Traumatic events, like the current Coronavirus quarantine, seem to bring out the best and the worst in people. Responses range from patient and supportive to annoyed and angry. Emergencies, disappointments, and delays of all kinds have a way of eliciting a strong response inside of us.
In Scripture, anger is usually lumped in with emotions and attitudes that are to be avoided (Galatians 5:20, Colossians 3:8). But is anger always sinful?
Like most of the characters in the Old Testament, King Saul had his share of flaws. Early on in his reign, however, he showed a lot of promise. In 1 Samuel 11, some of Israel’s enemies attack the town of Jabesh-Gilead and took the resident hostage. When Saul heard about it, the Spirit of God came upon him and he became “very angry.” Saul used his anger to call an army together and to rescue the residents of Jabesh from their attackers.
How do you know if your anger is from God, or somewhere else? The answer comes from assessing your emotions.
1. Is your anger something you want to hold on to?
Ephesians 4:26-27 puts a time limit on anger. It says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity.” Smoldering angry quickly becomes bitterness, hatefulness, and even violence. Leftover anger from days, months, or decades ago is a sign that your anger is not from God.
2. Did you get angry often?
Would people describe you as someone with “a short fuse?” If you get angry quickly, chances are you get angry a lot. James 1:20 encourages readers to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” If you dismiss the feedback of others and jump to angry conclusions on a regular basis, your anger is coming from within, not God.
3. Are you angry because you didn’t get something you want?
Children aren’t the only ones who get angry when they don’t get what they want. James 4:2 says, “You lust and do not have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.” Unrighteous anger comes from the unmet wishes and desires of our hearts. That desire doesn’t have to be for something material; it can be for recognition or recreation. If you are angry because you feel deprived of something you deserve, your anger probably isn’t from God.
Godly anger is usually referred to as righteous indignation. It’s the feeling we get when we see someone who is abused or mistreated. It springs for our desire for justice and fairness.
As you navigate the days ahead, be mindful of your feelings. Be aware of where your anger is coming from. Is God moving you to help someone in need, or are you obsessed with your desires?