This summer multiple fires have ravaged Yosemite National Park. At least two of the fires started as a result of lightning strikes. The cause of the most destructive fire, the Rim Fire, is still officially under investigation, but the Park Service has stated that a hunter started an illegal fire that spread quickly, burning out of control. This small fire – that a hunter considered manageable – has now burned over 250,000 acres.
Just a single flame in the wrong place and at the wrong time can quickly turn into a blazing inferno. Anger, too, hidden deep in the heart can work the same way. When hurt, injustice, fear or frustration smolder followed by the dry, hot winds of disappointment or stress, an angry inferno can quickly develop. If you find yourself losing your cool frequently, examine your heart to see if a deeper wound exists that gives rise to your anger. Fires of anger normally rise from …
1. Hurt: Your heart is wounded.
Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love.<sup>1 When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall keeping people, pain and hurt away.
Biblical Example … The Sons of Jacob
Joseph was the undisputed favorite among Jacob's sons. Feeling hurt and rejected by their father, the 11 older sons became angry and vindictive toward their younger brother. …
"Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him" (Genesis 37:3-4).
2. Injustice: Your right is violated.
Everyone has a knowledge of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred to you or to others (especially to those you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to take root in your heart.
Biblical Example . . . King Saul
King Saul's unjust treatment of David evoked Jonathan's anger. Jonathan, son of Saul, heard his own father pronounce a death sentence on his dear friend David. …
"'Why should he be put to death? What has he done?' Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him [Jonathan]. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger …" (1 Samuel 20:32-34).
3. Fear: Your future is threatened.
Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God's perfect plan for your life.
Biblical Example … King Saul
Saul became angry because of David's many successes on the battlefield. (Read 1 Samuel 18:5-15, 28-29.) He was threatened by David's popularity and feared he would lose his kingdom. …
"Saul was very angry … 'They have credited David with tens of thousands,' he thought, 'but me with only thousands.' … Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had departed from Saul" (1 Samuel 18:8, 12).
4. Frustration: Your performance is not accepted.
Everyone has a God-given inner need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations for yourself or for others is a major source of anger.
Biblical Example … Cain
Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, but Cain's offering was clearly unacceptable. Cain had chosen to offer what he himself wanted to give rather than what God said was right and acceptable. When Cain's self-effort was rejected, his frustration led to anger, and his anger led to the murder of his own brother. …
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering-fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. … Now Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let's go out to the field.' While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him" (Genesis 4:3-5, 8).
Probing into buried feelings from your past can be painful. Sometimes it might even feel easier to stay angry than to uncover the cause, turn loose of your "rights" and grow in maturity. Like a forest fire caused by one small "controlled" hunter's fire, a minor, unexpected disappointment or strain may trigger an angry reaction that could devastate your life. Make every effort to discover the source of your anger and deal with it by releasing it to God with His grace and His help.