psalm iv – contemplative anger

“Be angry and do not sin” is not something I expected to read today. It’s not something we’re particularly encouraged to do. More likely you would have been told (or more likely inferred) something like, “don’t be angry, for it is sin.” It’s quite natural for us to think this way in our culture and I think this impulse of ours to avoid outward anger is good.

But there is another side of the coin. Anger is not like a bag of garbage that can be tossed away. It is more like a tumour, which does not go away unless it is excised or shrunk, and begins to affect the function of the surrounding organs if left untreated. Anger is not to be denied, but embraced, packaged, and delivered to God.

“Be angry and do not sin” is given the antidote, “reflect in your heart while on your bed and be silent.” Isn’t it ironic that self-reflection is just about the last thing on the mind of an angry person? Yet this is what we’re called to. This is very different to suppression, which simply addresses the emotion and says, “No, I do not want you.” This is an act of self-will, conquering a problem for oneself with one’s own might. The Godly way of anger is to embrace that which is in your heart and reflect silently with God. This Psalm speaks of joy, yet joy is not found by defeating anger. It is found by surrendering the anger to God for His instruction.

If your anger is righteous, then be brought to your knees, for you have felt God’s own anger in your own being. It is only by God’s grace that you have this anger, so direct it wisely to act with constant deference, knowing righteous anger quickly turns sour in your frail hands. This is what it is like to be angry and not sin.

If it is sinful, then be brought to your knees and repent, entrusting to God that you are not the master of your own internal landscape. This is what it is to be angry and not sin.

True joy is for the one who does not hide from God, but contemplates how in all aspects they can surrender their self-will to God’s will.

Meditation: Spend a couple of minutes breathing in and out through your nose slowly, focusing on the sensation of the air in the nostrils with each inhalation and exhalation. This should help to quieten your mind to pray. Make sure to close your eyes.

Sit with God and pray.
“Father, I know I can be angry when I come to you, so long as I surrender that anger to you. Please give me surrender, Father, because I am weak and cannot supply it. Whatever anger I have felt lately, Lord, whether I think it good or bad anger, I bring to you.”

Now, reflect silently on whatever has come to mind, letting each thought come to the surface to be examined, not holding back or dressing up your raw emotions. If nothing is there, that’s fine, the rest of this prayer is always applicable.

Then think, “Lord let me see my situation with Your eyes. I feel like _________ and I want to do ________ in my anger. Yet not my will but Yours be done, Father. I am not my own master and give all I am to you. I have no strength to give you such great surrender, and I want to follow my own path, but I know that Yours is pure. Match my will to Yours, Father, because this is how Christ was and is and it is how I want to be.”

Answer me when I call,
God, who vindicates me.
You freed me from affliction;
be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

How long, exalted ones, will my honor be insulted?
How long will you love what is worthless
and pursue a lie?

Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord will hear when I call to him.

Be angry and do not sin;
reflect in your heart while on your bed and be silent.
Offer sacrifices in righteousness
and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us anything good?”
Let the light of your face shine on us, Lord.

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

psalm iv (csb)

<— psalm iii psalm v —>