Practical Advice on Overcoming Anger

Category: Questions & Answers
Bible: Proverbs 29:11

A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. – Proverbs 29:11

Original : I am 28 and married with two toddlers. Sometimes the demands of the kids and stresses of everyday life cause me extreme frustration. My wife says that I have anger issues and I believe she is right because I even try to watch against its rise but sometimes it still gets the best of me. It never gets physical and I acknowledge it is a problem but I am really desperate for some wisdom and practical advice on overcoming anger. I have been following Christ for almost 10 years now, I don’t want these issues to get worse. I want to have victory over this and flourish as a Godly husband and father. Thank you for all you do.


The first one is this from Adam. "I'm 28 and married with two toddlers. Sometimes the demands of the kids and stresses of everyday life cause me extreme frustration." So you have that. . It's a guy - Adam. . Married. Two toddlers. "Sometimes the demands of kids and stresses of everyday life cause me extreme frustration. My wife says that I have an anger issue, and I believe she's right, because I even try to watch against its rise, but sometimes it still gets the best of me. It never gets physical, and I acknowledge it is a problem, but I'm really desperate for some wisdom and practical advice on overcoming anger. I've been following Christ for almost 10 years now. I don't want these issues to get worse. I want to have victory over this and flourish as a godly husband and father. Thank you for all you do. Adam." Now, look, we could easily spend the whole night on this. But let's try not to. But anger's an issue. So talking about it and having a feel for it biblically - let me ask this. Is anger a sin? (from the room) I'd say no because Jesus was angry. Tim: What do you think? It can be. We're not to let the sun go down on our anger. We are told to be angry and sin not. But do you ever read anything about the anger of man or wrath of man in Scripture? What does Scripture say about that? It doesn't produce the righteousness of God. So there's a bad wrath. There's a bad anger. There may be a righteous one, but there's a bad one. And if it's bad, it's sin. And what's the reality with sin? Here's the thing with anger. I mean, we live in a day and I'm all the more reminded of it right now. We live in a day when everybody wants to diagnose sin as a disease; as something that man is excusable for. But it's sin. (incomplete thought) Let's ask ourselves this: What produces anger? I mean, think about it. You've gotten unrighteously angry. Did it happen in a vacuum? What was that? Not getting your own way. So, it's a situation that arises. Like this guy said - did you hear what he said? "I'm married and have two toddlers." The demands of the kids, stresses of everyday life, cause extreme frustration." You see, what's happening, he's getting into situations and he's getting angry. But here's the thing about sin. Here's the thing that we need to recognize. Is the situation the problem? No. His heart is the problem. You see, what situations do in our life is they bring to the surface what the real problem is. You know, you can get like the psychiatrist today will have you come in and, well, what is it? What do they typically want to know? Tell me about the relationship you had with your parents. Tell me about the relationship you had with your father. Oh, well, there's a possibility that we may have discovered some latent anger that you have with your father. Here. Imagine that this is your father. And hand him a stick. I don't have a stick here. Whack that thing! And release the anger. Yeah, there's a stick right there. As though it's something pent up in us that has to be released. Like it's separate from us. But that's not what anger is. Do you think that helps the problem? No, that doesn't help the problem at all because it's not like we're this cup of coffee and the coffee inside of it is the anger, and if I can just pour it out, everything's good. The issue is it's a moral problem. It's a problem with us. If we really want to get to the root of anger, the first thing we have to do - and really with all sin, is we have to acknowledge, it's my fault. I'm the one that's the problem here. Listen to something Scripture says about anger. Proverbs 29:11 In fact, you guys turn there. This is a Bible study. We need to utilize our Bibles. Now in the ESV - who's got the ESV and has turned there? Go ahead and read that out real loud, brother. "A fool gives full vent to his spirit; but a wise man quietly holds it back." A fool gives full vent to his spirit. The Holman Christian says "anger." Anybody have the New American Standard? Would you read that real loud? "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back." Hear that. "A fool always loses his temper." You know what we say to Adam (the one writing)? This is an issue of wisdom and foolishness. That's what Scripture says it is. If we want to diagnose it properly, a wise man - the thing is, if he's venting his anger, he's a fool. Now think with me here. When we begin to put something on the level of - you're wise or you're a fool, what can we say about that? What does that tell us? And I don't know that I'm looking for any specific answer, but what does it say to you when Scripture speaks that