To Be Angry or Not To Be Angry … or …

Too often I’ve come to an issue with an either/or attitude. In one of my comments yesterday, I said

I have a friend who has been a good example for me, but for the longest time, I didn’t get what she was saying. I mean, isn’t there something about being genuine and transparent and authentic?

I’m certainly not at the place where my first thought [when I’m going through a trial] is, Praise God. I wish I was there.

My understanding some years ago was, either I am authentic and don’t pretend that everything is peachy when it isn’t, or I put on a fake happy-face and say “Praise the Lord” no matter how bad things get.

It never crossed my mind there was another option.

But there is.

First, let me clarify. The Bible does indeed say, Be angry and yet do not sin. But here’s the context:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
– Ephesians 4:25-27 (NASB)

From the passage, it is apparent that this is addressing the way we are to treat each other—not God. It also indicates anger should be something we deal with. In Colossians we’re told to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech. (3:8)

Our culture, however, says that putting anger aside is somehow unhealthy. In fact, as in dealing with sexual urges, American society claims that self-control in regards to anger is outdated, unnecessary, undesirable.

It’s no surprise, then, that the church has adapted this false thinking and is now preaching—yes, preaching—that we should express our anger toward God.

So, what am I suggesting, if I don’t think we should deny anger or give in to it?

We should confess it. Just like any other sin, we need to own it, repent of it, turn to God for the way of escape from it.

It’s kind of like that doubting/believing man Jesus encountered: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. In this case it would be, Lord, You are good; help me to stop questioning Your goodness and trust You even though I hate what’s happening right now.

How opposite this “express the anger you have against God; He’s big enough” counsel is to what the book of James says:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance
– James 1:2-3

I suggest these verses don’t mean we pretend that the trials aren’t trials. We aren’t called upon to name black, white. Instead, we can say with Joseph, You meant it for evil but God means it for good.

One of the most awesome things about God is the way He redeems everything. My sin, as horrible as it is, God turns into a tool to humble me and excise my self-righteousness. The death of a loved one, as painful as it is, God uses to teach me compassion—even as He comforts me, He is preparing me to turn around and comfort someone else. And He uses all of it to make my faith grow stronger.

But how can any of that happen if I rail against Him? Shake my fist and call Him names? Declare Him to be what He is not?

This is all part of the “Grandfathering of God,” in my opinion. A grandfather loves you no matter what, so you don’t really need to be on your best behavior. He isn’t even going to discipline you for misbehaving. Probably he’ll stand back with his buddies, nudge the closest one, and comment how cute and funny the little tike is, kicking up dirt like that.

God is not a grandfather.

My sin required Jesus’s sacrifice as payment. My sin is ugly and deadly and not to be pandered to. That’s what telling people they can be angry at God since He’s big enough to handle it is doing.

Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. Well, I hate to do the cheerleader thing and detract from what you are saying, but I can’t help it. This post is just perfect.

    I find it interesting that we’re told in James to “consider” it pure joy when we face trials. We’re not told to pretend we aren’t facing trials. But we’re not to react to the trials the way the world reacts. We, the dear brothers, are to “consider” and find that the painful circumstances are good for us because they are developing perseverance.

    Thanks, Becky. Great posts!


  2. And I keep hearing that scripture which tells us that we war not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12)
    The struggle is not with/against God unless we’re fighting His sovereignty and superiority and infallibility.


  3. All I’m going to add today is a hearty A-men!

    Great post!!



  4. To further the context of “when is it okay to be angry?”, Jesus taught from the mount:

    “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” – Matthew 5:22

    According to the rest of the passage, anytime we find ourselves deriding, degrading or belittling someone else out of anger, we are committing murder in our heart. This includes God.

    So, what cause would prevent us from being in danger of judgment? The bible is full of examples of God’s and Jesus’ anger. Did they sin? (That is a rhetorical question. 🙂 Therefore, when we display righteous anger, like God, we are being “angry yet do not sin.”

    I think it’s also important to note that James’ instruction to “count it all joy” is not a command to throw a party when we are in the midst of a trial, but to rejoice in what the result of the trial will be, and that it is likely evidence we are reflecting brightly the light of the Lord.

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12


  5. Kameron, thanks for your input. Righteous anger is certainly not wrong. I appreciate you including those verses in the discussion.

    Kim, Nicole, Sally I appreciate your encouraging comments and input as well.



  6. […] God. (If you’re interested, you can read that post and others on the topic here, here, and here.) The subject has come up […]


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