Is this Righteous Anger?

*Published with the happy permission of my father and myself, who are now in a place of peace and unity.

I was angry at my dad.

I went for a four mile run in the brisk spring air. Snow and ice was melting all around, and it caused rivers of water to drain down the sides of street. I ran, sprinting between pockets of pavement and ice.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

It seemed as if it was the hundredth time my dad and I had tried to have a civil discussion to smooth out our differences. He tried; he honestly did. I think I could believe that. But how did he still fail to understand or respect how I thought differently than him? It was as if my political views were the only thing worth talking about; not anything else I did. I was summed up in what I believed politically. I felt like a project he needed to fix.

It had been two years after I went to college and came home excited by new thoughts and conversations, and we still hadn’t figured out how to talk. My dad seemed to not understand me or respect what I was thinking about, and so I struggled to feel that I and my convictions were valued by him.

I prayed as I ran. Was there anything we hadn’t tried yet? My dad and I were both committed to Christ. We prayed. We cared about our unity and the peace between us. But we just seemed unable to get it.

As I neared the last quarter mile of my run, exhaustion set in and I stilled myself by the road, staring down at the streams of water flowing past me. It was cold and I started to shiver, but I knelt down and put my fingers into the cold, crystal water.

“If your father never changes, will you love him?”

I heard the question clearly, and tears sprung into my eyes.

I don’t want him to not change, I told God. I don’t want this to be my lot for the rest of our time as family.

“It doesn’t have to be.”

It was clear now to me what God was asking, and I started to cry more. It had been a long time since we had started to try to settle our differences. I tried to learn different argument techniques to explain myself. I tried different listening techniques to open myself to hearing him better. But we still just felt aggravated.

It was time to forgive him.

I tried to argue with God. I don’t want to settle, I told him. I don’t want to give up on this.

But that was exactly what I needed to do.

Anger is an emotion of injustice. “Hate what is evil,” God says, “and cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Anger at racism is an appropriate response. Anger at mistreatment, at lying, at the oppression of others or ourselves. Anger motivates us to keep going and press in and right wrongs.

If I never accepted my dad for not understanding me, though, I would be treating him exactly as I felt he was treating me. I had to give it up. Then there would be peace.

Throughout this process with my dad, I had often wondered if I was unnecessarily clinging to anger, and I tried to offer my anger to God regularly to take it away. It wasn’t until this moment, though, that God was calling me to lay it down. He was ending the battle.

The Bible calls us to “be angry and do not sin.” Right after that it says, “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Right before this it says, “Put away lying. Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25-27).

See that order?

  1. Speak truth.
  2. Be angry and do not sin.
  3. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

Do you have anger in your life?

Have you tried all of these steps? Have you tried telling someone about your anger? It doesn’t have to be the person or people that cause the anger at first. Seek insight from someone you trust: someone in your Life Group, your discipleship group, your spouse.

Have you just let yourself be angry? Have you accepted that, and cried out to God about your pain? Have you let yourself be angry but committed to not acting out of vengeance or aggression?

Is God calling you to let go of that anger? Have you asked him recently what he thinks about it? Is He calling you to let go of it?

The comfort is that when God is calling us to give up anger, we will know it - if we are staying close to him. Like Jordan was saying this week, God is not looking to demand a list of rules from us. He’s looking for relationship, and He is for us. If we say the same as the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” we place ourselves right in the center of God’s heart to be safely comforted.

If we regularly submit our emotions, our rights, and our anger to God, this will keep bitterness out of our soul and keep us pliable to the direction God would lead us in. Then we need not fear anger getting a hold of our lives. We need not fear anger at all.

About the Author: Allison is a massage therapy student at Schoolcraft College and waitress at Zola Bistro. When she isn't doing these two things, she's probably doing something around Antioch. She loves prayer, worship, and spending time with her connect group!