Goodbye to the Grudge (and Anger, Resentment, Bitterness) | How To Use Anger for Good Purposes | The Biblical Prescription for Anger, Grudges, Bitterness

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*Find all episodes in this Season 2 Emotions Series as on the page list here -   Emotions Series

Do you have an anger problem and don't know it? What are the biblical teachings on anger? 

So last week we left off and I had asked each of you to think about the last time something really upset you or made you really aggravated or angry.

I do want to warn everyone, that this series may not feel so encouraging at first, because in each lesson each week, we are going to be reflecting on our own attitudes and behaviors. That is not typically real fun to do, right? However, let me encourage you to go through the process anyway. Because on the other side of it – once we have done the personal reflection and implemented the strategies and plans to overcome our personal strongholds related to our emotions and attitudes – when we do that – even though it doesn't feel so great when we are identifying our shortcomings – there really is a new day and a new closeness to the Lord that can be realized. Because part of doing this kind of work on ourselves involves directly inviting and allowing the Holy Spirit to co-labor with us in becoming more like the character of Christ.

So as you go with me through this teaching series, I remind you that if you are convicted in your spirit to do some work – in cooperation with the Spirit – to follow through on it. When we invite the Holy Spirit in our prayer time - to search our hearts and to convict us of areas in our beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes that need an adjustment - the Spirit will do so. He helps us strongly. That is part of his job description and one of the reason why Jesus sent the Spirit to us. So if you are convicted, as 1 Thessalonians 5:19 commands, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Don't suppress that conviction or set it aside or think it is not important. If you are being convicted; there is a reason. God is calling you closer, and the closeness is on the other side of that conviction. In Romans 8:26-27, it says, that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness....He who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Those two verses just told us that when a person who has the Spirit (and that is anyone who has fully accepted and believes that Jesus is indeed the Son of God – and believes in his life, death, and resurrection) – so anyone who has the Spirit searches their own hearts, they will know what the Spirit wants them to know. They will know what weakness the Spirit wants to be addressed. Then Romans 8:28 says “because God works all things together for our good.” Yes, that is Romans 8:28 – did you realize that the teaching about God working all things for our good – that it came right after the teaching about the Holy Spirit helping us in our weaknesses? Yes, it's the Spirits job to convict us about our thoughts and behaviors; and then the Spirit works and helps us in our weaknesses; and it is all for our good. One of those good reasons, is that there is more contentment and even a closer walk with God when He has helped us over to the other side of overcoming a weakness. Especially a weakness that has become as a spiritual or emotional stronghold, meaning the weakness that is holding us back in our lives and in our purpose, whether we realize it or not.

So with that – let's return to the opening question. Do you maybe have an anger problem and don't know it? Do you know about the different levels of anger? I'm only sharing these teachings over the next few sessions because it's something the Lord has very recently led me to identify and work on in myself, and that is – having to identifying and take captive unhealthy, lower levels of anger – in myself So just in case you think I am approaching these lessons on anger as a person who has fully overcome; I am not. I am doing the work too right alongside you, and truthfully, this kind of reflection and surrendering to God's will in our lives is ongoing and life long for all of us.

See, anger can be demonstrated in different ways. Not everyone expresses or demonstrates anger as “being mad,” or having a tantrum or lashing out verbally or being aggressive. There are lower levels of anger, and more elevated levels of anger. And there are lower levels of persistent anger such as bitterness.

So what does the Bible tell us about anger?

There are two Greek words in the New Testament for the word anger, one refers to more of an “energy, or a rising up of indignation;” and the other word is related to “furious or raging.” For example, irritability is a form of anger. Resentment and holding grudges is a form of a potentially persistent, simmering, low-level energy of anger. Did you think about that before? When you are feeling irritable, that psychologists often view irritability as a low level of anger related to feeling displeased?

But backing up a bit with some background on emotions in general. ..

First of all, we know that God designed us with emotions, including anger. Emotions, at their basis are a good thing, a good gift. Could you imagine a life without feeling any emotion? Emotions are given to us by God and it is because we have our minds and our emotions that we are able to experience God. If we didn't have emotions, we wouldn't have the wonderful gift, for example, of being able to experience the amazing gift of the peace of God. Emotions in and of themselves, are not necessarily sinful. This includes the feeling of anger or the rising up of anger within ourselves.

Ephesians 4:25-26 is a well known verse that says, “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not allow the devil a foothold.” It is interesting because the original language of this verse reads this way: “Be angry and yet do not sin.” Listen to this: Anger can be an energy for you that directs you to solving a problem – that problem may be within yourself or in your relationships or your area of influence around you.

Anger can be a response to feeling mistreated or to a perceived injustice. Those are examples of anger that could be used and directed for good. Sometimes, when we are angry because we are aware of or have witnessed an injustice, we may feel that anger as an “energy” to do something to somehow help fix or correct the injustice. If you experience this type of “energizing anger;” or “righteous anger” as it is sometimes called - it may even be a problem that God is calling you to help remedy– for example if you are angered by the plight of the poor, or the evil of human trafficking, or how some groups of people in society are maligned, or overlooked, or mistreated. Maybe you are being called to get involved in support ministry in those areas.

Anger, on the other hand, can also be a response to feeling entitled. Entitlement is not a good reason for anger. So again, anger alone on its own is not always wrong or sinful; but it depends on the circumstances whether it is a potentially healthy anger motivating you to address a problem; or unhealthy anger. The truth is most anger, even if it started as a healthy anger - when left to simmer and when it is not dealt with promptly – will become unhealthy anger.

