"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
- James 1:19-20 NIV
God taught me a valuable lesson about anger one day years ago, when I allowed my son to borrow my cellular phone when he was going out. This wasn't exactly unusual, but what WAS unusual was the fact that after he returned home and I asked him to replace it in the recharger, he confessed that he didn't know where it was. We immediately began searching for it in every place we could imagine. As our search failed to uncover my phone, I felt that old familiar feeling of blood rushing to my head. My anger and frustration were building. I was tempted to say something to my son that I knew I'd have to repent for later. At that moment, I figured it might be worth it. Just then, God gave me a “knowing” that if I wanted His help, I needed to restrain my anger, pray, and leave the matter in His hands. As much as I wanted to vent my anger on my son, I wanted my phone back even more. So I told my son we would resume our search the following day, and I went to bed, entrusting the matter to the Lord. The next day, I told my husband about the missing phone. It only took him a minute or two to discover its location, and I knew it was God's way of teaching me about the importance of remaining calm and kind in the midst of turmoil.
The Bible says, “Keep your head in all situations.” (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV) While it's the world's way to fly off the handle every time they feel like it, believers are gifted with Holy Spirit self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), and God expects us to make use of it in tense situations. At first glance, it seems like worldly people have an unfair advantage because it's often easier to vent our anger, and it seems to make us feel better initially. But the truth is that the consequences these people suffer as a result of their unrestrained anger are ones that the Lord would rather spare us from. Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NIV) says, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” And Proverbs 14:17 (NIV) says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things.” Losing our cool will cause us to make mistakes in word and deed that we'll regret later on. It's simply not worth it.
Proverbs 15:18 (NLT) says, “A hothead starts fights; a cool-tempered person tries to stop them.” Jesus has called us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and He has given us His Spirit so we have the ability and the desire to prevent and halt dissension, instead of contributing to it. One way we can do that is by saying the right thing at the right time. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Often, we can deflect someone's anger by speaking words of gentleness and understanding. In cases like these, I've often whispered a silent prayer for help, claiming God's promise in Proverbs 16:1 (AMP), which says, “From the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue.”
I used to think that I had to have the last word in situations like these if I wanted to come out on top. Now I know that it's often just the opposite. God has taught me that even if I appear to others to come out the loser, I will have won in His eyes, and He will reward me somehow. I think believers would be more motivated to resist anger if they knew how destructive it really is. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT) says, “Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil.” When we lose our temper, we may be opening the door for Satan to come in and “steal, kill and destroy”. (John 10:10) That's why being patient is powerful spiritual warfare.
The next time you're in a tense situation, ask yourself which you want more--the “luxury” of venting your anger, or the rewards of God's help. I pray you'll choose the latter and discover for yourself that “a wonderful future lies before those who love peace”! (Psalm 37:37 NLT)
Prayer: Lord, show me how to cooperate with Your plan to develop more patience. Remind me that when I choose to lose my temper in a situation, I could be forfeiting Your help. When I do get angry, help me to “get over it quickly,” as Your Word commands. (Ephesians 4:26 TLB) Thank You that by Your grace, I'll be a peacemaker, instead of a troublemaker!
- J. M. Farro