What to Do When You're Boiling Mad


Paula Hendricks shows how we can turn moments of anger into moments of faith.

Mr. Kitty is my cat. He brings out the worst in me—throwing up his kitty food, scratching on my door when I'm trying to get some beauty sleep, and breathing his raunchy kitty breath right in my face.

Many of you will be able to relate—especially in your relationships with other people. So, short of moving to a planet with no kitties, other people or other irritating factors, what's to be done about this anger spewing out of us?

First, I think we need to see and agree with God about our anger. Anger isn't just some uncontrollable reaction to an annoying cat or little brother or sister. Anger is a sin that stems from deep inside us. In Jesus' words: "The things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:18–19).

So what are we to do? I picked up a little booklet titled Anger by David Powlison to help answer this question. The solution to anger—as to all sin—is so simple that it can almost sound a bit disappointing: "turn away from sin to God's grace in repentant faith."

To help you do this, David Powlison provides some really helpful questions to ask yourself in order to assess your anger:

What is my situation? (Mr. Kitty just threw up on my living room floor.)

How do I react? (I raise my voice in anger at Mr. Kitty and let him know that I am not happy with him.)

What are my motives? (I don't want to have to deal with others' messes; I want life to operate the way I want it to. Sure, I want grace from others when I make a mistake, but I don't want to extend it to others—including Mr. Kitty.)

What are the consequences? (My relationship with Kitty is strained; I am no longer joyful; I feel physical tension in my body.)

David Powlison continues with some questions that will move you toward repentance and resolution by God's grace:

What is true? (God is here with me and is in control of this situation. He is accomplishing His main purpose for me, which is to make me like Jesus. This same Jesus forgives my sin of anger, restores me to peace with God, and provides me with the power to be different.)

How can I turn to God for help? (Confess my sin of selfish anger to God, ask forgiveness, believe the Gospel, and ask for wisdom and power to respond with His love.)

How should I respond in this situation to glorify God? (Take a deep breath, relax, clean up Mr. Kitty's mess, thank God for the companion Mr. Kitty is to me—and for the reminder that I'm not the center of the universe. Thank God that He cleaned up my mess of sin for me!)

What are the consequences of faith and obedience? (God has kept me from sin; I've learned valuable lessons about seeing sin as God sees it, confessing it to Him, and turning from it. I have peace instead of anxiety.)

My little scenario with Kitty is silly, in a way. The stakes and consequences aren't as far-reaching as when I respond in anger to a person. But hopefully this little exercise gives you an idea of what to do the next time you're so angry you could scream. 

Anyone else want to try this little exercise? Think about the last time you were angry, and then—using these questions—process how you could've turned from anger to God's grace in repentant faith . . .

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