:30-31.

I prayed over these verses until I felt the Holy Spirit strengthen my faith, and change my heart.  Slowly my hard, bitter heart softened.  I started to see, and then feel, the glory of Jesus Christ.

And as I worshiped Jesus Christ my heart-pain was healed.  I felt peace and even joy in Christ.

And my anger was gone.

Comments?  Thoughts?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Anger, Love, and Forgiveness

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8 Responses

  1. Craig Forbes says:

    Steve,
    This unfortunately has been a recurring issue with me. What you write is exactly right-on. My challenge is to take that head knowledge which is Truth and have it, by the power of the Holy Spirit, inform/transform my heart. this issue has been a sober reminder of how, while my sin doesn’t define me, it sure causes wreckage around me.
    Thanks for the good words.
    For Him,
    Craig

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Craig,

      It’s always a joy to hear from you, brother. And I am so glad you found this helpful. Thanks for letting me know — and let’s press on in putting this sin to death!

      In Christ,

      Steve

  2. I love your blog and the extra resources you recommend, too. Thanks so much – I know it costs you a lot of time.

    One of the problems with anger is that it is an impulsive emotion, exploding faster than the speed of thought. I think that using those temporary techniques you mention could give us time to go deeper and pursue the idols which have stolen our hearts from God.

    You also don’t mention (I realize it’s really a different topic) the existence of righteous anger which motivates us to change things. Here are some thoughts about that: http://blog.dearchristiancounselor.com/2013/01/06/dont-waste-your-anger/

    • Steve Fuller says:

      It’s always good to hear from you, Louise. Thanks for stopping by!

      I agree that some of those temporary techniques can enable us to calm down enough to see what the real issues are. My concern is that so many seem to focus just on the temporary techniques, and don’t understand the connection between faith in Christ and overcoming anger.

      And thanks for mentioning your post on righteous anger — I did briefly mention righteous indignation in my post of 4/24 — but there’s much more to be said about it.

      Onward!

      Steve Fuller

    • Steve Fuller says:

      One other thought came to me last night. Prov 14:29 says “whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”

      That makes it sound like anger is something that, by God’s grace, can be slowed down and does not have to explode in us so quickly.

  3. Kai says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you for this post. I am a passionate sinner and I believe that I was redeemed by Christ. But Everyday I failed to live with that promise.
    I have this temper, impatience and sudden burst of anger that comes out everyday and it hurts my kids. I can not blame this on my past for it was said in the Bible that the blood of Christ covers the sin of our forefathers. Once we believe inthe gospel, we are changed to His image day by day- sanctified.

    I just have questions in my head and in my heart that maybe I want you to help me answer (please).
    Am I really saved? Then why does it seem that I keep repeating this sin that damages my kids. I try to do my best to meditate in God’s word but somehow I think Im doing it through my own strength. But how do I really experience God’s sustaining grace everyday? Why am I not that afraid to sin against my God that I will stop committing it. I think I am but I just keep failing everyday every second..with the littlest things like spilt water, loud voice etc.. after snapping I am disgusted by it and I always repent to God and to my kids. Oh how I thank God for not giving me serenity and desensitized in sin. His mercy is there. But I want to experience His victory. I am scared that this behavior damages my kids for life. Though I pray each time that HIs sovereign power protect my kids from me.

    Ive read so many books about parenting and how to kill sin. Ive been crying out to GOd each morning to experience His presence and the joy and hope He has given me.

    Everyday I fail, I fail my greatest mission, my ministry for Christ- to reflect Christ in mylife to my kids. How can I shepherd them if I always scare them away. Most time I feel that I don’t deserve to be a mother… most time I think why can’t I take care of his gifts well and why can’t I always be joyful with these gifts when I have hope?

    Im sorry for this depressing letter. I just wanted to hear and know and learn how I can deal with this sin. It may be shallow for others but not to me- we are talking about being good stewards of what God has given us. And Im failing big time.

    I will appreciate any insight.

    Please remember me in your prayer

  4. Jimmy says:

    Thanks for this post, I’ve referred to it many times when my anger has got the better of me. This morning, for instance, doing the school run, someone I know blanked me when I said hello. I spent the next half an hour plotting his downfall and all sorts of unspeakable things. Just for the relatively innocuous act of rudeness. Why do I get so angry? I don’t know. But it never ceases to amaze me the capacity for evil in my heart. Likewise it never ceases to amaze me the depth of God’s grace through Christ Jesus.

    Jimmy

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