Do You Do Well To Be Angry
The story of Jonah is one that is familiar with most, at least the part when he’s swallowed by the great fish anyways. If you just took that story and summarized it in a nut shell it would probably sound something like this: - Jonah is commissioned by God to go preach to Nineveh – Jonah doesn’t want to and tries to fell – God causes a great storm to stop him and Jonah is thrown overboard – God commissioned a great fish to swallow Jonah – Jonah has a change of heart and goes to Nineveh and preaches – Those in Nineveh repent of their ways and the Lord relents from destroying them.
The story could really end after chapter 3 because after all God accomplishes what He set out to do in the beginning of the book. But that’s not where the Lord stops that story. Jonah 4 gives us insight into a problem with the heart that Jonah was continuing to struggle with. He was angry, angry about multiple things. I love the simple and yet profound question the Lord asks him in Jonah 4:4 – “And the Lord said, Do you do well to be angry?” God then orchestrates a little series of events with the plant and worm to show Jonah not only the foolishness of his anger but the right perspective he should have had.
When God said He created us in His image we of course know He wasn’t talking about our physical form because God is not flesh and bone. Being created in His image includes being eternal beings, as Solomon said He has put eternity in the heart of man, and also characteristics in his likeness. He created us with emotions. The same emotions that we can read of God expressing and having all throughout scripture. Anger of course is one of those emotions and like all emotions in its right place, to the right degree, for the right reason they’re okay. The problem isn’t in feeling anger but rather the often lack of control and improper use of it. In James 1:19-20 James doesn’t say not to be angry at all but rather be slow to it. James doesn’t say anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God but rather “the anger of man” doesn’t.
The question that is often asked is how can we be angry and not sin. I don’t claim to have all those answers but I’ve recently discovered a new definition of anger that I think helps put it back into its proper perspective. “The anger of man” can really be defined as a lack of trust in God and a lack of love for others. Essentially that is what was behind Jonah’s anger from the beginning. Jonah reminded the Lord that his complaint from the beginning was that he didn’t want to go to Nineveh and it was apparent that he didn’t think they were deserving of God’s grace. Because God insisted it angered him.
The phrase “be angry and do not sin” is most often associated with Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 but David actually pinned those words long before Paul did in Psalm 4:4-5 – “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” You see the way David describes anger and more importantly how to be angry and not sin is my taking time to ponder God’s faithfulness, His promises, and His love and after doing so putting our trust in Him. Think about all the things that tend to get under our skin and cause us to either be angry from the wrong reasons or cause us to fail to control our anger. If we’ll truly trust in the Lord to comfort, guide, protect, provide, hold accountable, and forgive, our hearts will find much more peace.