“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured” (Mark Twain).
We’ve all experienced it, anger — smoldering with resentment, nostrils flaring, wanting to lash out with words of venom. Though difficult to conquer, it is possible.
Choosing God’s help, self-control, and heaven’s wisdom will adorn our hearts and minds with the purity and poise that regulates the impulses of the flesh.
Anger, often a negative emotion, is a work of the flesh that “does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Proverbs 16:32). The armor of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, an outgrowth of heaven’s wisdom, promises empowerment to control our behavior.
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “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.”
God promises to help.
1. Choose God’s Help
Loving God’s Word, listening in prayer, and learning to do what it says.
When a toddler doesn’t get his way, there’s a tantrum — screaming, crying, and stomping feet. When adults act that way, there is a problem.
Growing up through knowing God’s Word, prayer, and applying the principles will arm us against “losing it.”
2. Love God’s Word
God’s textbook can teach us how to control anger. Knowing the scriptures makes one “wise” (2 Timothy 3:15). Because anger does not achieve righteousness, impulses of the flesh can be subjugated by planting and accepting God’s Word (James 1:19-21).
The parable of the seeds (Word of God) that fell on good soil refers to someone who receives the word and applies it. “This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23). Loving the Word achieves godly character.
3. Listen Through Prayer
Prayer connects us with heaven and God’s presence. Jesus is always on call. Prayer supernaturally downloads God’s grace and strength to do what He asks. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Prayer refines character.
4. Learn to Apply God’s Word and Do What it Says
Adopting God’s principles that transform our earthly nature into one that resembles God brings a promise, “They will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25).
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).
Loving God’s Word, listening through prayer, and learning to apply what it says will empower the mind to evict earthly impulses.
5. Choose Self-Control
Self-control is the ability to say “no” to wrong. As a child of God, the believer naturally receives the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Holy Spirit within develops the muscle of self-control. It’s a choice of the will, “So I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
6. Compare the Desires of the Flesh Versus the Desires of the Spirit
The flesh — “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).
The Spirit — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Fruit from the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within transforms the sinful nature and conforms behavior to that of Jesus.
One of the small parts of the body, the tongue, “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison that no human being can tame” (James 3:8).
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
But with God’s powerful help, angry words can be harnessed and can “keep the whole body in check” (James 3:2).
7. Choose Heaven’s Wisdom
Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit will reap “a harvest of righteousness” that is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17-18).
That’s the kind of wisdom that will “give a gentle answer and turn away wrath, because harsh words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Gentle answers come with God’s help. Patience, understanding, and growing to be more like the Lord will equip us to overlook offenses to God’s glory.
James 3 describes two kinds of wisdom: one earthly and one heavenly. Earthly wisdom is unspiritual and demonic, envious, full of selfish ambition, and every evil practice (3:15-16).
But heaven’s wisdom makes one wise with patience (“peace-loving”), understanding (“considerate”), and the ability to overlook an offense (“full of mercy”) (3:17-18).
Patience: “A person’s wisdom yields patience” (Proverbs 19:11). Words bite like venom, “but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18).
Understanding: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29). Being slow to anger is an attribute of God that we want to emulate.
Understanding is a strength of spiritual maturity. We can know that “whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
Overlook an offense: “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s transforming powers aid in overlooking an offense by refusing to retaliate.
Being able to do so is a sign of maturity and resembling the glorious traits of Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
8. Prepare Ahead of Time
Anger can be controlled by planning for it.
Two minutes after takeoff, geese knocked out the engines of US Airways Flight 1549, carrying 155 passengers. Pilot Sullenberger, “Sully,” made the best choice in landing the plane in the Harbor, saving the passengers and crew. Sully credited his training and preparation for saving the day.
Choosing God’s help and wisdom develops a noble character that will rule over fleshly impulses with self-control.
Seeking to control anger comes as we fill our minds with God’s desires (Romans 8:5).
Anger, a fleshly desire, is controlled as we embrace divine guidance and submit to loving the Word, listening in prayer, and learning to do what God says.
Choosing God’s help, self-control, and heaven’s wisdom will produce the likeness of Jesus. Then we can say, “No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:12).
For further reading:
What Does the Bible Say About Anger?
Is it Okay for Believers to Feel 'Righteous' Anger?
What Does it Mean ‘Be Angry and Sin Not’?
Why Are We Told Not to Let the Sun Go Down on Our Anger?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/skynesher
Judy McEachran loves to worship the Author of life and love. She is an ordained pastor and gifted musician who writes and speaks to encourage believers. She pastored churches in the Midwest and after retirement moved to Arizona. She is humbled not only by the gracious love of God but by her devoted husband, two sons, and ten grandchildren. You can visit her website at God Secrets that Impart Life. Find her music on YouTube. Judy’s natural musical giftings invite worshippers into the presence of the Lord.