way? A wise man - he holds it in. You know what it tells me? One of the things that jumps out at me is the Scripture says and it expects that you can hold it in and it's a fool when you don't hold it in. Let me give you an example. Let's say you're a man that's got two toddlers, like the guy that's described here. Let's say he comes home. The house is a mess. Dinner's not ready. The kids are screaming. And what happens? Well, there's the situation. What does the situation do? It gives to vent to his moral problem, and he's in a rage. "Shut up!" And also the doorbell rings. He looks through the blinds. It's the UPS guy. He goes to the door. He doesn't scream at him. He actually opens the door, closes the door. Smiles. Says, "hey, how are you doing?" Signs for his package and then goes back in. Does that sound like real life? But you know what he just did? He showed that he could exercise self-control when he thought that either (incomplete thought). He doesn't want to embarrass himself. Sometimes it's a matter of counting the cost. You know what? I think that's it a lot of times. Would that man shout at his boss that way? Likely not. Why? The cost. You know what happens? We actually can exercise self-control when we want to; when we want to not come across like we're some crazy man to the UPS guy. Or we don't want to be seen as being out-of-control or having a loose temper. So we want to appear a certain way. But here's the thing, if we can control ourselves because of - what's the cost if I lose my temper when the police officer pulls me over? You're a police officer, aren't you? (Incomplete thought) Today, there's a lot of disrespect for police officers that there used to not be. Hopefully that's changing again. But I know how I respond. Except for one time when I was lost and I got pulled over riding my motorcycle extremely fast and it was totally my fault. I was upset. But, typically you talk very nice. You show self-control. But you know, one of the things is, we look at the cost. We look at what's at stake. But I would say the same thing. Why would we change our attitude towards the UPS guy when we really come down to think what's at stake? Do you know that portion of Scripture that speaks about letting the sun go down on your anger? Not letting it go down on your anger? Actually, not having sinful anger? It's right in the same portion of Scripture that talks about not grieving the Holy Spirit. You know what? If I value my walk with the Lord and I value my communion with Him, I'm counting the cost there. That's a big factor. It talks about what our priorities are in life. If I can show self-control when the consequences of not showing it are signficant enough - if I recognize that I really do have self-control, and the reason that I lose self-control is because I'm being a fool, and I recognize that if I'm willing to not lose my temper at work because it might cost me my job, what am I saying? But I'll gladly lose it other times even though it costs me my communion with the Lord? Even though it's barking at my wife and not living with her in an understanding way, and it's going to hinder my prayers? What do you all think? Any thoughts on anger? (from the room) I think we were reading last Sunday about - I don't know if it was or somewhere it said that the angry would not inherit the kingdom of heaven or something? That kind of concerned me because I didn't know what to think of that. Tim: Think about anger. Anger is: I want my way and God brings something else into my life that isn't my way, and because I'm not getting my way, I go into a rage. And that's really what we're talking about. That's the idea behind it. And you know, the thing is the trap is when you start to think you're incapable of dealing with it. Now look, I'm not talking about in your own strength; I'm not talking about lost. If you're lost, you are not in control of sin. But look, by the Spirit, as a Christian, we can live in the power of the Spirit so as to put to death the deeds of the body. That's what Scripture says. And the trap is you as a Christian falling into this mindset that well, I have an anger problem and I just can't do anything about it. That's not true. That's not true at all. And the reality is you need to be honest about the fact that you're getting angry because you're a fool. That's what Scripture says. And you have to be honest that you know you can keep yourself under control in different situations - even right on the spur of the moment if somebody else comes around and it's just socially appropriate that you not allow yourself to be seen as violent and angry. Listen, the solution to anger is a moral one. It's that we need to turn from our sin, and we need to trust the Lord. We need to look to Him - I mean, in repentance. We need to look to Him and seek for His help; looking to Him in faith. Anything else to say? (from the room) I feel like what David was pointing out in Galatians 5, it always strikes me how it says it here: "the works of the flesh are evident..." and it says, "fits of anger." And he goes on to say, "I warn you as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Tim: Yeah, it's not little, is it? But Scripture always speaks this way. Because even the text there in Romans 8 says that if you live according to the flesh, you will die. And living in anger is living according to the flesh. And you will