The Heart of the Problem is the Problem of the Heart!
*This five-part series is an overview of The Heart of the Problem book/workbook. If you discover help in these articles, I encourage you to purchase the workbook at www.kerryskinner.com/books and go deeper in your discovery. For detailed training as a biblical counselor, see https://thinklifechange.com/our-program/
Dealing with anger is the single greatest issue that comes to the consulting room. Though many deny it to be their problem, many more realize that it is the problem.
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Anger is One Letter Away from Danger!
Have you ever lost your keys? What was your response? Have you ever been cut off in traffic? What was your response? Is being a little bit angry like being a little bit pregnant?
The one single problem that everyone is plagued with universally is anger. But, if there is one topic in which there is universal disagreement, it would be how to tame anger.
Most Christians believe their anger is always righteous. However, James says the anger of “man” does not produce righteousness. Anger is sin, and that’s good news! Why? Because, there is a divine solution for sin. Dealing with sin is God’s specialty. Many people who know very little about Jesus know that He threw the money changers out of the temple. See: Matthew 21:12-15; Mark 11:15-18; and Luke 19:45-47. Others who know very little about the Bible know another verse:
In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Ephesians 4:26, NIV
People use a few verses to justify their anger. I take this verse to mean that if you are aware of being angry you should deal with it quickly. The deadline is sundown.
Anger is a normal response to unrighteousness. Can we conclude then, that our anger is God-given and alerts and energizes us into action to see that wrongs are made right? Or should we conclude that “normal responses” are not necessarily “godly responses.”
As I study the Bible, I do not find that we are instructed to vent our anger against evil causes or toward evil people. Evaluate these verses:
Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…[The Father] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good.
Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
…that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Love the brotherhood.
1 Peter 2:17
…abound in love to one another and to all
1 Thessalonians 3:12
If we eliminate all of the above people as objects of our anger, who is left that can be the object of our anger? If you are justified in being angry at injustices in this world, you will be mad the rest of your life!
The Bible does state that anger is a natural expression of our humanness; it is a natural expression of our “old man” and “the old sin nature.” But the Bible says that anger is sin and it is not acceptable.
Look at what the Bible actually says about man’s anger:
The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret–it only causes harm.
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice.
If there is righteous indignation, how often do you have it?” Out of the last ten arguments you were involved in, how many times was it righteous? If it is right, why are you worried about it? But, if it is wrong, you had better learn how to deal with it because anger is a major roadblock to personal peace.
Physical Aspects Of Anger
Anger produces disagreeable bodily changes that cannot be ignored. Almost everyone is familiar with the following: the pulse rate increases, heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, the throat tightens, mouth is dry, gooseflesh appears, hair is erect, pupils of the eyes open wide, eyeballs glisten, person sweats, blushes, turn pale, muscles tense, highly alert, desire for physical action increases, insomnia may be present, problems with the colon and/or stomach problems appear. These physical issues are not producing a full and abundant life.
Anger can trigger actions ranging from a slight change of expression to destruction or murder. Anger may result in a mild word or enraged screaming. Anger can, but seldom does, motivate a person to seek changes that will improve the environment that triggers the anger.
Discovering Your Anger
Many argue that anger is not sin. You may already be trying to find a passage where it is not sin. You are just proving my point. The first thing we tend to do when sin is mentioned is find a way out of it. We go to extremes to defend our anger, this gives relief but not a cure. How do people respond when someone says, “Why are you so angry?” What is your response?
• “I am not angry! I’m just frustrated.”
• “I had a long hard day! If you would have had the kind of day I’ve had you would have acted just like me!” (As though that would have made it right.)
• “You know, I don’t think anybody else has gone through what I’ve gone through; nobody else could understand why I got angry in that situation.”
Can you usually tell when your closest friend or spouse gets angry? Sure you can. It is obvious. Paul writes,
Now the works of the flesh are evident.
Why do we believe we can see their anger but don’t think they can see ours? Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
• Unrestrained anger can destroy you. It cannot be ignored. It must be tamed.
• Bottled up anger can ruin your health.
• Anger must be removed and the fruit of the Spirit must be the replacement.
• Anger puts your brain on the shelf; God’s supernatural miracle puts your anger on the shelf.
Most people are not having trouble with righteous indignation. Their problem is anger. If your anger is sin, Jesus is the cure. You can hold on to it if you want to. However, you cannot produce righteousness and hold on to anger.