"The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." (James 1:20 KJV) This is one of my signature verses that I remind myself of frequently so that I can "be angry and sin not." (Ephesians 4:26) And yet I struggle sometimes with the difference between my wrath and righteous wrath.
When someone harms someone I love, the wrath flares up, and I have to hit my knees. It is only through an intense time alone with God, seeking Him and His mind, that I can determine whether my wrath is righteous or something else entirely. In my time with my Lord, I seek His mind through His Word, and through His Spirit. He often brings to mind some hidden (or not so hidden) sin in my life when I want to proceed in wrath, even when God says no. The following are some ideas that can help a person analyze and diffuse anger in a healthy, Biblical way.
1. Prayer. Prayer is, of course, the first recourse, as we seek God’s face and His understanding of the situation. Our sense of justice is not the same as God’s. Sometimes He has a purpose in another person’s life, and wants us to let Him handle it. Often, real prayer, real seeking of God’s peace, is all that we need to calm our anger.
2. Scripture. Many verses about anger are found in the Bible. Use the concordance in the back of your Bible or a separate concordance, possibly on-line, to find scripture having to do with anger. What do these verses tell you about your particular situation? Chances are, you will find something in God’s Word to help you.
3. Questions. A personalized list of questions, based on the circumstances and what God’s Word has to say give us a place to start in analyzing anger we can’t seem to shake. It helps us pinpoint the underlying issues and bring the truth to light. The truth will set you free.
-Am I angry because my pride was pricked?
-Who am I really angry with?
-What is the underlying reason for my wrath?
-Will my actions help or harm the situation?
-Will my actions interfere with what God is doing in another person’s life?
-Can I act without allowing my anger to color my response?
-Do my intended actions align with the will and mind of God?
-Is this my business to take care of?
4. Godly counsel. Whether this counsel is from a friend, a pastor, or a professional counselor, talking it out with someone else sometimes helps us clarify the real issues in a situation. Often, just venting to another (or in a non-sent letter or other form of writing) helps us let the steam out of the pressure cooker. This allows us to see ourselves through another’s eyes as well, often giving insight into hidden sin in our lives.
In the end, if the wrath is not righteous, it is harmful and can become sin if not nipped in the bud. When anger lingers, sin is committed, because God said “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26b) When anger strikes, seek God’s face, His mind, and especially His heart. Seeking the heart of God helps us forgive, and also helps us understand how small the hurts others deal out look in light of what God has forgiven us for. Anger almost always leads to sin. Satan is crouching at the door, waiting for that seed of unforgiveness or hurt pride to grow and take root. He nurtures it with his lies, and waters it with his deceit. In the end, my wrath does not work to anyone’s good, so I seek Him. I hold up my anger to the light of God’s Word and God’s Spirit, often finding it disappearing as if it had never been as God roots out any hints of bitterness that may have sprouted.