Instead of Getting Angry, Ask the Lord for Help!

Job 36:13

“The godless in heart cherish anger;
    they do not cry for help when he binds them.

A lot of what I’m about to say may come across as extremely obvious on its face, but I find can be a project in practice for building good habits in the heart. Another passage from Job (this is the Lord speaking to Job):

Job 40: 11-14

11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
    and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
    and tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 Hide them all in the dust together;
    bind their faces in the world below.[b]
14 Then will I also acknowledge to you
    that your own right hand can save you.

Of course, this – along with the surrounding context – involves God speaking of His own might to Job. That is to say, He is telling Job that such an accomplishment for man is impossible, that we ourselves might rise in indignation and defeat all the proud and wicked forces in the world ourselves.

James 1:19

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 5:13

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.

It seems like a painfully obvious. However, in a world where people are obsessed with feeling like they can have control over their circumstances, this is another message that’s very important.

2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Anger is always a response to some sort of suffering from a real or perceived injustice. Ungodly anger amounts to a flexing of our own abilities to right a wrong and administer justice (or some idea of justice). Some say “revenge is sweet,” but – taking a break from the obvious that we are commanded not to take revenge – what if revenge simply isn’t even possible from our own power? Recall what God said to Job: we do not have the power to bring down the proud and ungodly, or at least certainly not altogether!

Of course it’s easy to get angry over things that aren’t particularly any person’s fault. We can feel frustrated and angry because something (not necessarily a person) is slowing us down. How many of us can feel such things just while we sit trying to get a car or computer to do what we need? Anger doesn’t even necessarily involve another person, though it ultimately reflects pride and a lack of faith, because from pride we want to believe that we are always our own solution: that our own hand can save us, as the Lord pointed out to Job is impossible (as Job became very angry), and a lack of faith that the Lord has a higher justice than ours, that He cares, He loves us, and He is faithful and powerful to make right any wrong.

Anger, then, is a response to some sort of suffering. It comes from our reflex of trying to right the wrong ourselves with our own strength. What’s more, in the context of Elihu’s comment to Job, the wicked will feel a rebuke from the Lord and they “cherish anger.” Rather, the thing to do is pray, such as:

“Lord, please get me through this”

Sometimes our trials are meant to test us and build character (James 1:2-4). In so doing we are often reminded of everything aforementioned, that our only hope is in the Lord as our helper and not our own strength (2 Corinthians 1:9). Scripture is clear in countless ways that the salvation of our souls absolutely depends on our own willingness to acknowledge and understand that it is God’s strength and not our own, and of course, the Lord who also supplies our strength and every good thing about us that makes us capable of righteousness through His Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:13).

Lord, please right this wrong”

There are many injustices going on in the world and the Lord is on His way to exact justice and vengeance for every single one of them. Naturally, we are also done injustices and find others in debt to us for sins they commit against us, albeit in pennies compared to what we owe the Lord. But once again, that’s another opportunity for us to remember our dependency on the Lord as an alternative to anger or expecting that we can right the wrong ourselves – He does avenge Himself, and He also avenges us (Luke 18:1-8, 2 Timothy 4:14, Revelation 6:10). Scripture describes protocol for how to approach sins among the brethren (Matthew 18:15-17), though if someone is cut off from the brotherhood because of sin, while we’re not agreeable to the injustice in the slightest, nor accepting of the sinner, we still ministering mercifully as much as possible (Romans 12:18) while leaving room for God’s wrath (Romans 12:19) – as in: no really, God actually is going to exact justice toward an unrepentant sinner against you.

I intend these thoughts to be an internal meditation; it should go without saying that I need to keep these in mind for myself very badly, as much as anyone. There is SO MUCH sin in the world, egregious sins committed from one person to another that deserves ministry and attention (i.e. things to be done and discussed on the subject of justice to lay the groundwork for grace). There are also so many frustrations in our lives that can make us angry; as Job understood full well, despite not witnessing God’s interaction with Satan, yes, it was God who essentially ruined him and NOT as a response to a fault of Job (Job 2:3), and James in the New Testament refers to Job’s trial of perseverance and the fruitfulness of it (James 5:11). And it was the Lord’s rebuke to Job to remind him of the futility of his anger, that it is only the Lord who has the ability to make right all suffering. Job did not incur his own trial through sin, but as James likens it to perseverance, the trial did test him and as it reached the level of afflicting his flesh, exposed his weakness and imperfections, and grew him to increasingly trust in the Lord and defer to His justice and power, as James tells us, the trial helped build his character.

What’s more, frustrated anger can be turned against ourselves (causing depression) because we can feel it is our own duty that our own hand should save us – and by that I mean as something completely apart from seeking the Lord, but self-judgment, especially when (of all the foolish things) based on the results that our environment gives us based on our human efforts; once again, anger comes from the feeling that our own hand must save us, pride, a foolish assumption of justice in the world (love of the world, such that it treats people fairly) and/or forgetting the Lord’s love, power, and faithfulness to make things right.

It should be understood by believers that all the chaotic occurrences in our lives are essentially God’s story for each of us. The harm can tempt us to anger, but the alternative is prayer. Speaking for myself, I am developing this as my protocol: am I tempted to be angry? I should pray instead and trust the Lord. Righteous indignation is good, and crying out to the Lord in response is excellent (this can sum up many or most of the sentiments of the psalmists in the book of Psalms). In so doing, we can avoid man’s anger, which involves the pride of believing we can restore justice ourselves, and our lack of faith that entertains a lack of hope in God’s power, justice, and love that will ultimately make things right in the truest and most powerful way.