What can we do with the angry thoughts we have toward those who have wounded us?

“In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer.” Psalm 109:4

In return for his love for them, a group of people caused great pain to King David by falsely accusing him (109:2-5, 20-25). Instead of seeking revenge, David sought the Lord in “prayer” (109:4b). The phrase “give myself to” in verse 4b is in italics which means this phrase is not in the original Hebrew language. So the verse literally reads, “but I am prayer.” David’s life was so filled with prayer he could say his life is prayer. When the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21), David would probably have said, “For to me, to live is prayer.” We would say he lived, ate, and slept prayer. The centrality of prayer in his life reflected his great dependence upon the Lord.

David asked God to severely judge his accusers (109:6-29). He pleaded with God to return what his enemies were doing to him back on themselves. For example, He asked God to “set a wicked man” over his enemy to oppose and accuse him (109:6). He wanted God to judge him “guilty” and put him to death (109:7-8). He also prayed the Lord would punish his enemy’s “children” and “wife” for his evil doings (109:9-10) so that no one would remember him and so that he would have no descendants (109:11-15). The reason David prayed this way was because his enemy had practiced these things David asked God to do to him (109:16-20, 28-29). David was confident that God would save him from his enemies, so he promised to “greatly praise the Lord” (109:30-31).

Do you ever find yourself at a loss for words when you have been deeply hurt by those whom you have loved? You have these angry thoughts toward them, but you have been taught that anger is sin, so you stuff your feelings down or condemn yourself for having them? If that describes you, follow David’s example and express your anger to God in prayer. God already knows they are there, but He wants you to release them to Him, so He can heal you and work in your life and in the lives of those who have wronged you.

Harboring angry thoughts will hurt you more than your offenders. Instead of trying to get even, get honest with the Lord so He can lift your burdens and deal with those who have mistreated you. It is not wrong to pray for God to punish evil doers because He has promised to do so either in this life or in the future (cf. Acts 17:30-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 6:9-10; 16:4-6; 19:2, 11-21). But it is also important to pray for their salvation lest they perish without Christ (John 17:20; Romans 10:1; I Timothy 2:1-7).

How can I resolve my anger?

“Be angry and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:4-5

The apostle Paul quotes the phrase “Be angry and do not sin” (Psalm 4:4a) in Ephesians 4:26 when he is talking to believers about not grieving the Holy Spirit with their communications towards one another (cf. Ephes. 4:25-32). Psalm 4: 4-5 teach us some important principles for dealing with our anger:

1.  Admit and feel your anger (“Be angry and do not sin” –  4:4a). The feeling of anger is not wrong in and of itself. Even God feels anger (cf. Exodus 4:14; Number 11:10; Deuteronomy 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; Romans 1:18; 12:19; Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 3:11; 4:3; Revelation 6:16; 19:15; et. al). What we do with our anger can be sinful. When we admit our anger, we begin to take control of it. It is important to use “I feel…” statements which take responsibility for our own anger. Example: “I feel angry when you…” But spiritual perfectionism says, “I’m not angry.” Shame-based statements use the word “You.” Example: “You make me feel so angry!” The last two examples do not honor what God is saying here – “Be angry and do not sin,” because they do not acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s own anger.

2.  Talk to the Lord until you can be still (“Meditate [talk] within your heart on your bed, and be still”– 4:4b; cf. 4:3). As we talk to the Lord He can help us identify the source of our anger – Is it selfishness or perfectionism? Or is it because we have been wronged?

3.  Do what is right which includes forgiving others and yourself (“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness– 4:5a). Sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament as a means of forgiveness (cf. Hebrews 9:22). As God shows us the source of our anger, we can seek forgiveness if we were being selfish or perfectionistic (I John 1:9) or we can extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us (Ephesians 4:32). 

4. Trust the Lord with the situation (“And put your trust in the Lord”– 4:5b). Many believers struggle with the first two steps the most and skip right over them to forgive and trust the Lord without acknowledging or processing their feelings. But if we do not admit our anger or hurt and turn it over to the Lord, it is very difficult to forgive “from the heart” (cf. Matthew 18:35). 

Somehow Christians are not comfortable admitting their deep hurt and anger. Perhaps it is due to the perfectionism that is taught in churches today. But if we are to be more like Jesus Christ, we can learn to admit our anger and release it to God, so He can use it the way He intended – to accomplish His righteousness (cf. Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; James 1:19-20). If we refuse to address our anger God’s way, it will result in more brokenness in the body of Christ because we are giving the devil an opportunity to lead us into greater sin (cf. Ephesians 4:26-27). But if we do deal with our anger God’s way, we can experience what David did,“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).