Did you ever wonder why the Bible teaches that anger grieves the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian (Eph. 4:30-32)?

The answer lies at the root of anger in the human heart. Anger often arises from personal experiences during which one feels threatened or mistreated. In actual life-threatening situations, anger can initiate an adrenaline release that prompts the body to help a person react in self-defense and preservation. However, in situations where one’s life is not being threatened, anger comes from a prideful demand that life’s events should unfold according to one’s desired plans or that people should treat one in a desired manner or response. At its most basic level, this anger wells up when one does not get his or her own way; it is an egotistical demand to desire control where one does not actually have control, to be a god.

People typically do not desire to feel prolonged anger, but do so when they are not able to accept or adjust to undesirable circumstances or consequences.  Before joining the faculty and staff at Biblical Seminary, I had a 17-year career counseling trauma victims and their families. Anger resulting from a traumatic event is usually considered a normal response and is understandable in such situations. However, prolonged anger is destructive and even innocent victims of traumatic events want to move beyond the anger. Therefore, a recurrent theme in trauma counseling addresses how to help counselees deal with the anger that often accompanies the instability and vulnerability one experiences with a traumatic event.

When counselees desire to cease their angry outbursts, but continue to act out in anger, it is helpful to start with the old adage, “whatever or whoever angers you controls you.” By keeping a log of a counselee’s angry outbursts, written shortly after the anger subsides, patterns will emerge as to who or what caused the anger to well up. The root of anger that usually emerges from the patterns in the record often points to misdirected blame or a hypersensitivity to the realization that there is little in life that one can control and the fear that traumatic events can randomly occur at any moment (because something very bad happened to me once, it is more likely something very bad is going to happen to me again).

Therefore, if you are a person who struggles with anger, try keeping your own log of the people and events in your life that have evoked an angry outburst. Identify the false reasoning you are using to “justify” the cause of your unrighteous anger. Yield to God’s sovereignty and rest in the comfort that God does love and care for you even when unrighteous circumstances or events harm you in this life; as it is written in James 1:19-21 teaches that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Instead, “in humility we are to receive God’s word, which is able to save us.”

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.

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