Biblical definition of anger.
Anger is a God-given emotion of displeasure. It is seen in Scripture as being something felt and expressed by both God and man (ex. God: Ps. 7:11; 78:49; Jesus: Mark 3:5). Anger can be righteous or unrighteous. Even if our anger is righteous, anger is not something we strive to possess or keep in our lives. We are told to put off anger (Ecc. 7:9; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:8). However, if anger should manifest in our lives, we should do so without sinning (Eph. 4:26). If anger is handled correctly, it can be constructive (Acts. 17:16), but if handled incorrectly, it will be destructive (Prov. 29:22).
Manifestations of anger in the inner and outer man.
The inner man will express or feel angry when harboring bitterness, brooding against other people, or seething in jealousy (Eph. 4:31, Eccl. 7:9). We might experience fierce indignation or a passion that boils up deep from within our souls. This may cause a disposition of agitation because something or someone is bothering us, which must be handled and responded to biblically.
The feelings of the inner man often are expressed in the outer man in ways that break harmony with other people. A person can have outbursts of anger (Gal. 5:20), often causing their words to be harsh. Their actions may be violent or selfish(Gen. 4:4–8; Matt. 5:21–24). They may gossip or stir up bitterness among other people (Prov. 15:18) and may be consumed with clamor, slander, and malice (Eph. 4). The anger or bitterness of the inner man can be apparent in the outer man’s countenance and physical stature (Prov. 25:23).
What drives us to be angry?
There can be several elements that cause a person to be angry, but they usually stem from one of the following:
- Love of self. When we nurture or coddle our desires over the desires of God, we will fall into idolatry of self and grow angry when we do not get what we believe we deserve (Jas. 4:1-3; Matt. 22:37; 3 Jn. 1:9), or when we strive to keep what we think is ours.
- Lack of trust in God. God is fully providential and sovereign, able to care for us, and lead us. However, when we struggle to fully trust Him, anger can smolder in our hearts resulting in us selfishly trying to control situations (1 Cor. 3:2, 8, 15).
- Lack of facing problems biblically. Sometimes, our anger and bitterness can grow because we are not seeing our issues from a biblical mindset. When we do not find resolution to the suffering, pain, or strife we face in this life, our hearts will grow frustrated and embittered.
Biblical strategy for responding to anger.
As we deal with anger, we must cultivate a longing for God’s values over the temporary pleasures of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17). We need ask ourselves why we are angry; not just identify the cause of what has made us angry. Identifying the motivation behind our anger will help us better address the issues biblically. We must pray and ask for God to help us have the love of Christ in the midst of our situation. We must rely upon the Word of God to speak truth about His character and sovereignty. We must put away anger and replace it with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness (Eph. 4:31-32). The Bible tells us not to find vengeance on our own and repay evil towards those who we perceive have harmed us.
The greatest antidote for overcoming anger is greater trust in God. We see that Jesus Christ modeled trust in the Father in the midst of unjust circumstances (1 Pet. 2:23). We must also allow God to be the final judge of all (Rom. 12:19). When we accept the will of God as better than our own desires, anger will begin to fade in our hearts (Gen. 50:20; Phil. 4:6-7). We must act for the good of others and the glory of God, rather than strive to get our own way. True, surrendered control to God will give us the greatest and most lasting results.