Philippians 2.14-15; Isaiah 53.3, 7-9; Colossians 1.21
In our final message during this series, we have a great deal to cover, so let me get to it. We are covering a wide range things today so will need to glance a few different passages—doing biblical theology. But the overall theme to keep in mind today is…
Theme: Anger is never neutral it is either good or bad.
1. Everyday Anger—READ Philippians 2.14-15.
As we consider everyday anger let’s consider these verses for a moment. Why would these verses be a clue to everyday anger and extreme anger? Well, we like to think crooked or twisted people as the racists, adulterers, murderers, or etc. But Paul tells us there is a close relationship between crookedness and grumbling. Why does Paul connect these things together? Think of Israel’s history. Consistently they grumbled and complained about God. This is primarily demonstrated during the wilderness wanderings. God miraculously rescued Israel from their enslaving oppressors—oppression they had faced for over 400 years. And in there minds God preventing there good—He was not doing enough.
Friends, let me remind us anger arises when we have a perceived good and something is preventing that good. Grumblers and complainers are crooked people who believe God is preventing their good. Paul is thinking of his grumbling relatives in the wilderness who were an entire generation of wicked and crooked people. These types of people are VERY angry with God. For the Christian, this is even worse, because as we grumble and complain we are telling God that what He has provided for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, is not GOOD enough. We are telling God that when He rescued us from our oppressors that it is not enough.
There are two things we can begin to address this everyday anger, this everyday grumbling, and complaining. First, develop habits that will help us remember Christ is our SUPREME satisfying gift of grace. What God has provided for us in Him is not merited or deserved. In this, we are developing a spirit of thankfulness. Second, through this habitual, thankful, remembrance we should look for ways to embrace God’s repurposing of our lives. God demonstrated His love toward us in Christ and wants us to go do likewise—READ I John 4.10.
2. Tormented Anger—READ Isaiah 53.3, 7-9.
Now many of you have the desires to carry out that purpose, but some of you have very troubling wounds and anger that make this much more difficult. This is what I am defining as tormented anger. These are waves of anger that come from very tragic experiences like abuse, being violated, adultery, and many heinous sins. For those of us who have these types of wounds, we need to explore other complex realities.
The first thing I want to tell you dear friend is something I just recently learned. You have cried out, “I’ll never get over it,” and I want to free up by saying that is true. When we have deep, dark tormented anger we don’t get over it, but it can be redeemed by to be a constructive displeasure. Consider with me for a moment people like Candace Lightner, the creator of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) who has allowed the anger against her daughter's tragic untimely death to be an instrument of constructive change. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. allowed the anger he felt toward the systematic consistent racism he and his people faced to be an instrument of constructive change. Then consider how God used His divine, holy, perfectly righteous anger to put together a rescue plan for people like you and me through Jesus Christ.
This is vitally important in dealing with tormented anger because of that torment we can identify with Christ more than others. In no way do I want to minimize or trivialize your suffering. Like Christ you are acquainted with grief, a person of sorrows, oppressed, afflicted by a wicked person or persons. In many ways, you feel as if you have been cut off from the land of the living, stricken for someone else’s transgressions. But like Christ, like Candace Lightner, like Dr. King, God can use your tragedy, your torment, to establish more of His kingdom. God can bring about healing through you. Consider what the apostle Paul tells us in II Corinthians 1:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.—II Corinthians 1.3-5
Dear tormented friends, let me say this, deep wounds need deep mercy. While I know the tragedy’s you have faced are abominations, keep in mind so was the Cross. In some senses, a piece of your innocence was forcefully taken from you, and that is certainly what happened to Jesus Christ at the Cross. God tells us this, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17.15). But we must not forget that is what God did at the Cross—He justified the wicked by condemning the righteous. Every single one of us is wicked, and Jesus Christ the only righteous was condemned for us. Facing our own need for deep mercy allows us to have an abundant reservoir of mercy.
In these cases, I have few pastoral suggestions that might help you get started down the path toward constructive change. First, start sowing seeds of small kindness. You might not be able to face your oppressor during this season of your life, but start showing small kindnesses when you see cases that look and feel similar to what you experienced. Small kindnesses are encouraging you to act in freedom and not bondage. If you are in Christ you are free and not a slave to anyone or anything. Second, resist the temptation to keep visiting the home of what Dr. Powlison calls “fruitless remembering.” These are those moments when we relive the wounds over and over again. Third, regularly visit the PSALMS to biblically process through your hurt and angry in a biblically healthy way. Fourth, learn to value your APOCALYPTIC identity. We must not forget this tragedy is a result of living a sinful world. Your tormented anger is the result of true evil. When God removes sin from the world He will be removing the preeminent source of evil. We must not forget promises like:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.—Revelation 21.4
3. Anger At God—READ Colossians 1.21.
Finally, I want to deal with the most extreme anger—ANGER AT GOD. This is a significant blind spot many of us have. The writers of the Gospels demonstrate this truth to us time and time again. Jesus, God in flesh, lived a life where he was consistently treated with destructive anger. We must not forget He said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15.18). The world hates Jesus when it has no reason to hate Him.
No one is ever justified in being angry with God. In man ways, when we become angry with God we have become insane—losing touch with reality. Proverbs 19.3 says, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” Anger toward God is the pinnacle of FOLLY. Anger toward God is irrational, self-destructive, and self-deceptive. Whether in our hearts or out of our mouths, we are proclaiming LIES about God. And just like any dark heinous sin, the best way to deal with it is to face it head-on.
Let me you give us all a few pieces of wisdom as we wrestle with our anger toward God. First, we should remember that many people who are angry with God have suffered the same pain as those who love God. Second, as those who are really dealing with their anger at God come out of a dark cloud, they will see more clearly who God really is (often for the first time). Third, many who are angry at God believe He has let them down, and they don’t realize they are sowing seeds of self-righteousness, distrust, and reinforcing desires for earthly pleasures. They are dissatisfied with who God is and what He does. It is hard for them to see they are being drawn away by the allure of the world (James 4.1-9). Fourth, once again I would encourage someone who is angry at God to read the Psalms and see how the Psalter works through their good and bad anger.
Now a few closing thoughts. Friends, we must never forget ANGER is NEVER neutral. Anger is either good or bad. I hope you have started the journey of working through the good and bad of anger. Remember friends one day God promises all our displeasures will be perfected, He will transform sorrows to joys. God is committed to destroying evil. We are becoming more pure or impure, and the same is true with our anger. My hope and prayer is our journey through the forest of anger will result in goodness and purity. May God use our anger to get rid of our world and ourselves of wickedness and impurity.