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Anger as revelation

“I’m not some crazy angry person,” I said through tears as the urgent care nurse stitched up the wounds on my hand.

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

“I’m not some crazy angry person,” I said through tears as the urgent care nurse stitched up the wounds on my hand.

“Uh-huh,” he said back, not believing me.

“I’m not!” I shot back, clearly angry about being accused of being angry. I closed my eyes and ran through the last hour in my head. Maybe I was angry.

It was summer 2020 — a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. This was pre-vaccine and peak 2020 election hype. This was a time of great social unrest when our nation was reckoning with racial injustice. This was the beginning of mask-wars and school board fights. This was when churches were pondering how to safely worship in-person, while still offering virtual services. This was a time when I, on top of being a full-time pastor, was also a mom without childcare for a baby and a toddler.

Was I angry? You bet I was. Was I angry enough to have caused this accident? I wasn’t sure. In truth, I had simply been knocking on our backdoor when the glass pane broke, cutting my right hand and eventually leading to 24 stitches, one surgery, and months of occupational therapy. Was I knocking or angrily pounding? Was it anger or accident or both? I’m still not sure.

I am sure, however, that I’ve felt angrier in the last two years than ever before. I am also sure that everyone I know is angrier than ever before. Anger, it seems, is living just at the surface these days, just waiting to bubble up and burst out. Yet, we are always surprised when it does because anger is an emotion we like to bury deep inside: It’s not good to be angry. Get over it. Turn that frown upside down.

Yet, two years of lockdowns, personal losses, political and social unrest, vaccine and mask wars, actual wars, and disruption to our “normal” lives has left us all with a lot of anger and few places to put it. In preparation for a recent sermon on Jonah, I asked my social media friends: “What makes you angry?” Of the 80 comments, the first one summed them up: “I’m angry at injustice and a sink full of dirty dishes.” We are angry at the big injustices of the world and at the irritants in our lives.

We are rightfully angry right now in our lives, in our faith, in our society, in our nation, in our world. Yet, as the Bible tells us, anger is not a new human emotion. Nearly every character in the Bible, who we have the privilege to see in their fullest selves, shows us their anger. From the patriarchs to the kings to the Psalms to the prophets to the Gospels to the letters, we see anger in the people of God. Jesus himself wells up in anger. Even our Almighty, All-knowing, All-loving God burns with anger.

Are you angry? Well, so is God. Perhaps, we’re all in good company.

Yet anger is a precarious emotion. Some anger propels us to do right, and some anger pushes us to do wrong. What we do with that anger makes all the difference. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:25-26). So if you are angry, allow yourself to be angry. You feel what you feel. Be angry, but don’t let it hurt others. Be angry, but don’t let it consume you. Be angry, but don’t let it produce hate.

Be angry, and let it propel you to fix what is wrong. If you are angry about those dishes in the sink, then find a mutually agreeable household solution. If you are angry about racism, hypocrisy and injustice, then find a way for your anger to do good. Speak out. Stand up. Help those in need. Be kind. Donate to organizations. Volunteer. Shut down those social media comments. Channel that anger into something that models your servitude to “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Jonah 4:2). Be angry, and let it propel you to fix what is wrong.

Anger may or may not have caused my hand injury, but my anger about the situation has propelled me to speak out in new ways. With two impaired and numb fingers, I have been writing (and editing a lot of funny typos). For the first time ever, I feel called to write about things that matter. Wounded, I feel called to heal. For, God has used my anger to help, to heal, and to hope in these trying times. How will God use your anger?

 

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