When I get angry as a Christian, I need to allow God to be responsible for my unmet expectations. Sure, that’s easier said than done. But living as a Christ-follower means that God is ultimately in control of my life. My life is to fit into His plan, not live up to my personal expectations.
So let’s explore this problem of Christians who are angry.
Why do I get angry?
Anger is a God-given emotion designed to assist in addressing issues. Yes, Christians get angry. We get angry as the result of unmet expectations. Something we expected to happen did not occur. Anger is evidenced when either God’s expectations are being violated or when my personal expectations are being violated.
Does God get angry?
Yes, God gets angry! Did you grow up in a home where you were taught it is a sin to be angry? Perhaps you were reprimanded with harsh tones: “Don’t you be angry. Don’t you know it is a sin to be angry?” Of course, you did not want to be sinful but maybe found yourself angry frequently.
If you begin reading through your Bible, you will notice that anger is a predominant emotion in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Surprisingly, anger is mentioned most frequently in relation to God! How could this be if it is a sin to be angry? God cannot sin!
Yes, God gets angry, but He is slow to anger.
Lord, You are merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are good to everyone. You shower compassion on all Your creation. All of your works will thank You, Lord, and Your faithful followers will praise You. I thank You, and I praise You.Prayer Pattern based on Psalms 145:8–10
Is there a difference between sinful anger and righteous anger?
Psalm 4:4 sheds some more light on the topic and lets us know what to do when Christians get angry.
Don’t sin by letting anger control you.Psalm 4:4 NLT
This passage is reiterated in the New Testament.
In your anger do not sin.Ephesians 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 me.
It seems apparent that we can be angry and sinful, but there can also be times we can be angry without being sinful. So what is the difference?
Our anger is not sinful when we expect the same things God expects. But 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.
Sinfulness comes from the personal expectation that things should be the way I think they should be — I’m the ruler of my world.
Righteous anger comes from godly expectations that things should be as He designed — God is the ruler of my world.
God gets jealous too!
“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.Deuteronomy 6:15 NLT
But wait a minute! God is jealous, too? I thought that was another character trait that was sinful! Are you saying that Christians can be angry and jealous too?
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.
God gets His way, not me.
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,Proverbs 3:5–6 NKJV
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
When anger moves to hatred
Too often, we are stuck in our anger and meditate on the offenses until they fester in our souls. As we consider the impact, we can recognize a transgression progression that begins with unmet expectations resulting in frustration, hurt, and anger. A transgression that results in anger may move to resentment and progress to bitterness. Yielding to the temptation, we shift to demanding satisfaction and seeking revenge. Because we cannot achieve satisfaction, the situation may degenerate into hatred. It’s not a pretty picture when Christians get angry!
But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.1 John 2:11 NLT
To avoid being blinded by the darkness, we can follow a series of determinative questions to clarify how we should proceed. Desperate Dependency depicts the Anger Tree, which can help you visualize the path. [ 🤗 Psst. If you click the Anger Tree link, you can sign up to get a .pdf copy of the Anger Tree! 🤗 ]
Are you angry about a personal expectation or God’s expectation?
We have already stated that anger is a God-given emotion to address unmet expectations. When anger begins to rise, we must ask, “What did I expect?” Often just identifying our expectations can assist in determining how to proceed.
Was it a personal expectation, or was it God’s expectation? Most of the time, we must admit that personal expectations arouse our anger. We wanted our way, and events did not occur as we expected. Our self-centered sense of entitlement convinces us we must have everything we want. This is why Christians get angry.
Are my expectations realistic?
But we must ask, “Was it realistic and appropriate to expect?” Suppose you determine you expected your newborn baby never to cry. Is that realistic and appropriate to expect? Of course not! Perhaps you expect your spouse to be able to read your mind. Is that realistic and appropriate to expect? No.
When we conclude that our expectation has not been realistic or appropriate, then we must adjust our expectations. I must expect my newborn baby will cry when it is hungry, wet, afraid, or just plain needy. I must expect that my spouse is not omniscient and requires communication before he can understand me.
With the realization that I have fallen short in my expectations, I must ask for forgiveness and forgive the debt. As a result of believing someone has not measured up to our expectations, we are convinced that they owe us something. This is where our anger can become sinful because God is the only one who has a right to anything. They do not owe us; they owe God. If we are merely expecting to have our selfish ambitions satisfied, we are sinful. With repentant hearts, we must say, “I am sorry I expected you to __________. Will you please forgive me for being unrealistic and inappropriate in my expectation?”
“I’m angry because you should have known!”
Suppose we did have a realistic and appropriate expectation. “Did the other person know what was expected?” If I expect each family member to take his or her plate from the table at the end of the meal, I must communicate that expectation. If I never convey my expectations and anger flares because someone left a dinner plate on the table, I must ask for forgiveness and forgive their offense. Truthfully, women can be the worst at expecting things they have not communicated. “Why in the world did he get me a blender for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary? He should have known I wanted a new ring!” Certainly, Christians don’t get angry about stuff like that, do they?
What to do when you are stuck in your anger
Suppose you have determined that your personal expectation was realistic and appropriate, and the other person knew what was expected. In that case, you are faced with the next question: “Can I accept that my expectation will not be met?”
