Well it’s spring time, and if your yard is anything like mine, you are looking at a bunch of weeds. The overwhelming urge is to just crank up the mower and chop them up quickly and easily, but the weeds will only keep popping up unless they are pulled up by the roots. Anger can be the same way. What happens when we don’t dig deep enough and get to the roots of our anger? We will deal with troubling and noxious weeds in our hearts and minds for a long time.
Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong, wrath, or ire. The wrong that we suffer requires forgiveness to move past it. Without forgiveness the strong feelings we have will not go away.
“Anger is never static. If it is not dealt with, it will grow…” – Jerry Bridges (Respectable Sins). Anger will grow like weeds. It will spread places you don't want it and will multiply faster the longer it's allowed to stay.
Anger Becomes Resentment
Unresolved anger becomes resentment. We resent people because we don't speak of our anger and deal with it. That may be because of fear, it may be because we do not care enough to do it, or it may be because the offender isn't around or close enough to confront. No matter the reason anger develops and grows…
Resentment Progresses into Bitterness
Resentment progresses into bitterness when we do not resolve our issues with the wrong doer. Bitterness is different from resentment because as it grows it shows up as inactions. We avoid someone with whom we are bitter. They have become more than a hurt, they are now an enemy. Our anger has now grown to where someone that we should call our brother or sister is now our adversary...
Bitterness Becomes Hostility
When bitterness is left to grow it becomes hostility. This is where we see our hurt feelings take action. You're holding a grudge, which leads to actual plans to retaliate or get revenge. This action leads to strife among friends and family. All of this is traced back to your unresolved anger and escalates from a simple feeling to actions that wound others who may not have even been involved.
I know this chain of events personally, and I'm willing to bet that you do too. My hurt causes my anger, which grows into resentment and leads me to become bitter. It eventually makes me hostile in my nature towards anything that feels like the original pain. It is wrong and sinful. My anger is a sin and should be dealt with. I may never get the response I desire from those that have wronged me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I must confess my anger and grant forgiveness full and free.
How Did Joseph Deal with Anger?
Beginning in the 37th chapter of Genesis, we have the story of Joseph--a man we should identify with on this subject.
- Sold by his brothers into slavery (only because one brother was too scared to kill him) for being an annoying favored younger brother (not his fault, just who he was).
- Accused of rape by his master’s foul temptress of a wife. Sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
- Forgotten in prison by men who swore to plead his case with the authorities.
- We don’t specifically see in scripture that Joseph remained calm and always tender towards his wrong doers but can see that he was a trusted man, and his actions reflect someone who was not bitter or driven to revenge.
Joseph must have been angry, but he found some way to keep the weeds of anger from filling his life. I believe it was his deep love for God that allowed him to lay aside anger. His love for God overshadowed all the wrongs that could happen to him. His desire to honor and serve God was larger than his desire to exact revenge on those who had wounded him. And he did not have the benefit of the full scriptures that we now have. If you are dealing with this issue in your life listen to scripture and do what it says.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Let Go of Your Anger
Right now, before you close this tab on your browser, write down what you are angry about. Confess it to God first. Then take time to think about how you can speak the truth to your neighbor, not lashing out in hostility, and express your problem with him or her. Give forgiveness no matter the response and walk away free from the weeds of anger in your life. It is so much easier to hold on to your rage and anger, but the hard work of confessing and dealing with our sin is life giving. Trust God and deal with it today!
[Dr. Jerry Bridges' book, Respectable Sins, is a work that every believer should at some point pick up and read. I owe much of what I wrote today to his work because it changed my life and how I view sins that I once excused. This post was written in light of what I learned, and I hope that it encourages you as well.]