“Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return— to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.” Job 10:20-22
Over the months, I did think more about anger. In some ways, I delved deep into thinking about it. Anger is a normal emotion. Anger is not a negative sign. Grief leads many into anger. Bottom line, God can handle it if you’re angry at him, and he can help you if you’re angry at something or someone else. He’s not knocked off center by our anger.
But a fair question remains: Who deserves the anger? Is it God? Or are you mad at the person who died? In the case of foul play, are you angry at the perpetrator who caused the death? If an accident, who should be the object of your anger?
I say I haven’t gotten angry. That’s not totally true. The more I probed into anger I realized there is an appropriate reason for anger and appropriate objects of anger.
Let me explain.
One of the healthy ways I coached myself was to remind myself that my micro-story is tragic, but my macro-story is beautiful. Even better said, the macro-story that God is orchestrating throughout history is still beautiful. Inherent in that story is an eternal struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan. Satan along with Adam and Eve had an encounter known as the Fall of Man, and death was introduced.
“…Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus in a state not of uncontrollable grief but of irrepressible anger. …the emotion that tore at his breast and clamored for utterance was just rage. B. B. Warfield, The Emotional Life of Our Lord
I can get angry at the very existence of death. That is a godly response! I can get angry at sin that resulted in death in the world. That, too, is an appropriate response. Anger at death will aid you in respecting the value of life. Anger at death has caused a deeper love of those in my family. My love for my family has grown as a direct result of my loss. My love for my family has grown as a result of considering the wife, daughter, mother, and sister we as a family have lost. I hate death! It is a result and sign of Satan’s and mankind’s rebellion. Anger at sin has caused a new level of recognition of my own sinfulness. Anger at sin will aid you in sanctification—your own discipleship—if you allow God to use it in your life. Anger at sin has caused me to pray differently—more passionately and desperately!
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
In short, anger at death has caused a renewed love of life itself and for those in my life. Anger at sin has brought an opportunity for growth in holiness and Christlikeness.
Second, I can appropriately get angry at our enemy, Satan. He rebelled and misled Adam and Eve. We call him our enemy because he is against God’s ways and seeks to keep us from being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Son’s Kingdom.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…” Colossians 1:13
I can embrace God even more intimately as I express anger at our enemy. If there is blame to be assigned, our enemy is the object of appropriate anger. I resist the temptation to turn my back on God. I embrace the idea of turning my back more emphatically on Satan. Death should never cause us to get or stay angry at God. Death, suffering, or loss of any kind should cause us to run to God. It should cause us to have anger at sin, death, and Satan.
In short, loss should be a clarion call to run from Satan and to run to God.
As I explored anger, I recognized there is a good role or place for anger. Loss puts life in perspective. Loss puts sin in a different light. Loss can reinvigorate vision and purpose for the life I have remaining. Anger can animate these lessons solidifying them in a mourner’s heart and mind.
There is, as it turns out, an appropriate place for anger.
“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” Philippians 1:22
“Jesus’ anger is not merely the seamy side of his pity; it is the righteous reaction of his moral sense in the presence of evil. Jesus burned with anger against the wrongs he met with in his journey through human life is truly as he melted with pity at the side of the world’s misery…” B. B. Warfield, The Emotional Life of Our Lord