In the last post in this series, I looked at the long-term results of anger. In this last and final part on anger, I talk about how to deal with our anger so it doesn’t escalate
How do we keep our anger from escalating?
Often anger left to brew will manifest itself in different ways. It may start as resentment, move to bitterness, then enmity and hostility, and on to a grudge before turning into strife. We, however, have to stop anger from running this path. We can do that by remembering and reflecting on a few things:
(1) Remember God is Sovereign
God allows situations to occur in our life that have the potential to make us angry. Instead of allowing anger to take over and run its course, we should remember God has a purpose for everything. When we find ourselves in a situation where we are tempted to become angry, we should ask ourselves what purpose could this situation have in my life?
Admittedly, the question is an easy one to ask. The answer, however, doesn’t always come so easy. Think about Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was imprisoned in Egypt because Potiphar’s wife couldn’t have her way with him. He was forgotten by the cup bearer and left in prison to rot.
During that time, I am sure Joseph wondered what purpose all this had. Why God allowed this to occur in his life. For years, he didn’t know why. Eventually though, he discovered its purpose. It was to make a way for God’s chosen people – Israel – to survive a severe famine. A famine that couldn’t be foreseen or predicted.
God has a plan for everything that occurs in our life. We may never know the answer to the question why, but we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and in control. Knowing that should help us deal with our anger before it escalates.
(2) Pray God would allow us to grow in our love for others, even those who have wronged us.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that:
“Love is not…rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
The NIV translates “resentful” as “keeps no record of wrongs” and “it is not irritable” as “is not easily angered.”
You can see why it is important we pray for love. It helps us forget and wipe the slate clean, as well as it keeps us from being easily angered.
So if you find yourself angry at another, pray that your love for them would increase. It is a sure fire way to kill your anger and keep it from escalating.
(3) Forgive as God has forgiven us
The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 teaches us that our forgiveness of others is based on God’s forgiveness of us.
If we are having a hard time forgiving someone who has wronged us, we need to turn to the gospel. As we do, we need to remember God forgave us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).What a great truth! God forgave us why we were still sinners.
While we would admit what God has done is awesome, I believe we often miss the greatness of this verse. I believe that for two reasons.First, because it is a verse we have read and quoted so many times. Second, because we don’t realize the true nature of sin.
Sin is more than missing the mark. It is more than breaking a few commandments. Sin is an all out attack on God’s right to rule. Our sin can be compared to a band of rebels storming the castle with the intent of removing the king from his throne in order to set their own king in his place. When we sin, that is what we are doing. We are storming God’s throne room with the intent of setting our own selves in His place as the ruler of our lives.
Paul tells us that while we were sinners – rebels – God forgave us of our sins by dying in our place. If God can extend forgiveness to rebels who are attempting to overthrow Him, certainly we can find a way to extend forgiveness to others who have sinned against us.
Questions for Reflection
- What else can help to keep anger from escalating?
Post adapted from Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 121-28