die. Why? Because God's salvation is such that it delivers people from anger. True salvation does that 100% of the time. But you see, this is faith. When I come to faith, it's not just believing that Jesus was a historical figure. It's believing that Jesus - His name is called Jesus. Why? Because He saves His people from their sin. It's recognizing - I have an outburst of anger, and it's going out and praying, Lord, I'm sorry. I trust You. You promised. You promised to conform me to the image of Christ. You promised in Your Word that sin won't have dominion over me. You promised that if I'm a true Christian, by the Spirit, I will put to death the deeds of the body. You've promised this, Lord. You've promised that if I don't overcome this, that I go to hell. And yet, You've saved me. So I put those together, and what I see in there is a promise that You're going to deliver me from my anger. And that's the reality. This is real life Christianity. If your Christianity doesn't change you from being an angry man or an angry woman to not being - it's not the true thing. It's not the real deal. Listen, true Christianity's powerful. You're a new creation. The old angry man goes away. That doesn't mean that there isn't somewhat of a process of putting to death the deeds of the body. Certainly there is. That doesn't mean that there isn't the necessity to think right. You know what? If you're going to battle sin, it's always a matter of every sin, there's a lie behind it. And it's always a matter of confronting it with the truth. When you're angry, if you think about what the truth is; if you think about the fact that I'm in this situation; God has put me in this situation. You think about the reality. The situation isn't the problem. All the situation is doing is bringing the dross, the contaminants, the impurities in my heart and my life - it's bring them to the surface. And here's the thing, did God promise to purge us? Did He promise to put us in the refiner's fire? Listen. You can be certain of this, that God is in the business of rooting out the deep sins and idols of our life. And if you have an anger problem, I guarantee you this, God is going to repeatedly bring you back and put you in situations - why? Because, the big thing is He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to walk by faith. He wants us looking to Him. Look, it's no different than a leper who looked to Him for healing. Our leprosy is our anger, our immorality, our idolatry... fill in the blank. He wants us to walk by faith. Anything else to be said about anger before we move on? (from the room) (unintelligible) And that's spoken of a little in James 4. "What causes quarrels among you? What causes fights? Is it not that your passions are at war within you? You desire and you do not have..." And then it speaks of, "you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your own passions." So, we should go to God with it and desire the things of God. Tim: You know, I was thinking about two places in Scripture where men were angry and God spoke to them directly. Can you think of both of them? Cain and Jonah. Those are the two that came to my mind. Do you remember what He said to Cain? Now think about it. Both men are angry. This is probably helpful. We should probably find them. The first one of course is in the early part of Genesis. Chapter 4 I believe. Anybody see the verse? Verse 6, "The Lord said to Cain..." There it is. "Why are you angry and why has your face fallen?" Isn't that interesting? It's like God can say that to every one of us when we're angry. Why are you angry? Now, why would God say that? Because when we think about things truthfully, there is no reason for us to be angry. Listen. Raise your hand if you don't deserve to be in hell right now. How many of the people in hell do you think would gladly be in a household with two screaming children? Boy, it certainly would seem like a lot of goodness from God if you were suddenly back here sitting in a room with your dinner not ready, the house a mess, and two children screaming at the top of their lungs. You would jump up and down for joy at all the blessings in that. Because the reality is sinners have no right to be angry about anything. Not when God's not dealing with us according to what our desserts are. "Why are you angry?" Because there is no reason. "And why is your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It's desire is for you." Isn't this interesting? "You must rule over it." God means for us and He has sent His Son to accomplish this - for us not to be dupes of sin. He came to make us real men. "Quit you like men" the King James Bible says. He came to make us real men. Men who aren't slaves. Oh, I wish I could quote Piper exactly. One time I came across - he describes men being led along by the lusts of their desires like some craven, cowardly, on a leash, being pulled along after our sexual immorality and drugs and alcohol and pleasure seeking and money, and just like some craven slave. He came to set us free. He came to make us true men. He came to make us masters of sin, not slaves of it. How about Jonah? Anybody got that? What does He say to Jonah? It's right at the end, you remember, when Jonah's upset because his gourd plant was shriveled? Go ahead and read that. Jonah 4:1 "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." There it is. And what does