What Anger Does at Sundown

We should never live in fear, especially if we believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God.  There are however a few sins in The Bible that have such gnarly consequences that we should do our best to avoid them.

For example, Jesus said, “If you get in the way of someone who’s decided to come to me, it would be better for you to have a huge rock tied around your neck and thrown into the ocean.”  That’s a good one to avoid.  Sad that so many don’t.

Here’s another that should frighten us into obedience but we typically miss it’s meaning.  Paul’s letter to the new church in Ephesus says “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”  Some Bible translations have it as “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” which is a bit of an unfortunate paraphrase of the Greek text, implying that you have to resolve everything before you go to bed.  What happens if you get in a fight with your wife while you’re getting into bed?  That never happens…

Immediately following this commandment comes “Don’t give the Devil a foothold.” Regardless of whether or not our anger is justified, we’re going to have to put it to bed at some point, or forfeit control of our life to something else (or someone else depending on what you believe).  But you don’t have to believe anything to know this to be true.

We’re all guilty of this at some point.  It feels good to feel anger, to be “right,” so we hang onto it. Many religious people live live this way, trying so hard to get God’s approval, to not be “that guy,” to be “holy” at the expense of everything else.  That kind of life truly sucks – live it long enough and things like anger will be attractive.  Consider the people who support the Orlando shooter, quoting scriptures and condemning the dead.  I’ll guarantee you those folk are living some pretty angry, un-Godly, shitty lives.  Pray for them.

I’ve attracted an Evangelical Christian to my blog – someone from my own camp –  who’s been trolling one of my posts.  She can’t utter a word without an insult.  You know you’re angry when even the things you write reak of it.  We all know someone who’s so beat up and pissed, who’s been holding on for a long time, for whom anger has become a part of everything they do.  That’s what happens when “the sun goes down” on it.

There’s a window, a period of time that we’re given to deal with our anger, and if we don’t resolve things within that window, ie, “while the sun still shines” as St. Paul puts it, darkness grows roots and becomes a living part of us.

This is one of the reasons I’ve remained Christian.  It’s clear in the scriptures that I have no business living in anger for any significant period of time.  I think God has grace when I decide to suckle that teet longer than I should, but it’s patently “un-Christian” to stay there, and utterly destructive to my life and the lives of the people I love.  What’s worse, the anger that I’ve entertained for too long is nigh unto impossible to get rid of.  There’s still grace, like there would be if I jumped off a cliff, or had seconds at Casa Bonita, but that doesn’t trump the consequences.

Another reason we hang on to our anger is because our culture values “venting,” talking about the injustices others have perpetrated against us – over and over again, while our well-meaning friends say “man, that’s really hard,” or, “I can’t believe they did that to you,” instead of something akin to “That really sucks, tell me how you feel, what’s your plan for letting it go?”  “You need to let it go” is anathema in our culture.  We don’t value resolution or reconciliation nearly as much we should.  Anger’s a lot easier to get rid of than we’ll typically acknowledge, unless, again, it’s hung around for too long.

Personally, when I hang on to anger, it’s because I’ve become convinced that whatever injustice I’m experiencing is something I’d never do.  Christianity blows that to bits as well – there is no sin that can be committed against me that I haven’t committed myself – not in God’s eyes at least.  See Jesus’ sermon on the mount, specifically His thoughts on the really bad sins and who’s guilty of them.  By indicting us all, he’s not trying to be mean, or make us feel guilty, he’s inviting us to let go of our self righteousness so that we might grasp the life He wants for us.  The belief that I’m just as guilty as anyone else has brought more freedom to my life than I can say.

Ultimately, The Bible doesn’t give us any kind of a timeline, or instruction on how long we can stay angry before it causes problems.  I say best to dump it as quickly as possible.  Or be mad for 24 hours then do something about it.  Or, give yourself until sundown?

