How to Handle Anger, Part 1
Disappointment, jealousy, and injustice are common sources of anger. But how should we handle the emotions caused by each of these factors? Let's begin by looking at how unmet expectations can lead to anger.
No one is immune to disillusionment. All of us have expectations of other people, ourselves, and even God. When life doesn't go as we hoped, some degree of disappointment is normal. But at times, that disenchantment can develop into anger.
A. Biblical Examples
1. Jonah: Disappointed in God
Read Jonah 3-4.
The people of Nineveh were enemies of Israel. They were an exceptionally cruel, wicked, and idolatrous people who sought dominion over the entire region. They employed brutal warfare to conquer others.
- Why did God not do as Jonah had prophesied (Jonah 3:5-10)?
- Why did Jonah get so angry (4:1-3)? What do you think he had hoped would happen?
- Has life—or the Lord—disappointed you in some way? Describe what happened and how you feel today.
2. Martha: Disappointed in another person
- Read Luke 10:38-42. Can you relate to Martha's frustration (v. 39-40)? Why or why not?
Adam Clarke's commentary views Martha's hospitality as a demonstration of her generous and benevolent spirit. But in love and devotion to Christ, she prepared more food than necessary—this is why she needed Mary's help.
- What was Martha's root problem, according to Jesus (vv. 41-42)?
- Think about a recent time when you were angered by another person because he (or she) didn't meet your expectations. Why do you think your disappointment turned to anger?
3. Judas: Disappointed in himself
- Read Matthew 27:1-5. What did Judas realize (vv. 3-4)?
- What indicates that he could not forgive himself (v. 5)?
If you are angry with yourself because of past sins or mistakes, confess your shortcoming and remember that the Lord's love for you is unconditional.
- Why can you be confident that God doesn't hold your sin against you (Rom. 8:1-2; 1 John 1:9)?
B. Handling Disappointment Correctly
Depending on the nature of the disappointment, your response should include some of the following. (The order will vary.)
1. Express your feelings to the Lord.
God already knows how you feel and why. But pouring your heart out to Him prepares you to experience His love and comfort.
- What reasons did David have to be disappointed (Ps. 22:2, 6-8, 11-18)?
- David responded to hardship by trusting in the Lord and praying for deliverance. Why is this a good way to diffuse anger caused by disappointment?
2. Remind yourself that God is still in control, and He has the highest good in mind for you.
- As a part of declaring trust in the Lord, what did David recall (Ps. 22:4-5, 9-10)? How could you apply his approach to your life?
- Describe his emotions at the end of the psalm (vv. 26-31).
We often interpret Romans 8:28 to mean that if one option doesn't work out, a better option will come along. But from the Lord's perspective, our character development—rather than our comfort or desires—is of the highest importance.
- What is God's ultimate goal for believers (Rom. 8:29)?
In times of trouble, we can choose to focus on the spiritual truths God is teaching us.
- Describe a disappointment that developed your character. What did you learn through that experience?
3. When the opportunity to fulfill a dream has passed, ask the Lord for a new goal.
- Read Psalm 37:1-6. Why should we not fret when others mistreat us (vv. 1-2)?
- What should we turn our attention to instead (vv. 3-4)?
- What does God promise if we will do that (v. 5-6)?
Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." If you need a new vision for your life, ask the Father to give you one.
4. Reaffirm your hope in God as your provider.
Disappointments can serve as reminders to place our hope fully in the Lord.
- What needs does the Father promise to meet (Matt. 6:30-34)?
- When God does not meet practical needs—such as money for the bills or healing for a sick body—what promise do we have (Phil. 4:11-13)?
- What happens within us if we cast our anxiety on the Lord (vv. 6-7)?
In other words, even in times of lack, we can experience supernatural joy and peace as we place our trust in our heavenly Father.
5. Move on.
God doesn't want us to get stuck in the past—either regretting mistakes and lost opportunities or reminiscing about "the good old days."
- Why is it so important that we "forget the former things" (Isa. 43:18-19)?
- What things might God want us to remember about the past?
- What new venture or challenge do you think the Lord wants you to focus on instead of dwelling on your disappointments?
Closing: When life takes an unexpected turn, we don't have to respond in anger. Ask the Lord for fresh hope and a new vision. That's a prayer He will be sure to answer.
Prayer: Father, teach me to deal with disappointments in a healthy way. When they make me angry, show me how to respond so that I will not give Satan a foothold in my life. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.