Posted Mar 26th, 2019 in Rhonda Wiersma, Anger


We all have it, to one degree or another. For some of us anger comes quickly and burns hot, while others of us conceal our anger in a pressure cooker. Anger is an often-misunderstood emotion. We read in James 1 that we ought to be “slow to anger…because the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (19-20). Frequently an attitude like this leaves us more willing to sweep our anger under the rug and deny its existence in our life. Alternatively, exploding in anger has left us, and perhaps others burned in the wake. True to the cliché saying, once burned, twice shy.

But really, what is the purpose of anger? And what is anger good for (as we know what it is bad for!)? How ought we handle this emotion that frequently seems to control us?

The purpose of anger shares its purpose with all the other emotions: a gauge, like a check engine light, to guide us in determining what we value, fear, and desire. If I get angry because I am lost while driving, my anger reveals that I dislike very much the inconvenience of getting lost and time wasted and the fear of being disorientated. Or, anger can reveal more godly emotions. Think of 1 Samuel 12 when David is confronted by Nathan. David’s “anger burned” against the allegorical rich man who used the poor man’s lamb to feed a stranger. His anger revealed that David hated dishonesty and injustice. Anger can also be a secondary emotion, meaning that when uncomfortable or vulnerable emotions like fear, sadness, or embarrassment are felt but unwanted, anger is expressed rather than these emotions. Because the uncomfortable or vulnerable emotions are just that, anger feels safer to reveal because it comes across stronger, dominant, confident, or communicates “Don’t look at me or touch me!”

As a passionate response anger can be used for good as long as it keeps God’s kingdom and agenda in mind. Anger can be a response against a sin, but is always a moral response opposed to evil, real or perceived. A victim of sexual assault is rightly angry at the sin done against her. Jesus was angry at “stubborn hearts” (Mark 1:5). Anger can also be a motivator; the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving was fueled by a passion to make drunk driving laws to prevent further harm from driving drunk. Sometimes our anger is a mixture of righteous and unrighteous indignation, more frequently a sinful response, and only very rarely righteously expressed.

Handling our anger well requires growth in sanctification, not a light switch moment. I have been reading Ed Welch’s “A Small Book about a Big Problem.” I love his approach in the beginning: find reasons why you want to deal with your anger (any reason, even if it as shallow as “I want to stop breaking things that cost me” to something as deep as “I want to stop damaging relationships in my life”). What has specifically challenged me is Welch’s call to adopt the attitude of a servant of God and then a servant to others. The way out of anger is to take the low road of humility as anger frequently rises up as judge, jury, and executioner. Part of going lower is being quick to repent, first to God and then to others. It’s also about adopting a willingness to be wronged rather than to wrong.

Do you want to learn more about your own anger? Or are you wanting to learn how to help someone else with their anger? Do you feel trapped by your anger and know you have an anger problem but just can’t seem to get a handle on it?

Elisha House is offering a biblical healing group called Uprooting Anger starting April 17 in the evening for eleven weeks. The group is curriculum driven, based on the book “Uprooting Anger” by Robert Jones. You’ll learn about anger, change, and two specific topics on anger against God and yourself. Contact Elisha House today to reserve your spot!