Overcoming Anger and Fear
The evangelist shares practical steps for dealing with destructive emotions.
Reprinted from "The Journey" by Billy Graham, with permission of W Publishing Group.
Every destructive emotion bears its own harvest, but anger's fruit is the most bitter of all. Uncontrolled anger is a devastating sin, and no one is exempt from its havoc. It shatters friendships and destroys marriages; it causes abuse in families and discord in business; it breeds violence in the community and war between nations. Its recoil, like that of a high-powered rifle, often hurts the one who wields it as well as its target. Anger makes us lash out at others, destroying relationships and revealing our true nature. The history of the human race is largely the history of its anger.
Nor are Christians exempt from anger's grip. After Jesus' arrest Peter angrily denied his Lord: "He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don't know this man you're talking about"' (Mark 14:71). Paul had to urge the Ephesian Christians to "get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Ephesians 4:31). How many churches have been torn apart by someone's anger? How many people have been turned away from Christ because of a Christian's anger? We get angry when others hurt us, both by what they say and what they do.
We get angry too when we don't get our own way or our plans and dreams are frustrated. Anger may arise in an instant erupting like a volcano and raining destruction on everyone in sight. Often, however, anger simmers just below the surface, sometimes for a lifetime. Like a corrosive acid, this kind of anger eats away at our bodies and souls, yet we may not even be aware of its presence.
Some people are angry at God. Sometimes I get letters from people who have been touched by tragedy—but instead of seeking God's help, they angrily blame Him for what happened. As a result they cut themselves off from the peace and joy He alone can give us, even when we don't understand.
Is anger ever justified? Yes—when it is caused by injustice and sin instead of our selfishness or hurt pride. God is angry when His righteousness is scorned; Jesus forcefully drove out from the temple those who were callously making money from God's people (Matthew 21:12-13). We must be careful, however; sometimes our so-called "righteous indignation" is little more than a cover for lovelessness or self-righteousness.
Anger and bitterness (as well as hatred, jealousy, and resentment, their offspring) aren't identical, but they are closely related. Bitterness is anger gone sour, an attitude of deep discontent that poisons our souls and destroys our peace. My wife has said that a bitter, sour Christian is one of Satan's greatest trophies—and she's right. The Bible says, "See to it…that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15). Are anger or bitterness keeping you from becoming the person God wants you to be?