If you can’t get rid of it, get some help.  Find someone who is at peace, who’s somehow managed to deal with their anger (in a healthy way – some people merely act like it’s not there).  Tell them you want to kick it, vent if you want, then do as they say.  While that’s going on, pray like hell for God’s help.  That’s a prayer I’d guarantee He’ll answer.



42 thoughts on “What Anger Does at Sundown

    • Generally, though, we like to think our anger is “righteous”, but it is usually just our flesh and our pride. Righteous anger is over a sinful situation that we know does not glorify God, hating the sin, but loving the sinner, and trying to help them restore their relationship with God. Helping them move from God’s condemnation to God’s forgiveness (John 3:16-21)

  • ” darkness grows roots and becomes a living part of us ”
    ” talking about the injustices others have perpetrated against us – over and over ” Those are our pet-peeves, our cherished injustices, our ‘stories,’ our labels. When I moved here, I decided to leave behind my junk. I am extremely grateful that God helped me do just that. No longer a ‘bitter blogger,’ I am tempted to delete my blogs: “A Bipolar Life” and “Turning 60″ because they are full of that stuff. I may just do that, today. It does no good and gives others the impression that it helps and you and I know that it does not.

    ” dump it as quickly as possible ” I say dump it yesterday or sooner if possible.

    ” If you can’t get rid of it, get some help ” I’m here, if anyone would like some help.

    ” pray like hell for God’s help. That’s a prayer I’d guarantee He’ll answer. ” I’m proof of that, and time is of the essence….

  • May I offer a suggestion to your readers to go to my posts: “How to Win the War,” “Dare to Change,” and “Don’t Hate. Just Don’t.” Each one addresses the issue of the damage anger does by blocking our connection with, and awareness of, God. Also the post on Practicing the Presence of God is very powerful advice that people have relied on for many years.





    Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory

  • I am so sorry for you that you are being stalked. And by a supposed Christian, no less. My husband and I loved this blog, and your answer. I am fighting off a stalker myself at the moment. She is so crazy she is angry at me because how I write gets attention from others, and the page owner, who she writes she wants to marry. She is in England, he in India. My husband and I would just laugh if it weren’t so vicious. there seems to always be another threat. I will take our vanity. I will expose you. Just today I decided to leave the page, and have rewritten three times. I know there is a reason for all this. And i even feel sorry for someone so afraid ot the world she has to make everyone accept that she is in charge to feel secure. tonight. before sundown here, I will try to forgive her, and close the door. your blog helped.

    • I hear you. I’ve only had one other person in my life (I”m an Evangelical, and spend alot of time around conservative religious folk) accuse me of being “Godless” as this troller does. I feel like she’s dealing with some heavy emotional crap that’s not easily reconciled, but salved by religious things that Jesus would never have approved of…

      • I am now offf the page, and feeling much better, just to finish the story. One of the biggest problems over here is that there are almost no evangelicals. (state run church with civil servants, Catholic or Lutheran) the few that there are are pentecostal, Or adventist or menonite, which is I find closest to how I was raised (my family were brotherhood) but are almost a two hour ride from here. the others are more involved in literature (John Updike, Mark Twain) or church sports leagues and yoga and macrame courses. Nothing wrotng with it, but not really a reason to go to church. And I got myself in trouble by being the organist and choir director and trying to bring in songs that said somethng. I walked a line as well as I could, but with only 30 on a sunday morning, the pastors tend to guard exactly what is done. glad you and your wife are doing welll where you are. ps the concept Godlless is the one thing this troller has found to injure you. that means it is important to you, and that is all that counts.

  • This is a very timely post, with a little less than half of UK voters feeling various shades of bewilderment, sadness and anger (as well as downright rage) at the results of Thursday’s EU referendum. I see people so angry that they’re cutting ties with family members who voted the other way. My own anger’s faded to sadness and cynicism, which isn’t exactly healthy either..! Thanks for writing this – you’ve given me lots to reflect on.

