(excerpt from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis)
UNFORTUNATELY, ALL TOO often we lose sight of the treasures God has in store for us, and we continue to search for trinkets we perceive to be valuable. While we work against what God wants to do in our lives, we continue to assert our way over His will. Gratefully, God installed a warning system that can be used to determine when things are not going as expected. Anger is evidenced when either God’s expectations are being violated or when my personal expectations are being violated.
Some of us grew up in homes where we were taught it is a sin to be angry. With harsh tones we were reprimanded: “Don’t you be angry. Don’t you know it is a sin to be angry?”
During our first years of marriage I (Melanie) found myself angry frequently. I really did not want to be sinful, but it seemed as though I could not control my anger. Very little was what I expected it to be.
Is your anger about a personal expectation or God’s expectation?
In my desperate search for peace, I decided to take the year to read through my Bible in search of God’s perspective on anger. My goal was to read from Genesis to Revelation. Each time I encountered the words anger, angry, or wrath I would circle them. I began circling in Genesis. More references in Exodus and Leviticus. By the time I was in Numbers I realized I had been doing a lot of circling and decided to see what kind of themes were popping up. Who was getting angry? What were they angry about? What happened when they got angry?
To my great surprise I noticed that anger was mentioned most frequently in relation to God! How could this be if it is a sin to be angry? God cannot sin! Apparently I had learned some false theology!
Psalm 4:4 (NLT) sheds some more light on the topic: “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” This passage is reiterated in the New Testament: “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 NIV). Verse 27 emphasizes the reason why we should not let anger control us: “for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Since I really do not want the devil to have a foothold in my life, I must be diligently cautious to make sure God is in control of my anger, not I.
It seems apparent that there are times we can be angry and sinful, but there can also be times we can be angry without being sinful. So what is the difference?
Deuteronomy 6:15 (NLT) states, “The Lord your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth.” But wait a minute! God is jealous, too? I thought that was another character trait that was sinful!
Webster’s dictionary defines jealous as “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness.” God can be jealous because He has no rival! In like fashion, God can be angry and not sinful because He is the only one who has a right to expect anything! Since He is God, He created the world and all that is in it. He established the order of all that is. Therefore, He knows exactly what to expect and has every right to expect things to go according to His blueprint.
Anger is a God-given emotion designed to assist in addressing issues. We get angry as the result of unmet expectations. Something we expected to happen did not occur. Our anger is not sinful when we expect the same things God expects. Sin enters the scenario when we expect our self-centered expectations to be met. As Creator and Sustainer, God is justified in having His expectations met. However, because I am not God, I have no right to demand that my expectations be fulfilled. When we assert that our way must be followed, we are usurping God and elevating ourselves above His position. This idolatry is sin, and the anger that results from expecting to get our own way is also sin.
Once again we see our need to be desperately dependent on God to empower us to live a godly life. Apart from God we have no rights. Apart from His way we can have no peace. In our own strength, life will never be what we want. We are incapable without Him. Therefore with repentant hearts, we must submit ourselves to His plan and allow Him to direct every path.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6 NKJV).
Are you angry about a personal expectation or God’s expectation that has been violated?