Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (ESV)
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (NIV)
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. (NLT)
This devotional marks the start of part two of our seven-month series on “Vices and Virtues”. Curious about why we chose this series? CLICK HERE.
Over the next four weeks, we will specifically be exploring our second theme: Anger & Gentleness. We think this one is important. Especially if you have kids at home, it’s the middle of the summer, the temperature is rising, the walls of your home are closing in, and your patience seems to be growing thin. Enter: Gentleness is the ingredient to peace in your family and your community. Each devotional we explore hopefully gives you a more full picture of what anger is, what we tend to do with it, how we can take on gentleness, and what the fruit of it is!
The path to anger is wide
Movies have always captivated me, especially the unfolding stories of the main characters. Anakin Skywalker, the young boy who later became Darth Vader, immediately grabbed my attention when I first watched Star Wars.
Backstory… Anakin was born into slavery but was soon rescued by the Jedi (good guys). In his escape, he is forced to leave his home and his mother behind. Despite his adventurous life fighting for the galaxy's good, the lingering regret of leaving behind his captive mother haunts him, and his simmering anger becomes increasingly apparent as his Jedi training progresses.
Anakin is then faced with a pivotal decision: to embrace peace as a Jedi Master or instead succumb to his anger as his master. Unfortunately, his anger proves to be his downfall. When he receives a vision of his mother's capture by the Sand People. He rushes to save her, only to arrive too late and witness her tragic death. Fueled by rage, Anakin surrenders himself to evil and seeks great revenge, mercilessly slaying not only those responsible but also innocent villagers, including women and children. It is a shocking and tragic transformation for a Jedi who exists to protect the innocent and uphold peace. Instead, he became the very embodiment of what he opposed. Anakin's unchecked emotions ultimately push him over the edge, plunging him into darkness beyond imagination. This descent into great evil is not an isolated incident but a culmination of unchecked fear, anger, and regret resulting from numerous compromises.
Psalm 37:8 warns us about the destructive path of anger; as you progress on that path, it leads to evil. There is a significant warning here, and the Psalmist is clear that we are to stop and turn from anger. Failure to do so can lead to it consuming you and causing great harm. So why do we often make poor choices driven by anger? Well, anger indicates something needs to change, and the problem is we think we know what needs to be done. Anger, like pain, is an emotion that isn't inherently wrong. It informs us of what hurts and helps us avoid it. The question then arises: How should we handle this anger? That's what we have to talk about.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but in its end leads to death.” That is the issue. When we feel anger bubbling up, there is a way that seems right for us to deal with that anger, but that way of dealing will lead to death. In Anakin’s case, he murders innocent people because of his anger. Although this is a very extreme example, the same principle applies to our lives. I’m sure little Anikan could never have imagined who his anger would cause him to become.
Things die as a result of anger.
Friends cut each other out, children distance themselves from their parents, couples divorce, churches split, and wars are fought. We see this at all levels of our human experience. And at every level, there seems to be a reason “why” we act out on anger. When we feel most justified in our frustrations, we are at the greatest risk. This is when we have the hardest time getting over anger and have tremendous potential to give in to it.. If we don’t learn to deal with anger, we will have a hard time dealing with anything else as a follower of Jesus: turning the other cheek, forgiving our enemy, loving our neighbor, serving one another, giving generously, etc. Abundant life in the way of Jesus can’t be built in the midst of inappropriate anger.
Anger can feel like a heavy weight on our backs. When we think about it, anger seems to be so impulsive, coming out of nowhere with a mind of its own. When we cool down from an outburst of anger we can often find ourselves disoriented by why we lashed out in such a strong way. The cycle is exhausting. We sense anger rising up, we lash out, we feel guilty and promise to do better, then we make the same mistake. Anakin knows this path very well. Anikan’s first act of evil was built for his anger towards the world, but it lead to the rest of his life spent as Darth Vader, birthed out of his anger of himself. When one dwells on anger for too long, we don’t just become consumed by it, we may even become the very thing we are angry at. Evil.
Off The Beaten Path: Gentleness
So where do we go from here? We have before us the model of gentleness Jesus gives us. This will be explored in detail more in the next few weeks, so stay tuned, but in short, it must start from a heart of repentance. A heart that says, “Jesus, I’m tired of doing things the ways that seem right to me. I want to embody who you are. Let me learn from your life marked by love, patience, and gentleness, not shaken to unrighteous anger but always gracious.” This can only come through abiding in him. We will continually fail ourselves but can embrace what Jesus offers us—a life marked by gentleness.
If you are weary and burnt out by the wickedness of the world or the anger in your heart, turn from the broad path of anger and rage, and step onto the untrodden path of gentleness where you will blaze new trails and find abundant rest, walking hand in hand with the one who is love. Jesus.
Written by: Ben Hesch