People who know me don’t see me as an “angry person” and most of the time, I’m not. Yet, how well I remember that day. I opened my friend’s desk drawer (something I had never done before) to get a few paper clips. Within a few seconds, I stared at a letter to my dear friend, from her friend, bearing these words, written in an all-too-familiar hand: “We don’t need any more June Hunts in this world.”
I was stunned … hurt … angry! Just an hour before, the writer of those words had shared these words of encouragement, “June, I’m really for you. I want to help. I want to support you in whatever way I can.” But now her words cut to the quick, wounding my heart.
Immediately I felt the heat of anger welling up inside me and knew if I didn’t find a way to reduce the pressure, I would explode on my friend! I thought, I need to go outside and jog—that will release all this pent-up pressure.
So I laced up my tennis shoes and walked out the front door, ready to dissipate my anger through my walk/jog routine. A few minutes into my trek, I noticed my arms swinging higher than normal … and I thought, This is really unusual!
Yet after 20 minutes of running, there was no relief. I expected the exerting of energy to be like the release valve on a pressure cooker—but it wasn’t working. Obviously, the valve over my heart was stuck! Soon I realized why: I’d been rehearsing, over and over, how much I had been wronged … deceived … betrayed.
I remember thinking, I’m not feeling any better. I have to do something else. So I started praying, Lord, teach me to act rather than react. Over and over, I prayed this prayer … Lord, teach me to act rather than react… . Teach me to act rather than react… . Soon I noticed that I was repeating this prayer to the rhythmic pattern of running—phrase by phrase—as my shoes hit the ground.
At the end of an hour, my heart was at peace. I no longer felt controlled by debilitating betrayal. Of course, the initial problem wasn’t solved—confrontation would still be necessary. But I was able to release my anger to the Lord that night, trusting Him to show me what to do … and how to do it.1
Our anger can go deeper than the occasional flare-up—especially if we’ve grappled with deep-seated anger … for years.
So what do we do with our anger?
First, realize that anger is a God-given emotion. It’s like the red light on the dashboard of your car. It’s the indicator light, the warning light—designed to propel you to action … to change what can be changed and to release what cannot be changed. Anger should have that effect in our lives. Notice, the Bible doesn’t say, “Never be angry.” Rather it tells us, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV).
Thankfully the Lord provides the answer to anger in His Word: “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” (James 1:19–20).
How can we control our anger when we experience hurt, disappointment, or loss over unchangeable circumstances? Here are five biblical, practical ideas:
Identify the source.
Anger always has at its core one (or more) of four sources: hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration. Sometimes, all four are present. Identify the underlying cause(s) of anger (Psalm 139:23–24).
Give it to God.
Put all of your pain into His loving hands, along with all situations beyond your control (1 Peter 5:7).
Rely on God.
He promises to give you what you need to deal constructively with anger. Trust Him to empower you (Philippians 4:13).
Release your rights.
Life won’t always go your way. Releasing your rights will dial down your anger (Proverbs 17:9).
“Father, because You know everything, You know the strong sense of ( hurt, injustice, fear, frustration ) I’m feeling about ( names/situations ). Thank you for understanding my anger. Right now, I release all my anger into Your hands. I trust You with my future and with my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Today as you look at anger in your own life and seek an answer to anger, I pray that you too will say, “Lord, teach me to act rather than react,” and then lean on Him for the strength to do it.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!