I'm on vacation with my family this week. Enjoy this series from the archives. I’ve lost it with my kids numerous times, turning from a calm, gentle mommy into what must seem like a raging lunatic. It may be the 18th sock I’ve picked up off the floor or a chore that went undone after I asked numerous times for it to be done that sets me off. Or it may be the 15th round of bickering for the day that pushes my buttons.
When I lose my temper, it affects everyone in the house. I often say things that I don’t really mean. I hurt my kids’ feelings. I blow things out of proportion. And I usually end up apologizing.
Being angry generally results in some ugly consequences. But anger is a very misunderstood concept among Christ-followers. Somehow, we’ve gotten it into our heads that we should never get angry. And that’s just simply not true. Jesus got angry. God gets angry. So it can’t be wrong to be angry.
So, what’s the difference between God’s anger and mine? God’s anger is righteous anger. It’s anger for the right reasons. God got angry at the Israelites when they turned their backs on Him. He got angry at the sin in the world during the time of Noah. He got angry enough to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Too often, my anger stems from the wrong reasons. I don’t like the circumstances I’m in. I’m tired or hungry. I simply don’t want to deal with my kids’ problems.
And our kids have the same problem. Too often their anger stems from selfishness. They didn’t get what they wanted. They didn’t win the game. They didn’t get to go on an outing. They didn’t get the sugary cereal they wanted at the grocery. Most of our kids’ anger stems from selfishness. And to be truthful, so does most of mine.
It’s not wrong to be angry, but the things that make us angry should be the things that make God angry — disobedience, mistreatment of others, sin. The Bible never admonishes us not to get angry. But it does say, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). It’s not anger that gets us into trouble. It’s our actions while we are angry. And when we hold onto our anger and let it lead us into trouble, we give Satan an easy entry into our lives.
So, how do we change? How do we stop letting selfish desires make us angry? We follow God’s example.
Sit down with your kids and talk about anger. Talk about how sometimes God gets angry. Make a list of the things that make God angry. Read Matthew 21:12-13 and talk about why Jesus got angry. Discuss the difference between the things that make God angry and the things that make us angry. Talk about how selfish desires tend to be the root of our anger while God’s anger stems from seeing injustice and sin.
Make a new list of the things that it’s OK to get angry about. Base your list on the things that make God angry. For example, my younger daughter tends to get angry when she loses a game. That anger stems from her selfish desire to be better than others. A righteous anger in that situation might stem from being angry that she didn’t do her best. Being angry about losing a game is selfish. Being angry that you didn’t do your best is acknowledging that you didn’t follow God’s directive to do everything with your whole heart. See the difference? When we redirect our anger from selfish desires to righteous ones, we make our anger useful and not sinful, which we’ll talk more about on Friday.
Read Ephesians 4:26-27 with your kids. Talk about what it means to be angry and not sin. Make a list of the ways we sin when we’re angry. Make another list of alternative ways of dealing with and expressing our anger that don’t lead to sin. Make a copy of the appropriate ways to deal with anger and post it in your home. Some ideas include: taking a timeout, being conscious of our words, channeling the energy into something productive.
Pray. We can’t change ingrained patterns in our lives on our own. We have to have help. Ask God to help you change the patterns of your anger. Ask Him to help you stop getting angry when your selfish desires are thwarted and start getting angry about the things that anger Him.
Anger is not sin. It’s what we do when we’re angry that is sin. When we work to change the things we get angry about, it’s easier not to sin when we are angry. Ask God to help you as you embark on this journey to change the way anger appears in your life and the lives of your kids.