Making Peace with Anger

Anger is a human emotion God gave to us. Let's take our anger to God in prayer.

by - Posted on Mar 17, 2017

a man sits outside near trees with his elbows on his knees and his hands folded in prayer

When I was young, I used to believe that if one person gets angry at another, the relationship would fall apart. Growing up in my family of four, I chose the role of peace-maker to hold the family together by not expressing anger or “rocking the boat.”

It wasn’t until I was in training to be a chaplain that my worldview about anger changed. During my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, a colleague and I had a disagreement and got angry with each other in one of our first group activities. Yet, we chose to remain in relationship. We had lunch together to discuss our different meanings about what we said. As a result of this, we became the closest dyad in our peer group by the end of the unit! I learned that anger does not mean severed connection.

Before I had that paradigm shift regarding my perception of anger, I would have never thought of bringing my anger to God. I have heard it said by some of the faithful, “God makes no mistakes, so I can’t be angry at God.” Or, patients and families I serve at the hospital where I am chaplain may state, “You know I can’t get angry at God because of this [illness, death,  unforeseen health challenge].”

I call these Christian bubble wrap. These statements permit followers of Christ (in particular) the ability to suppress natural emotions like anger in hopes that God’s feelings won’t get hurt. But just like our relationships with people, our relationship with the Divine can not only withstand anger, but can be made stronger.

As we participate in Lent, we have opportunity to live in the wilderness experience of Jesus and remember that even He got angry. God incarnate, Jesus, having “been tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15), can definitely identify with our anger.

Scripture states that even his closest companions--the disciples--did not fully understand Him or believe what He taught. Jesus, being fully human at the time, I infer, got angry. "Can you not watch with me for one hour?" He asked His disciples when they fell asleep instead of praying with Him in Matthew 26:40.  And that was after Matthew 21 when Jesus “turns over the tables of the money changers,” and took a whip and cords to chase everyone out of the temple. Jesus likely was angry then too.

How about in the garden of Gethsemane when Judas fulfills the Scripture and betrays Jesus? Could it be Christ got angry because this ultimately set the wheels in motion for His death?

Yes, all of that had to happen to fulfill Scripture, but Jesus was as much human as He was God and surely had the right to be angry by the betrayal of His friend.

God gave us our emotions to help us understand ourselves and each other better. Since it is human and normal for us to be angry, I suggest, instead of burying our painful emotions and pretending they don't exist, we befriend our emotions, as the theologian Henri Nouwen puts it--especially anger. Let’s not dismiss anger or ignore it in the name of Christian decency. Let us take it to God in prayer.

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