The verse we read in Ephesians, gives us a prescription for anger; which we are going to look at this biblical prescription – the what to do - for anger in our next session next week. In the meantime, I want you to think about what type of anger – or level of anger – is most common or the biggest struggle for you. Some of these levels of anger you may not even recognize as being “anger.”

For example, lower levels of anger look like or feel like irritability or aggravation. We may call irritability or aggravation a Level 1 of anger. A higher level of anger might be called aggravation with a sense of urgency. This is when you become upset or aggravated simultaneously with a sense of urgency that something needs to be done very soon to address this wrong or injustice. This might be called a Level 2 Anger, and it may be described, as we called it “being ticked off.” A Level 3 Anger is when you are upset enough that you start thinking about revenge or start secretly wishing something bad would happen to a person. At this point, you are allowing your anger or dissatisfaction to bring your mind and thoughts out of alignment of God's ways. If your anger gets to the point where you are maybe thinking of ways to get revenge – even if you know you aren't go to do anything; or if you are wishing something bad to happen someone – you want a curse to fall upon the person who made you angry – you have now left the door open a crack and have given the devil a foothold. We want to catch those thoughts as quickly as we can and take them captive. Those are all the lower to moderate levels of anger. Then a Level 4 of anger is being furious to the point of losing control and lashing out verbally. Level 5 is when a person is aggressively raging and becoming physically aggressive, either towards objects or towards people.

Some of those lower levels of anger, we don't readily recognize as being a problem, and we tend not to put much effort in identifying the lower levels of anger which turn into resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness or a critical spirit. However, if we don't address these lower levels of irritability and aggravation in our relationships – it will eventually do damage. I really like how Priscilla Shirer refers to these feelings as “turbulence.” Emotional turbulence. All anger, whether high level or low level, is a type of stirred up turbulence within ourselves, and as she says, “Turbulence leads to misguided battles.” That is another way of saying, emotional turbulence can easily lead to a place where the devil gets a foothold. So we want to use both our psychological and spiritual resources to promptly address the turbulence of anger. The first step of that is to identify and admit to the types of turbulence you struggle with most often. So between now and the next session, identify where you struggle most in these levels of anger. Ok, so this is your homework between now and when you listen for the next lesson.

Complete this multiple choice sentence, and you can mark more than one answer. Mark all that apply for you

The types of anger I struggle with are ___________________ (mark all that apply for you):

-Level 1 – Irritability or Aggravation

-Level 2 – Aggravation with a sense of urgency to do something (being “ticked off”)

-Level 3 – Aggravation with revengeful active thoughts or passive revengeful wishes

-Level 4 – Furious – losing control and lashing out verbally

-Level 5 – Aggressively raging – physically towards objects or others

Then there is the Persistent Level – Holding long term grudges; persistent bitterness towards someone or towards an idea; or generally find yourself being hyper-critical or unforgiving – you may need to admit that you are a level 1 or 2 but it has become chronic, persistent.

Most people will struggle with a few of those areas; many people have some struggle wih all those levels. The first step to breaking free from unhealthy anger – even unhealthy level 2 and 3 anger - which is a spiritual stronghold in our lives – is to identify specifically where we struggle. This week, think about that and identify where you struggle, and then you will be ready for next week which begins the teaching on the strategy to overcome.

Also – I have a bonus – if you send an email with “Personal Anger Survey” in the subject to gospellifelearning AT, we will send you a copy of an anger checklist – one that is often used in christian counseling, It can help you really identify any areas, especially those low level areas, that you may not have thought of at first. (It's not automated, you will need to send us an email and then it may take several hours or maybe the next day or so, but we will send it to back you.) Remember you can find all this information including the transcript of this blogcast, the checklist, and how to request the Personal Anger Surveyat

So if you are listening to this as a blogcast, we will put some of the information in the episode notes; or go to Gospel Life to review it later if you are not in a place where you can review this now. When you get to the website look for the tab that says “Emotions Series.” Between this week and next – identify what your area of struggles are related to anger. Next week, we will learn about the biblical prescription for all these types of anger and we will also start looking at practical strategies we can do to take control of our anger – whether it is lower level or higher level, or persistent. We will also discuss how to know when your or someone's anger is at a level where it needs a professional counselor or specialized coach. 

Until then, I leave you with this verse: It's in Leviticus actually, chapter 19, verse 18- "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." That is one of the Old Testament laws that Jesus confirmed is still one of the higher laws to guide us as his followers. This is what we are asking the Holy Spirit to help us work towards. This has been the message the Lord gave to Moses and the Israelites in ancient history, and Jesus taught and reinforced - it's a biblical lesson and a thread that is related to the most important command that Jesus told us to live out - to love our neighbors and treat others as we would like to be treated. It's hard, so hard to battle against our human nature which wants to hold grudges, wants to keep hanging on to unforgiveness, irritability, or wanting to lash out. It's a struggle - but it is worth it to overcome. We will be looking at more practical strategies related to overcoming our anger - whether low or high levels of it  - next week, next time. 

*Find all episodes in this Season 2 Emotions Series as on the page list here -   Emotions Series

If you would like to learn simple, practical ways to walk with God every single day, then you would really enjoy Closer to God: Simple Methods, Starting Today

If you need motivation to eat healthier or lose weight while also growing 

closer to God, then you would enjoy Weight Loss for Christians, An 

Extraordinarily Simple Way to Conquer Cravings

If you want to learn more deeply and fully about what Jesus taught, then you would enjoy He Called: 56 Daily Studies and Reflections with the Words of Christ. 

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