Perhaps we don't say it outright in church, but unfortunately these myths continue to cause shame and create stigmas in believers' lives. The end result: The enemy achieves his goal. We are alienated from God, unable to run to him to process negative emotions. But what if, instead of driving us away from Him, these emotions could draw us near to Him again? Bear with me, there is a way.
Firstly, to understand how the way we view our struggles affects our relationship with God, we need to recognize that the enemy's supreme goal is to pervert God's nature and character. He would love nothing more than for us to see God as harsh, distant and uncompassionate. This happens so subtly that we usually don't even notice. The drifting away from the heart of God happens as imperceptibly as the slow march of a glacier.
"Christians shouldn't get angry" is about as helpful as saying humans shouldn't feel hot or cold. Because we are real, thinking, feeling, breathing people, at some point we will feel angry. The way we handle that anger however, is the key to whether it pushes us closer to or away from God.
Anger Has a Purpose.
Know that anger is not just some useless, irritating emotion. It serves a purpose.
Anger acts like an emotional radar, alerting us to when our personal boundaries have been trespassed. A passive person, for example, may try to supress for years the very anger that is meant to alert them to others' controlling behaviour.
Anger can often alert us to ungodly patterns and strongholds.
Secondly, anger can be a reaction to injustice and to the wrongs in the world. When the recent late-term abortion law was passed in New York, for example, an outcry arose among many believers as a righteous reaction to evil.
Not all anger is a reaction to evil or trespassed boundaries, of course. There are many times when we feel anger for purely selfish reasons. But even in such instances, if we handle our anger correctly it can still cause us to draw near to God.
Dealing with It.
The Bible provides us with many examples of the right and wrong way to handle anger. The very first example is that of Cain and Abel. Unhappy that God accepted his brothers sacrifice but not his own, Cain killed his brother Abel. Rather than "mastering" his anger as God urged him to, Cain gave himself over to it. Had he allowed it to alert him to the fact that something was out of alignment in his life, Cain's anger could have given him pause to reevaluate his sacrifices and make changes. In this way, anger would have indirectly caused him to draw near to God again.
David, on the other hand, gives us an example of the right way to handle anger.
Before he was king, David is on the run with his band of men from King Saul. He asks for provisions from a wealthy landowner. Despite the fact that David and his men had provided protection to the man's shepherds, Nabal (whose name means fool) refuses the reasonable request.
Although David is severely tempted to sin (he is so furious he threatens to kill Nabal, his whole household and all his men!) he does not give into the desire. Instead, he is persuaded by Nabal's wise wife to abstain from bloodshed and not sin in his anger. The next morning Nabal dies and David asks Abigail to be his wife (who does not hesitate!)
David provides us with a great model for handling anger the godly way.
He ACKNOWLEDGED his anger.
Often we don't take this first pivotal step because we don't understand that feeling anger is not a sin in itself, it provides the temptation to sin. In other words, if you feel angry, you are not sinning- yet. That is why God said to Cain "sin is crouching at the door, but you must master it." Although Cain was angry, sin was still at the door. He had not yet acted on it.
Anger doesn't give way to sin until we decide to become embittered, decide to harbor unforgiveness or decide to react in an ungodly way.
Don't let shame creep in the second you feel angry and allow the enemy to accuse you- understand that to feel angry is to be tempted. Temptation in itself is not a sin, but the invitation to sin.
He EXPRESSED his anger.
When Nabal's response reached David, he exploded: “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good!" 1 Samuel 25:21 Next David puts into words just exactly what he feels like doing- i.e. annihilating Nabal.
David is identifying and voicing two things;
1) This is what has been done to me
2) This is what I feel like doing.
It's OKAY to voice to God: I am not happy with what has been done to me, this situation, this accusation etc. It's okay to say: "I'm so mad I feel like...x, y, z." In fact, this is healthy. What's not okay is to act on our anger in an unrighteous way.
He DEALT with his anger.
I have found from experience that there are generally two type of ways people get angry.
We are usually "stuffers" or "exploders."
Which one are you? Do you tend to deny how you feel and stuff it down, saying everything is "fine," (when it's not) or do you explode first and ask questions later? No matter what your personality, just as Abigail restrained David, the Holy Spirit can be a restraining influence on you, showing you the best way to deal with your anger and respond appropriately.
Notice that David did not stuff his emotions, saying "no problems, that's fine if Nabal feels that way," and continue on his journey. He dealt with his anger. Even Jesus got angry. But when he did, he chose to deal with it the correct way. When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, he was mad. And yet, he did not sin. In this instance, the path the Holy Spirit showed Jesus was to take action. Even so, Jesus didn't react impulsively, but rather, he took time to evaluate his response. This is evident in the way that Jesus took time to calmly sit down and make a whip before driving out the money changers. His response was measured and well thought out.
However the Holy Spirit guides you to deal with your anger will depend largely on your personality.
If you are a stuffer, for example, he may require you to actively deal with the anger. e.g. by setting a boundary, saying no to someone etc. If you are an exploder, he may require you to go completely against the grain by keeping quiet for a time. He may even be guiding you to set boundaries with yourself- by refusing to be selfish or give in to unrighteous desires, for example.
The Right Way to Get Angry.
So, the next time you feel angry, here are some practical steps you can take:
1) Be honest- Tell God how you really feel. Take an honest look at where the problem lies. e.g. Are there boundaries that have been trespassed, is your heart right, are you angry because there is something you can't control?
2) Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment- Is the battle coming purely from the realm of the flesh or is there a spiritual dimension two (often it will be a mix of the two.) Knowing this will greatly help with the next step;
3) Choose a course of action. What does the Holy Spirit require of you?
By following these steps, you can begin to work alongside the Holy Spirit to sort through anger issues, rather than letting anger and shame drive you from God.