When We’re Angry: Heart Checkup #5 from Psalm 37

by Katy Kauffman

I hear a hurtful joke aimed at myself or someone else in a group, and my heart begins to boil.

I learn that a friend was mistreated when she was little—instant boil.

I watch the news and hear about innocent people suffering—more boiling.

When we discover how others have been hurt or we experience it ourselves, anger can boil in our hearts and threaten to overflow.

We’re not the only ones who become angry when people are mistreated. “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Our God of love cares about every person He has ever created, and when He sees them harmed, He’s angry.

God of love, You are the God of justice. Help me to understand how I am to think and act in a broken society. How can I live for You and have self-restraint when my soul is moved by people suffering?

God’s prescription for overcoming anger is to “de-intensify.”

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
do not fret—it only causes harm.”
(Psalm 37:8 NKJV*)

“Cease” means “to sink, relax, sink down, let drop.”1 In other words, relax the intensity of your anger. Be less intense.

Unbridled anger can’t stay inside a heart forever. It will come out. This verse says, “Do not fret—it only causes harm.” I used to think this meant that if I harbored grudges, I was hurting myself. That’s not only what it can mean. If I let anger boil and poison build up in my soul against someone, I am likely—no, I will—cause harm to someone or something in some way at some time. I will do something that’s against God.

How ironic. We can get so angry at things that hurt people and dishonor God, and that anger can cause us to do something that hurts and dishonors too. 

So how can we deal with injustice? How can we handle anger when it’s warranted?

Don’t let it seethe, and don’t forget God. “De-intense.”

Choosing to “de-intense” can be hard, but if we appeal to God to help those we care about, we take the lid off a pot of boiling anger and let the steam escape.

The next verse in Psalm 37 shows what God will do—those who commit evil will not get away with it. In sharp contrast God has something beautiful and lasting for those who seek Him. Here’s the contrast—“Evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:9).

Evildoers will be cut off—their influence, their ability to harm, and so on. But those who wait on God will inherit—or take possession of2—what God wants to give them. What might that be? A safe place with Him, what they need, and life forever with Him.

The wicked will try to grasp what isn’t theirs—to get more, do more, and be more outside of God’s boundaries, outside of His parameters of love and wisdom. But the meek—those who are afflicted3 and those who persevere through trials and look to God in all things4—“shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).

No wonder God says in verse 27: “Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore.”

We all have a choice to depart from what will harm others and ourselves, and instead choose what is good. Part of that good is looking to God for help.

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil. …
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
(Psalm 34:15-16, 18)

Heart Checkup #5:

Are we willing to let our anger “de-intense” in favor of seeking what God can do in a situation? It’s a hard question but a good one. A needed one.

If someone is in danger, God may lead us to get school authorities, other authorities, or law enforcement involved. Governing authorities exist to administer justice (Romans 13:1-4).

In all situations, we can appeal to God and follow His lead. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8). For God’s “eye” to guide us, we have to be looking at His “face”—He wants us to be focused on Him and calm enough to hear His direction in our spirits and know how to pray for others.

With God’s help, we can quiet our hearts and subdue anger. We can live for Him so that there’s one more person in the world who loves Him and loves what is right. So there’s one more person who chooses to depart from evil and to live out what is good.  

Discussion Questions:

When anger threatens to boil over, what can we remember from Scripture to help us “de-intensify” it? What helps you to “un-seethe” and look to God in a broken world?

*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.
1. Larry Pierce, The Online Bible, CD-ROM (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2019), Psalm 37:8.
2. Larry Pierce, The Online Bible, CD-ROM (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2019), Psalm 37:9.
3. Ibid.
4. Larry Pierce, The Online Bible, CD-ROM (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2019), Matthew 5:5.


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