Virginia Beach. Hurricane Dorian. We watched the demise of the Bahamas unfolding on a television in our condo. We watched the winds, waves, and destruction coming up the south eastern coast with the various outer bands making landfall. Then, as predicted the flood waters came up the tidewater in Southeastern Virginia. We were staying on the oceanfront where the damage was very minimal in comparison. We did experience a power outage all day and it still wasn’t fully on the next morning when we left.
As we walked out to the long concrete Boardwalk, we could watch the waves come up on the beach far further than normal on an average day. The officials had ordered a flood wall built out of sand to keep the waves, if possible, from coming any further up the beach to the boardwalk. That met with some success in the end.
The waves all week were somewhat casual, normal, calm, and beautiful for the most part. The rip tide flags kept most people out of the water though a day or so before the hurricane was scheduled to arrive. But how angry, indignant, irate, and wrathful did those waves appear as Dorian blew into the area. It was clear that no one dared to enter the water now. You simply would find it hard, if not impossible, to survive the enraged, infuriated, and worked up temper of these waves coming ashore.
How similar is the devastation wrought by those who struggle to properly manage their anger? It makes it hard for anyone to want to be around you in that state of emotion. We are even warned “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered (Proverbs 22:24 NIV). Unmanaged anger has often wrecked and devastated the self-image of children and adults alike as they are often the object, undeserved, of someone’s anger. Anger can cause emotional, physical, and mental abuse on the innocents.
But anger can also cause damage to the emotional, physical, and mental health of anyone who has not learned to manage their anger. Unresolved bitterness expressed in anger does more damage to yourself than to the person who perhaps has caused it. It can literally put into motion unhealthy physical consequences that can wash ashore and leave everlasting damage. If the conscience has not been seared, the guilt alone afterwards can set in and create a flood of undesirable emotions leading to depression with all of its repercussions.
How can we properly manage anger? It is a given fact that we are going to get angry about some things in life. But what matters is what we choose to do with that anger. The Psalmist has set the example for the best help in times of anger. He said, “In my anguish, I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free (Psalm 118:5). Simply put, turn it over to God. After all, He has more wisdom and power than any of us and can be the lighthouse to guide us in the right direction.
Next, we need to realize that anger doesn’t necessarily have to be considered an enemy. Anger can often be quite appropriate to certain experiences in life. Jesus was even angry when he was being watched by some hypocritical folks looking for a reason to accuse him to diminish his influence. “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…” (Mark 3:5a). People can become angry with the injustices in life and rightfully so. When we have heart and conscience, anger can show that we care about certain issues that are righteous. The absence of anger in such situations can also display an “I don’t care” attitude. It can become a sign of indifference rather than showing that we are sincere about holiness, goodness, and righteous issues.
Next, we need to remember that our anger should not lead to sin. I recall the passage that says, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a) I can’t think of a way to avoid all anger. If you care about injustice issues, undue suffering, or taking up for the weak, then you will get angry. We need to allow our anger to lead to an appropriate response rather than let things slide.
Next, it is important to know that anger should not be allowed to continue indefinitely. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26b). Hostile feelings unabated can lead to sin. “And do not let the devil have a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Chronic anger can diminish your health, relationships, and ruin you spiritually. Look for the lighthouse in Jesus when your next storm blows in with fury.