Admit it. Sometimes being angry feels good.
After more than a month of jumping through bureaucratic hoops to try to get a certified copy of my birth certificate, last week I hit my limit. I yelled full force at the customer service rep, “I don’t need more runaround. I need accurate, useful information. Transfer me to a supervisor. NOW.” In that moment, I knew I wasn’t honoring God. But I didn’t care. Being angry felt GOOD.
Karen Kingsbury’s book A Thousand Tomorrows follows the lives of a barrel racer and a bull rider, both with hidden wounds. In one poignant scene, the bull rider asks, “Why do you ride sick?” The barrel racer replies, “Why do you ride angry?” Without hesitation, he says, “You don’t know how good angry feels.”
If you’ve never struggled with anger, please comment and tell me your secret.
But, if you’re like me, you’ve likely felt guilt, shame, regret, or other unwanted emotions after your anger subsided.
Ignoring vs dealing with anger
Scripture says to not let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let it get a foothold or fester. Anger turned outward leads to bitterness and sin. Anger turned inward leads to depression.
I get it. At least my head does.
Yet, on a deep emotional level, that sundown maxim seems unsatisfying when facing injustice.
In an act recorded in all four Gospels, Jesus drives the moneychangers out of the Temple courts. Only John records that Jesus took the time to braid a whip out of rope before He disrupted the moneychangers’ day. Making the whip bought Jesus time to weigh His actions and their consequences. He made a point, and it served His larger purpose of going to the Cross. But even Jesus’ righteous anger didn’t open anyone’s eyes to God Incarnate standing in their midst—or His message.
As I prayed through this, God laid Psalm 141 on my heart. David wrote it while struggling with injustice, false accusations, wrongful alienation, even persecution. Talk about life spelled B-A-D.
David starts by asking God to come quickly to him. David wants to rail against God but knows he needs to pray to Him instead. Moreover, pray the right way—regardless of how hard-pressed David is.
Verse 3 says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” (Hmm.) Verse 4 extends that thought: “Do not let my heart be drawn to any evil thing or take part in works of wickedness with men who do iniquity; let me not feast on their delicacies.”
That is so powerful. David asks God to appoint (literally, affix) a guard over his mouth—a perpetual watchman over his words. David knows harsh words can lead to harsher actions.
At best, anger produces short-term results. More often, it produces long-term fallout.
Notice the progression from verse 3 to 4. Angry thoughts become angry words. Angry words become dangerous attitudes. Dangerous attitudes become disastrous actions.
In Hebrew, verse 4 literally means, “don’t let my heart reach for or embrace any wicked, malignant thing—and don’t let me start practicing ungodly, criminal acts with men that cause trouble, sorrow, or idolatry.”
“Don’t let me feast on their delicacies” describes anger’s consummation. The phrase means more than delighting in rare or luxurious food. It means giving in to any indulgence of the senses and succumbing to a reckless, unruly lifestyle. The word “wantonness” fits that bill perfectly. Wantonness is unrestrained actions that become hard-hearted, ruthless, or worse.
When anger feels good, we can let it feed us. But it’s not the nourishment we need.
We need God’s nourishing Word. Like Psalm 141.
Psalm 141 speaks deep into my soul. The words tug on my heart. Twist my gut. I feel David’s turmoil—and share his triumph.
The back side of anger
David wrestled tough issues to the ground with God. Including anger. David didn’t swallow life’s injustices or ignore his anger toward them; he dealt with both before God. That’s why he could end his psalm with unshakable confidence (vs 8–10):
“But my eyes are fixed on You, O GOD the Lord.
In You I seek refuge … Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.”
Father God, You made us with emotions. Show me how to rightly deal with anger—not to stuff it deep down inside or aim it at others, but to address it in a way that honors You. Write this psalm on my heart. Lift my eyes so I may see Your glory beyond my doldrums and difficulties. Thank You that You never leave me in my weakness. May Your Name be praised forever. Amen!
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Each Gospel account of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the Temple courts:
Did my rant produce any results?
A supervisor did help me. My request was finally approved … and a confirmatory email said I’ll get my birth certificate in about five months (groan).