In a world where terrorists, rapists, natural disasters, and abandoned children exist, it seems hardly possible to hold back anger. The truth is that we live in a very broken and corrupt world. Life is not fair. People choose to backstab. Parents opt to leave home. Governments withhold help from their citizens. Co-workers lie to you. Is it actually possible to refrain from anger and turn from wrath?
What Does 'Refrain from Anger and Turn from Wrath' Mean?
To understand how we refrain from anger, we first need to define anger. Webster’s Dictionary defines anger as, “A strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism.” Anger is not a sin. Anger is an emotion that if handled improperly can lead to sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
God Himself is angry at times. This causes us to ask ourselves since God is perfect, anger is not a sin, but a feeling. If there were ever an example of refraining from anger and turning from wrath it would be the Lord.
God was angry at the Israelites for creating the golden calf and He held back His wrath (Exodus 32:10-11, Numbers 11:1-2, Deuteronomy 9:8-10). The Israelites were still punished, but their nation was spared.
Jesus was angry when the people were buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12-23).
Jesus was angry at the Pharisees when they rebuked Him for healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).
To refrain means to hold back. We are called to hold back our anger and turn away from wrath. The difference between God’s wrath and our own is that He has holy and perfect wrath. We can easily sin as human beings. It is okay to desire justice, but when we seek out to destroy another that is not our place. Wrath is God’s alone.
Deuteronomy 32:35 says, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.”
Romans 12:17-19 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
When we see horrible injustices take place in our families, communities, churches, and the world, it is easy to try to take matters into our own sinful hands. However, Christ sets an example to us and calls us higher.
There is a woman in my community whom I greatly admire. A few years ago, she was a stay-at-home mother and her husband left her for another woman. He ended up abandoning her and her children. Her church family stood by her when relatives did not. They brought her food and helped her. Then, her husband at the time decided to pester her and put her down continually. Over the many years of watching the devastation of this man’s decisions and the ways this woman and her kids have been treated, anyone would want to fight back evil with evil. However, this woman has shown more Christ-like character and restraint than anyone I have ever known. She is a hero to me because she models to her children that even if other family members act ungodly and unkind, she does her best to never say a negative word about them, always do what is best for her kids, and handles her ex-husband’s emotional disorders with grace and mercy.
True strength is not found in an outward battle, but of the inward character that holds a person together when the enemy wages war. This woman has the Holy Spirit within her, and she testifies that He is working in and through her life every time that she chooses to live like Christ in an ungodly attack. What is our excuse to fight evil with evil? Do we think the momentary feeling of victory is sweet enough to outweigh the fact that our comeback was enough to put Jesus on a cross? Do we get mad that evil seems to win and forget that we already have long-term victory in the Lord?
Please note that I am in no way supporting an abusive relationship. If you are in an unhealthy situation, please get out and seek help immediately. However, no matter what the scenario, we need Jesus to help us live above the level that this world operates. Anyone can be angry or act wrathfully, but a Christian is called to refrain from the anger and turn from the wrath. Anger and wrath are options, but they are not the best options. God is our Judge, and we can rest that He has the final word.
What Is the Context of Psalm 37:8?
Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”
This specific chapter of Psalms was written by David. He was continually pursued by King Saul who was trying to kill him. David was questioning why godly people were afflicted. He reminds his own soul to trust in the Lord and find rest in Him. He says that God will punish sin and reward those who follow Him. He reminds himself and the reader of the eternal victory that we have in Christ. He shares that God will deliver us from this wicked world one day when we are reunited with Him in Heaven.
What Is the Difference between Anger and Indignation?
Anger is the foundation of indignation. Indignation is defined by Wester’s Dictionary as “anger aroused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean.” A teacher could have anger that a student is unkind with her words, but when the student decides to hit another child, the teacher might become indignant. Indignation comes from a sense of seeking justice. I can be angry knowing that there is still racism, but I can become indignant when I see racism taking place in my community.
Indignation always stems from anger, but anger does not always have indignation. Someone could be wrongfully angry that another person got the lead in the school play, or another person got the promotion at work. It does not mean that the other person was unworthy, it just might cause anger. How we deal with that emotion matters to God.
How Can We Practically Refrain from Anger?
There are some practical ways in which we ourselves can calm down when we are upset and how we can aid in defusing this fire in others.
Recognize Triggers: Sometimes I find myself angry at a similar situation repeatedly over time. If I can discover the trigger to why that bothers me so much, it can open my understanding to what causes the anger and how can I give that to God in prayer.
Practice Returning Evil with Kindness: Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Next time someone says something that is harsh, sarcastic, or belittling, practice responding in love.
Learn that Release Is Not Defeat: Study up on Scriptures that encourage our victory in Christ. Learn that giving God your anger and letting go of the concept of revenge is not defeat, but really a win.
Acknowledge your Anger to God: Brittany Rust from Crosswalk shares, “If you’re struggling with anger, choose the path of confession. This will mean confessing to God what’s in your heart and also confessing to the person with whom you’re angry towards” (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9).
Anger is one of the core emotions that we all encounter in one way or another. Just like there is a time and season for everything, there is a place for anger. It is acceptable to be mad at sin and the Devil. But rather than taking out our feelings on others, we can harness that energy to love and live by the Spirit in hopes that our lives would look different to the world and others might know we are Christians by our love.
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Emma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com
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