Psalm 37:8-9 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
This is very appropriate advice for this day in which we live! Temptations to harbor anger abound. There is a place for righteous indignation, as Jesus showed when He drove the merchants out of the temple, but what David is talking about here is letting anger fester, mulling it over. That’s where “revenge killings” and “honor killings” come from. We’ve got to remember that God has said, “Vengeance is mine.” (Deuteronomy 32:35) It is when we try to do God’s job for Him that we get into the deepest trouble. The Bible is filled with assurances of reward, good for good and evil for evil. At the same time, the Bible also tells us to be sure our criminal justice system works well, neither acquitting the guilty nor punishing the innocent. It is very sad indeed to see the judicial system corrupted, as it certainly is in many instances. The recent incident of a man with multiple convictions being released and then committing apparently random murder is a case in point. The demons controlling him were unrestrained, and they escalated things. Such situations call for good people to be active, certainly, but at the same time we have to remember that “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
I have noticed in myself the rather ironic tendency to get angry that I’m angry. I don’t enjoy anger, but it does happen, and when I realize that I’m angry, that fact in itself makes me more angry! Such a cycle certainly doesn’t produce the righteousness of God. I need to remember what Paul said, quoting Psalm 4:4. “In your anger do not sin.” He followed that up with practical advice: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) This is exactly what David was talking about, because if I nurse anger I open myself up to the devil and that leads to evil, certainly. When I recognize anger in myself I need to turn first to God, being honest before Him about my anger and asking Him to show me what the real cause of my anger is. Often it’s not the immediate circumstance at all, but something previous that I had covered over. Anger produces various physiological responses in me, with adrenaline release and other things. When possible, I need to work those off with such things as physical exercise, but especially when that’s not possible I need to ask God’s help in dealing with the situation and my response. Anger at being angry doesn’t solve anything! I need to acknowledge my own humanity but not use it as an excuse, rather depending on God instead of on myself.
Father, the whole issue of anger is complicated. I have seen many lives ruined by mishandling of anger, both in “letting it all hang out” and in suppressing it until it comes out in such things as anorexia and suicide. Help me be a channel of Your truth and wisdom to people so that we may not be caught in the devil’s traps but rather walk in the abundant life that You provided for us in Christ, (John 10:10) for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!