September 20, 2016

Jonah 4:9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”
“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

This is a remarkably clear illustration of the effect of anger. Unresolved anger is lethal. Directed outward, it leads to murder. Directed inward, it leads to suicide. My good friends Don and Katie Fortune, among others, have taught well on a Biblical approach/response to anger. In Ephesians 4:26 Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 when he says, “In your anger do not sin.” Other translations express that as, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Anger is a very natural emotion, and feeling it, as feeling any other emotion, is not sin. The problem is what we do with it, again just as it is with any emotion. If we let any emotion draw us away from God, our response to that emotion is sinful. If we let that emotion cause us to cry out to God and draw nearer to Him, then it has fulfilled the purpose for which God placed it in the human soul. In dealing with anger, Paul gives some excellent advice: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” In other words, don’t go to bed angry. We tend to think we can sleep off anger, but what we are doing is letting it migrate to the subconscious, where it just piles up and makes it easier and easier for us to get angry about other things. “Sleeping off” anger is one of the worst things you can do with it! The solution to anger ultimately is trusting God, that He is on our side and He will deal with whatever injustice it is we are reacting to. Sometimes God wants to use our anger to motivate us to get things done. Jesus was pretty ticked when He cleared the merchants out of the temple! We have every reason to be angry at the devil and what He does, but we must be careful not to misdirect that anger to those who are being deceived and used by him. When our anger is at things people do to us (which probably covers the vast majority of anger) the proper response is to realize and remember how much God has forgiven us, and then choose to forgive the one offending us. Jesus did that when He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

I frankly don’t like to get angry. When I’m angry, it makes me angry that I’m angry! Precisely because I’m usually pretty calm and affable, when I’m angry it can be scary to those around me. I don’t like that, and it benefits no one most of the time. I can remember a couple of times when teaching that it has been valuable, however, because it scared the daylights out of misbehaving students! Even so, I had to deal with the emotion after that and yield it to God, forgiving those directly responsible. I am very blessed to have had the opportunity to interpret for the Fortunes when they were teaching on anger! I deal with angry people all the time, but much of the time their anger is not expressed outwardly. Japanese culture is good at teaching suppression! Often in counseling I have to lead the person to recognize and acknowledge their anger before they can deal with it. Especially with Christians, I need to make it very clear that emotions themselves are not sin; just feeling a certain way doesn’t place you outside of God’s grace. I need both to teach and to practice that all emotions are gifts from God, and are to be returned to Him, one way or another, in gratitude and praise.

Father, the stresses of getting ready for our first visit to the US in three years leave me with very little emotional margin. Being “journey proud” woke me up at 2:30 this morning! Keep me from letting that cause me to strike out at those around me, Cathy or anyone else. Help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, both receiving and transmitting Your grace in abundance, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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