Article by: Jessica Jenkins
Do you ever get angry? I sure do.
Daily something happens which results in my pulse increasing, and that familiar energy rising in my chest.
Usually, my angry feelings are focused on my children.
Maybe your anger focuses elsewhere—on your husband, your co-worker, your boss, neighbor, friend, or enemy.
As Christians, what are we supposed to do with our anger? How do we work through hurt, devastation, annoyance, and disrespect without allowing anger to overcome us?
The Apostle Paul paraphrases Psalm 4:4 to give us instructions for our anger: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:26-27, ESV).
When a New Testament author quotes the Old Testament, he has in mind not just the verse cited, but also the surrounding verses as well.
In Psalm 4, David offers wisdom on how not to sin in our anger.Do you ever get angry? I sure do. Here are six simple truths from Psalm 4 to help you when you feel angry.
1. Take your anger straight to God.
I love how David doesn’t tiptoe around his needs.
“When I call, answer me! . . . Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer!” (Ps 4:1a,d)
He walks boldly before God, directly asking to be heard. When I’m angry, I want to rush right in and chew someone out. Yet, all throughout the Psalms, David models going first to God in prayer about our emotions.
David appeals to God on the basis of their significant and personal relationship: “God of my righteousness” (Ps 4:1b). David shows his respect for God but also reveals what he expects from God with this phrase.
David doesn’t call the Lord, “God of long-suffering” or “God of patient-grace,” though the Lord is all those things. David expects God’s righteousness to work on his behalf in direct ways. We should too.
2. Choose to rehearse what God has done.
David didn’t just come to God with a list of demands in his anger. He rehearses what God has done for him in the past, “When I was anxious, you caused me to be free (from being need)” (Ps 4:1c).
We too must learn to pause in our anger and focus on God’s character and actions. I do not naturally think of ways God has worked on my behalf when I’m seething in anger. Yet, these reminders are crucial to working through our frustration without sin.
Write down a passage of Scripture describing God’s character, and five ways He’s worked on your behalf. Do it today, so that next time you are angry, you are prepared in advance to rehearse God’s goodness.When you feel angry, take time to rehearse God's goodness and the many ways He's worked on your behalf.
3. Identify the source of your anger.
In his prayer, David reminds himself, and his readers, of God’s promises. Though David’s enemies shame and lie about him (Ps 4:2), he focuses on how God sets His people apart for Himself and listens to their cries (Ps 4:3).
Try to clearly identify why you are angry. Step away from your situation for a moment to look at the underlying reason for your anger.
Then prayerfully recall God’s promises for you. Especially promises that directly pertain to your situation.
4. Learn to quietly ponder your anger.
Some Christians think that the emotion of anger itself is a sin. Yet, David here commands us to feel and work through our anger:
“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Ps 4:4 ESV).“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” Psalm 4:4 ESV
Sometimes we must remove ourselves bodily from the situation. Sometimes, we awaken in the middle of the night with hurt and anger clutching at our throat. However we find ourselves “on our beds,” the emotion of anger provides a chance to connect with God.
The Hebrew words behind our English translation “ponder” and “be silent” indicate that we must acknowledge what is going on in our hearts.
You must allow yourself to feel the full weight of your emotions. Let them be what they are for a moment.
As you do, grieve the legitimate hurts from these circumstances. Talk to yourself. Have a good cry. Allow your body to start ramping down. Pray.
God was not afraid of David’s emotions. Neither will He avoid or punish yours.
Your Father longs for you to pour out your heart to Him (Ps 62:8). Tell Him about all your hurt, anger, fear, sadness, and pain. As you wrestle through deep and dark emotions, let Him surround you with His love.
5. Recenter yourself on Jesus and the Gospel.
Even before your emotions are fully ready to follow, direct your emotions towards joy in Jesus.
David commands us to trust God’s ways of dealing with evil and sin. “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD” (Ps 4:5, ESV).
Today, you don’t need to take a lamb to the temple. Instead, you look back to the finished work of the Lamb of God on the cross.
Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection sufficiently cover your sin and the sins of those who’ve wronged you. Rest in the Gospel during whatever circumstances bring up your anger.Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection sufficiently cover your sin and the sins of those who’ve wronged you. Rest in the Gospel during whatever circumstances bring up your anger.
Because God the Father looks at us through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, He will always, “lift up the light of [His] face upon us” (Ps 4:6b). Our ultimate good comes not from our day-to-day circumstances, but His presence with us.
Whereas some people must rely on pleasant circumstances for happiness (Ps 4:7b), those who are “in Christ” can have hearts filled with delight (Eph 1). This joy comes from our true circumstance of being continually in God’s presence, not daily events (Ps 4:7a, cf. Ps 16:11).
As you work through your anger, allow the light of the Gospel to shine into your day-to-day circumstances. Remember Jesus’ nearness to you, and the Spirit’s desire to empower you in all things.
6. Accept the peace of the Lord.
Sometimes we feel a strong peaceful feeling. Other times, we must pick ourselves up and walk by faith back to a tantruming toddler, trusting the Spirit to be our peace in the middle of chaos.
Whether or not we feel an experience of peace, we walk away from our anger as we learn to rest in God.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8, ESV).
You do not need to solve all the problems. You can let them go, and take a nap, if exhaustion is keeping you on edge.
You don’t have to convince other people they are wrong and you are right. God will fight for you.You don’t have to convince other people they are wrong and you are right. God will fight for you.
Safety doesn’t come from your well thought out plans and contingency plains. If fear motivates your anger, remember the LORD is your refuge and fortress (Ps 11:1; Ps 18:2; Ps 27:1, 5).
Dear one, David could walk in peace rather than anger because of who His God is.
Look to Jesus. He loves you, and He will make a way for you too!
Jessica Jenkins is a wife, mom of two, friend, adventure lover, and story-teller. She uses her seminary education to encourage women as they grow in their relationship with God through a sense of awe and comfort, using real-to-life Bible resources. Jessica launched We Who Thirst, in order to strengthen thirsty souls as they see and savor their Savior. When she’s not writing, Jessica spends her time loving on her family of four and braving the waters of homeschool preschool. Connect with Jessica on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.