Anger is a Choice

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In my last blog entry, I talked about Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study, in which she asked the question, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” While Shirer indicated that asking this question is enough to redirect her away from her anger, that wasn’t the case for me. When I was angry about my cold last month, I remembered to ask myself this question. My response was, “Perhaps I don’t have good reason to be angry, but my reality is that I AM angry. What do I do with these angry feelings now?” Clearly, I need more steps to help me “unchoose” anger.

As is evident by my response to the question, I did not view my anger as a choice I made. I believed it was a state of being that was outside of my control, but that simply is not true. The Bible is clear that anger is a choice:

Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still [reflect on your sin and repent of your rebellion]. ~ Ps. 4:4

“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. ~ Eph. 4:26-27

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. ~ Jas. 1:19-20

All three of these passages indicate that we CHOOSE anger. How do we choose it? By our thoughts!

Think of anger as a fire burning inside of you. If you use your angry thoughts to pour gasoline on it, the fire will rage. However, if you “starve” the fire by choosing thoughts that don’t stoke the fire … or, better yet, thoughts that pour water on the fire … then your anger will subside. As with many Biblical truths, it really is that simple. The problem is that simple isn’t easy.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding her hand to her face and saying, “I cannot.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

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Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?

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Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study talks about making sure you have good reason to be angry. For those of you who don’t know Jonah’s story beyond him spending three nights in the belly of a large fish, Jonah was a prophet who ran in the opposite direction when God told him to go to Ninevah. Ninevah was the capitol of Assyria, which was Israel’s enemy, and Jonah did not want God to show those people mercy. After the fish incident, Jonah did what God told him to do, resulting in the entire city repenting, which angered Jonah.

God’s response to Jonah was to ask whether he had good reason to be angry. Shirer put much emphasis on this question and said she now asks herself this question whenever she feels angry. Before allowing herself to indulge in her anger, she stops and thinks about whether she has good reason to be angry.

What might be a good reason to be angry? The Bible records Jesus driving out people involved in buying and selling in the temple and overturning their tables. While the word “angry” does not appear in the passage, one could surmise that he was angry as he did this. Assuming that is the case, he had “good reason:”

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” ~ Mark 11:17

So, a good reason to be angry might be when God is being dishonored. Jesus’ focus was clearly on God, not on himself, and I think that might be the key to whether we have “good reason” to be angry.

In her Bible study, To Live Is Christ: The Life and Ministry of Paul, Beth Moore contrasts Paul with Jonah and points out that even though Jonah accomplished God’s will, he did so with the complete absence of joy. Perhaps one reason we should ensure we have “good reason” to be angry is that we pay a heavy price when we choose anger – the absence of joy.

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[Graphic: Cover of Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted (Bible Study Book). Courtesy Amazon.com.]