by Shea Oakley
"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Eph. 4:26),
It has been said that those who anger us control us. Having such control may not be the conscious goal of the person our anger is directed towards; in fact oftentimes they may not even know we feel this way towards them. Whatever the knowledge and attitude of the person in question, the truth is we have given those we feel animosity towards a power in our lives they should not have. The Bible tells us that anger is not inherently wrong. But Scripture also tells us not to let the sun go down with it still present in our hearts. To let resentment towards another continue in our lives unresolved is to cede control of our lives to someone other than the only One who should rightfully have such control.
Anger is often spurred by insecurity. Someone has attacked our fragile sense of self-worth. The circumstances may vary but the bottom line is that another human being has somehow made us feel disrespected and reduced as a person. We may also feel the sting of rejection that is implicit in any negative comment or action against us. As a counselor friend of mine once said, rejection is the worst experience a relational being can have. It is that painful.
Anger is the natural response to being hurt unjustly. It seems completely reasonable for us to hold on to that anger until the person involved repents of his or her actions. Unfortunately that repentance sometimes, perhaps most times, does not come. It is then we may decide that it is our "right" to continue to be offended. In time our anger turns into bitterness. The problem with being bitter is that it poisons our ability to live life to its fullest. This is particularly true spiritually. Anger, which has been allowed to go deep into our hearts and become bitterness, is a very effective block to sharing in the life of a Christ in whom there is no bitterness. We have allowed a person to have a power over us that is destructive to the most needful relationship we have.
How can a believer escape from something so easy for our fallen nature to fall prey to? The key may be in asking God to enable us to see things from His perspective-the only perspective that shows us what is ultimately real. From this view, a few things become clear to us. One is that, as Charles Stanley once said, "You are no better than your worst neighbor." Yes, we have been wounded, but we also wound. Another truth is that God happens to love our antagonist just as much as He loves us. Most importantly we can come to know that our security and worth are found in almighty God alone, and because He is the source for our right standing it really is not necessary to listen to criticism not given in love. Grasping these realities can help us to move towards resolution of anger and bitterness as we allow God's love to enable us to love those we have been angry with. Then we begin to be set free from the negative influence these people have on our lives. We release both them and ourselves when we forgive and put the Lord alone on the throne of our hearts. Joy is sure to follow.
Copyright 2003, 2008 by Shea Oakley. All rights reserved. Printed with permission.
Shea Oakley has written for a number of Christian Web magazines.
He makes his home in West Milford, New Jersey.