Hole in the wall. Broken fence panels. Gallons of tears. Fractured relationships. All of these are examples of growing up in anger.
I wanted to blame everyone but myself. People drove me to anger. Others fueled my anger. While even more seemed not to care. I was missing the root of all my anger which was ultimately found in my heart. I was wrong in thinking that the opposite of anger was happiness when instead it is the joy found in Jesus.
Recently, I had a conversation with a couple of guys about the difference between anger, happiness, and joy. We began to list characteristics or outcomes under each of the three terms. Anger lingers with a burden that leaves us feeling in a shadow. Growing up I was not the kid who was angry all the time. As a matter of fact, I was a happy kid most of the time. The failure on my part was that I allowed small frustrations build and I meditated on the small things I didn’t like someone had said. The building of frustrations and the meditating on my heart was the issue that would cause the Hulk to take over.
The issue for the believer comes when we live as if happiness is the opposite of anger. Under the term happiness we found two striking things come to mind that we wrote down. Happiness can be present with anger and happiness can be present with sin. I am not saying that happiness is sinful but I am saying happiness is not far enough away from anger. Happiness is not our greatest fulfillment and achievement. If this were true what would that mean about Jesus when we suffer or deal with a hard time in life? In the absence of happiness how do we show the world Jesus is just as much, if not more, sufficient. I realized that my anger was rooted in selfishness and lack of joy in Jesus.
While making the list, we made two different categories of anger. There is sinful anger and there is righteous anger. Under righteous anger we begin to find the joy that is found in Jesus. We must take in balance the doctrine of God’s wrath. In Genesis 1 we find an outpouring of love in creating man and woman in the image of God. In a survey of Scripture, we find the beginnings of God’s wrath found in the casting out of Lucifer from heaven and the punishment for mankind sinning. While we deserve the wrath of God because of our sins (Romans 3:23) the wrath is deserved because of our sin and not because of our being.
The difference is that if God poured His wrath on us because of our being then He would have no desire to save mankind. However, God’s wrath and righteous anger is rooted in sin and since we have sinned we deserve that wrath. God is in the business of not whipping out people but instead of whipping out sin. Righteous anger is aimed at sin, false gospels, and spiritual warfare. Paul uses the language of war and armor when talking about combating the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-20).
The hope of the Gospel is that those who once deserved God’s wrath have been saved from it and have joy in its place. The work of Jesus is restoring the joy that was stolen from us by sin. The opposite of anger is not happiness but instead it is joy. The opposite of God’s wrath is God’s love which brings us eternal satisfaction and joy. The psalmists speak of this satisfaction saying:
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
God’s people have their anger replaced with joy. We must recognize the love of God in that Jesus Himself came down and joyfully gave His life in order that joy may be restored to ours. He felt pain, He hungered, He showed righteous anger, He was not always happy but the salvation of the people of God brought great joy to the Godhead. May we replace our anger with joy that is eternal and not happiness which is temporal.
May we never stop learning the depth of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for the restoration of our eternal joy. May we remember during this season of the year that the Great Commission is that we would sing from our hearts to the lost, “Joy to the World the Lord is come; let earth receive her King!”