“Don’t get me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Dr Bruce Banner’s famous words – a warning that he may lose control at any moment and become the Incredible Hulk – form a mantra that might work well for most Brits. Anger is something that most of us don’t do very well.
I know I don’t.
I repress my anger. I bottle it up like an evil genie; compressing it further and further until there’s some sort of uncontrolled explosion. When I do get angry, I find I become irrational, grumpy; a multi-directional troll of rage. I’m unpleasant. I’m stupid. I hurt those closest to me. And I’m in no way what you’d consider an angry person. I just don’t deal properly with the anger I feel.
The problem isn’t with the anger, by the way. Anger’s quite a good thing, in and of itself. It’s good that we feel angry when we see politicians lying, or corrupt governments diverting resources from the poor. It’s the right response when we hear horrific stories of abuse and violence. Anger isn’t bad, but what we do with it, or how we handle it, can be.
Punching walls (or people): generally bad. Being inspired to challenge injustice: usually good. That’s a very basic rule of thumb.
If I’m honest though, it’s not only my own anger that I struggle with. There’s another person prone to anger (albeit more slowly and controlled), who I’d really rather wasn’t. I’d rather he was all fluffy, and lovely (isn’t he, isn’t he?) and meek and mild. I’d rather God was all about grace, and mercy, and love. And of course, He is. But He’s also a God of wrath. Inescapably, that Bible tells me so.
Another case of anger that I don’t know how to deal with.
Deuteronomy 29:27-28 gives us a good example:
“Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that He brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”
If I’m honest, I don’t want God to be a God of anger, and curses, and (v23) burning sulphur. It’s another one of those cases (and I don’t need to point out the other pertinent examples) where I wouldn’t do it like that if I was God.
But then I look back at the rest of that passage. I see that God is telling the Israelites of how He heard their cry and rescued them; brought them out of injustice and slavery into a just, free and full life. This warning of His potential wrath is set in that context – He’s saying that if those people, for whom He hatched the most lavish and extraordinary and miraculous escape plan; whom He, the God and creator of the universe took under His wing and rehabilitated from a state of total inhumanity… if those people turn their back on Him, then He’s going to get angry.
That’s fair enough, isn’t it?
And when we look at other examples of God’s anger – which He is very slow to release – we see that it is always tied up with serious injustice. God destroyed Sodom, according to Ezekiel 16:49, because they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned” about the poor and needy. He doesn’t get angry because He can. He gets angry because it’s the right thing to do.
My anger isn’t bad. God’s anger isn’t bad. We need both if we’re going to make this unbalanced, unfair world a better place. We can do without the bottled up, mis-directed rage, the passive-aggressive driving and the social media trolling. Instead, I’m going to try to embrace my inner Hulk, and use him to spur me on to good.
This article is from our Seven deadly sins edition. You can read the other articles here.