ANGER: Enemy or Ally?
Psalm 4:title–8 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. 1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. 4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Anger, we all face it! I’m sure it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for you to remember a time when your anger got the best of you. Everyone from time to time struggles with this powerful emotion! Usually our experiences with it are not very positive, so does that mean that it is all bad? Did you know that the Bible describes God as being angry in several places? Take this verse in Joshua for example:
Joshua 7:1 (ESV)
1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
So, if that’s true that God himself becomes angry it must be okay…well, let’s not make the jump all the way to that conclusion immediately. There is no doubt that there are many reasons why people get angry, and many of them are ‘legitimate’. David includes some of them in this Psalm, like: circumstances that are out of control or overwhelming; or like people turning honor on its head and making it shameful; or giving place to lies and empty talk.
The question for us becomes is anger good, or bad? Is it our enemy or our ally? Well, David first brings it into balance for us with his statement, ‘Be angry, and do not sin’. He says if it controls you its bad, but if you control it then that emotional energy that it produces in you can motive you in a very positive way.
David gives us two things we need to do in order to harness the energy of anger and use it in a way that honors God. First he tells us to take the time to ponder the reason for the anger and what God might be trying to do and say through the circumstances that gave rise to it in the first place…through disciplining ourselves in a calm and quiet fashion before the Lord. Secondly he tells us then no matter how you feel…DO WHAT’S RIGHT and then trust God who will work through those right actions and attitudes. We can harness anger with the Holy Spirit’s help…but we need to choose to do so!!