God say to him? (incomplete thought) "'Do you do well to be angry for the plant?' and he said, 'Yes, I do well to be angry - angry enough to die.' And the Lord said, 'You pity the plant for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.'" Tim: You know what jumps out at me above everything else is this: God said, "I did that." "I prepared that." It specifically says He brought that worm. He brought that wind. You know what's interesting about that? It's that when you're sitting there, He can say, I created all the hindrances from your wife having that dinner ready. I am bringing the agitation to your children right now and they both have wet diapers and need to be changed and they're crying. I am the one who... right? You can fill in all the blanks. That jumps out at me above everything else in that account. God is the one who did all of it, and He's saying, do you have any right to be angry? Now, I know that the big issue had to do with Ninevah. But it's like what's behind all of it, is everything there that's angering him is something God has done. And the book of Jonah is so specific. God raises up the whale. God brings this storm that caused them to be thrown over... What's really interesting about the book of Jonah is the sovereignty of God. And God is stepping in and saying, Jonah, do you do well to be angry? Why? Because you consider the reality of it. Jonah, I brought all these things. And not only that, but I have a heart for these Ninevites. And that book ends in one of the strangest ways of any book in the Bible. And He also seems to have concern for their cattle. It's like, can you imagine if you're Jonah? Not only does He care for the Ninevites, He cares for their cattle. And I'm here complaining. Anyway. Anything else jump out at you guys from those? Jesus would have us pray for and show kindness towards - we are to pray for those who despitefully use us. But I would say this about holding back our anger wisely, according to that proverb is different than just holding it in and being bitter inside. I know that's not exactly what James is hitting at, but what you want to be able to do is walk away from situations that normally may have caused an angry outburst. But you know, when it talks about not letting the sun go down on your anger, it's not just talking about the external manifestations of it. It's talking about harboring it here. And how do you deal with that? I mean, one of the big things is just the Matthew 18 reality. God has forgiven me of so much. And whether it's my wife, my husband, a guy that I go to church with, a guy I work with, family member, whatever. Whatever debt that I have rights to because of their wrongs to me, how much more do I owe the Lord? I hope there's reality with that for you folks. Very often, thinking about what God has forgiven me of, it's an immediate thought: how can I hold this - even though there may be a wrong that's got its nails in my heart - but still, the truth sets us free, brethren. In all these things: truth. You start getting angry, you start bombarding these things with truth. What does Scripture say? How does Jesus want me to react? Maybe as much as anything, how did He react? But think, He taught on these things. He taught parables. He gave teachings that hit us right where we live. If anybody was practical, the Lord Jesus Christ was. And for us to not harbor resentment and bitterness and anger towards other people - what better reason, if you're a Christian, than how can I ever do that? After what I was and what I did and what He's forgiven me for? There's no place to hold anything. Did you have any other thoughts on it? (from the room) I had another thought. We were talking about counting the cost and the potential consequences. In Numbers 20, when Moses struck the rock, (unintelligible). There was a great cost to that. Tim: And he couldn't go into the Promised Land. (from the room) Sometimes you know that He's testing you too. Like certain days it will be like every 30 minutes or so, in my life I've seen it happen, at like 30 minutes or an hour, something just keeps coming up to test me, and I know it. And after awhile, I'm just like, ok, I know You're testing me, God. And I just kind of laugh to myself. Ok, this is going to be one of those testing days. And I just have to remind myself (unintelligible). Tim: Maybe before we move on, think about your life. What tends to test your patience? What tends to provoke anger in you? That thing that most likely irritates you and agitates you and causes you to lose it if you do - what are the things? (from the room) Traffic. Tim: See, that's the one I was thinking of. I was down in Monterey, and I was with Alberto. And I wasn't even driving and we had no place to go quick, but we were on an Interstate, and the traffic was just stopped. It was at a dead stop for a long time not moving anywhere. And I start to get this feeling, almost like I want to get out and walk or something, because it goes faster. Yeah, it's traffic sometimes. I don't know. I just had that feeling then. I guess I remember having it in Houston one time we were stuck in traffic heading somewhere East. Is there anything else? (from the room) I think ultimately it's just not getting our way. When we get irritated about certain things we want it a certain way and it just doesn't happen. Tim: That is the root of anger. We don't get our way.