DO YOU DO WELL TO BE ANGRY?
Madder than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Madder than a tailor in a nudist colony. (Ha! I had to laugh when I happened upon that one.)
These are all phrases that are used to describe anger.
Anger is no respecter of persons. It happens to us all. You know what I’m talking about. That moment when something inside you snaps. That moment when the internal furnace is suddenly turned up a notch or two. That moment when our brains send a message throughout our bodies and our various parts react—our eyebrows meet in the middle, our teeth clinch, our fists tense up, our hearts race, our lips crimp tighter. And if you try really hard, you might catch a faint whiff of smoke that’s emanating from your ears.
Anger certainly manifests itself in a variety of ways—screaming, launching objects across the room, inflicting pain on others or self, doing damage to anything in the wake of its path, pouting, stomping, slamming doors, spewing unkind words, hurling insults, etc. I’m sure you all know of people who fly off in fits of rage when they get angry. Then there are others who oddly enough, get angry, but you can barely tell.
You remember the story of Jonah in the bible? A quick synopsis of the story is this: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it because it was full of wickedness. Jonah said, “No way!” So he boarded a boat headed in the opposite direction. He wound up getting tossed overboard, swallowed by a great fish, and puked up three days later. God told Jonah again to go to Nineveh and this time he did. He preached. Nineveh repented. The people were saved from God’s destruction on them. And Jonah was ticked off. Livid. Fuming. Madder than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. So mad at God he wanted to die.
Now…check out God’s response to Jonah’s anger. And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4, ESV). I love the question from God. “Do you do well to be angry?” If we expand on God’s question by dissecting the original Hebrew word “well,” it’s as if God is asking Jonah: Is this well-placed anger? Is your anger making the situation good, or right, or beautiful? Is your anger pleasing? How well is this anger thing working out for you, Jonah?
Interestingly enough, Jonah’s response to God’s question was to pout. He went out to the edge of Nineveh and built a shelter. God provided a plant to grow up over the shelter which provided shade for Jonah. (If I were God, I wouldn’t have been that nice. :-)) Jonah was exceedingly glad for God’s provision. But the next day, God provided a worm that ate the plant. Then God provided a scorching wind and hot sun that beat down on Jonah and he once more got angry and wanted to die.
And again…check out God’s response to Jonah. But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” (Jonah 4:9, ESV). There it is again…“Do you do well to be angry?”
Now, I understand that there are times when our anger is justified. I also understand that there are times when we perceive our anger to be justified, but in reality it isn’t. In any event, I believe we must ask ourselves the same question God asked Jonah…“Do you do well to be angry?” We must find a way to objectively step back from our anger (whether it’s real or perceived) and ask ourselves similar questions. Is this well-placed anger? Is my anger making the situation good, or right, or beautiful? Is my anger pleasing? How well is this anger thing working out for me?
In the grand scheme of things, as in the story of Jonah, God has a plan. God has a purpose in carrying out His plan. And sometimes God’s perfect plan doesn’t quite line up with our perfect plan. Sometimes God’s plan makes no sense to us whatsoever. And yes, sometimes we get angry. Yet, as hard as it is, we must submit our plans, hearts, thoughts, behaviors, agendas, motives, purposes—and yes, even our anger—to His perfect plan.
God knows best. God loves best.
God knows you. God loves you.
Do you do well to be angry?