Since you are not God, you do not have a right to have all your expectations met. Can you accept that? Unfortunately, this is the point where we often get stuck. We maintain our anger and live in bitterness for hours, days, months, and even years because our expectation was not realized. The only recourse to resolve the anger and resentment is to ask for forgiveness and forgive the debt.
Grieving unmet expectations and disappointments
Perhaps you must accept that your expectation will not be met. Grief may result. Grieving is the process of adjusting your life because something is lost.
As we adjust and reorganize our lives based on a loss, there are two avenues we may take. We may fall into toxic grief, or we may choose healthy grief.
Toxic grief results when we adjust our lives based on lies. Our choices are poisoned by the deception we accept as truth. The downward spiral of toxic grief may resemble this scenario: “I lost my job; I have no way to support my family; I am worthless; we won’t have any food; our house will go into foreclosure; we will be on the streets at Christmastime; my life is over.”
Healthy grief views loss from the perspective of God’s truths. A previously toxic scenario can result in praise and earnest expectation: “I lost my job because I stood for what is right; God promises He will supply my every need (Phil. 4:19); God declares He will never leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5); He knows the plans He has for me (Jer. 29:11); I can trust God (Ps. 28:7).” These are the benefits available to Christians when they get angry.
The LORD is my strength and shield.Ps. 28:7 NLT
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
Grief issues span the spectrum of what might be considered insignificant to some through extreme crisis situations. It is the essence of grief to coexist with what we cannot control. And it is essential that we are content in Christ while coexisting with what we can’t control.
The intensity of the grief often reveals the value an individual has placed on a person, position, or possession. In resolving grief, it is imperative to recognize Christ as relevant to every situation we encounter. To clarify, “How does God expect me to adjust my life based on this loss and remembering His love, care, and trustworthiness?”
Would God be angry about this?
If we suspect that an unmet expectation has resulted in anger concerning an issue that God would also be angry about, we must first ask, “Is there biblical proof?” We may assume God would be angry about a particular situation, but we cannot find the scriptural backing for our assertion. So often, we seek for biblical proof to justify our own solution to accomplish the result we desire. We must truly seek His solutions. Seeking Him in desperate dependency will unveil His plan.
With biblical proof evident, our next decision to consider is this: “Can I expose and confront the sin?” We can never be ready to confront what is in others’ lives until we are content in Christ with the way things are in our lives. Otherwise, we may be trying to control people and situations to make our lives better instead of ministering Christ to others.
“Is the person a Christian?” This criterion does make a difference because God offers a specific course of action for guilty Christians. If the wrongdoer is not a Christian, we must grieve and allow God to mete out His justice as we forgive the debt.
Remember, grieving is about adjusting our lives based on the truth. Regarding the unsaved, we must realize the truth that unsaved individuals are unable to conduct themselves with the love, grace, and mercy of a forgiven soul. Therefore, they cannot be held to the same standards God expects of the saved. Often we jump to confrontation and boundary setting without grieving the truth that a person cannot evidence godliness and goodness apart from the grace of Christ. Rather than being angry with the sinner, we must grieve for his or her soul.
What if a Christian causes me to be angry?
God does give us directives for handling our anger if the offending party is a Christian. Matthew 18:15–17 provides guidelines on how to address the situation.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.Matthew 18:15–17 NLT
Many people are surprised to learn that Jesus taught there are times we are to “treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). In those days, if a corrupt tax collector saw you on the street and said you owed $10,000 in taxes, you would be required to pay, or you would be put in jail. So the corrupt tax collectors were avoided with extreme measures. So it would not be uncommon for people to walk on the other side of the street with their eyes down to circumvent any contact. Can you believe Jesus would promote such conduct? Yes, there are times when we should make wide circles to steer clear of people.
But addressing these situations that cause anger to God and us, we ultimately must grieve the truth and forgive the debt. God is the final authority, and it is His job to see that the appropriate judgment is satisfied. Therefore, we must yield to His way and give up our will in all areas of our lives.
As a Christian, I must give my anger to the Lord.
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. Our anger is not sinful when we expect the same things God expects. But sin enters the scenario when we expect our self-centered expectations to be met.
When you are angry, do not sin. Think about these things quietly as you go to bed. Do what is right as a sacrifice to the Lord. And trust the Lord.Psalm 4:4–5 ICB
Too often, I find it is not easy to think about the things I am angry about quietly as I go to bed. In my muttering and sputtering, I am reminded that I must do what is right. When I am angry, as a Christian, I must trust the Lord.
In other words, doing what is right requires me to offer up everything to the Lord as a sacrifice. It cannot be mine any longer. I must give all my rights and expectations to Him. How in the world can I do that? I must trust the Lord. At the end of the day, all outcomes are His responsibility. Can I trust Him? Will you trust Him?
Prayer Pattern for dealing with anger
Lord, when I am angry, please help me not to sin. Remind me to think about these things quietly as I go to bed. I know I must do what is right as a sacrifice to You. I trust You, Lord. . . .based on Psalm 4:4–5
After someone reads Desperate Dependency, we frequently hear comments about the story of the anniversary ring. It’s included in the anger chapter (8). That might give you a hint about the main idea! If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to check it out!
Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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