  • What if that emotional tense, anger,hatred and rage is used in self healing into an intense synaptic memory from neruomembrane. In short use it as an internal radiance to fuel self healing through focus and concentration. Not outwardly towards self and others

  • One of your best lines: “There’s a window, a period of time that we’re given to deal with our anger, and if we don’t resolve things within that window, ie, “while the sun still shines” as St. Paul puts it, darkness grows roots and becomes a living part of us.”. Yet another excellent example of how scripture speaks directly to us!

  • I guess it depends on the situation for me. Working through anger and forgiveness is a real thing, something needed in order to move through. And anger in itself is not wrong, it is what we do with it what has a moral consequence. Anger is also a part of moving through traumas and past shock and denials. I think God has much mercy and patience for those working through it honestly. So you are right, the timelines and the working through is between God and self to which none other can possibly name what it should be. On the other side of this, what your post illuminated for me is the fact that God wants us to be aware of our emotions (not to clobber us) but to live genuinely within them. I was taught early that one should not be angry, and it took me a long time to get past that. All of our feelings are to be validate and respected. But yes, we need to acknowledge them before the chance for bitterness crops up and kills the joy.

    • That’s a good clarification. The passage doesn’t say “don’t get angry,” but I do think it says “Don’t stay angry.” I’ll be honest though, and I’ve mentioned this in another comment. The Greek word for “anger” here might better be translated “rage.” Makes me want to re-write this post…..

  • I still have a difficult time dealing with my anger, but I always try to stick with a resolve that “I reap what I sow.” God knows I have more to account for than I can recall. So, I know I have to suck it up and not feel so self-righteous over being “wronged” by another.

    I enjoyed reading this.

  • Thank you for these magnificent words. I am a person who comes to God through a variety of avenues, Christianity being only one of them. And yet, in all that I have allowed myself to be open to and exposed to, I have found that these words and sentiments transcend all avenues to God.

  • I think if we actually did what the bible says, we’d all be better Christians. At times, I can be quite a complainer. I can vent about the injustices. I can bemoan my lot in life. Christ flipped these things on their heads. If you have enemies, pray for them. What happens when you start praying for an enemy? Your heart softens towards them. You start asking God to help them. Your anger goes away. Give thanks in all circumstances. Do we do this? I honestly don’t. What would happen if I did? Ok I can’t be thankful about my car breaking down, but I can be thankful for the thousand other things Christ is doing in my life. We focus on the bad when we have SO much to be thankful for. I remember a story about a holocaust victim who gave thanks for a rat because it was his only company while in the camp. We can be thankful.

    My point is–the gospel is simple. We complicate it a bunch. Acting on the truths of Gods word isn’t easy but I think if we did, we’d be a lot more joyful and have no room for finger pointing and angry rants.

  • Thanks Mark – I genuinely appreciate the openness and vulnerability in your posts.

    About dealing with persistent anger, for me it was rooted in insecurity. When recently the Lord dealt a decisive blow against the merciless tyrant of insecurity, I was delighted my anger, which previously gave me a feeling of power and strength, was mostly gone. Insecurity often left me feeling violated, which prompted the anger and now, being certain of my place in Christ and his love for me, the occasional slight against me is of no consequence. Even my wife has noticed, in the funniest way – apparently my driving has improved as has my language behind the wheel. 😉

    • Ha – yeah, I could tell you some stories about driving… Thanx as always for your thoughts. I think you’re right. I’d add that insecurity is a symptom of shame. Adults who live in shame are typically pretty angry people, or checked out….

      • So right … shame was greatly overused in my upbringing. Forgiving my parents, even while continuing to care for my elderly father, is sometimes a daily work. Setting boundaries with parents is hard! I find starving them helps. 😀

  • I held on to anger over an incident for a very long time, and became very bitter and disillusioned. I did pray to God to help me release my anger, but I never prayed for the person that I imagined had done me such injustice. Once I did that, and felt the forgiveness, the anger that was invading my life left and I felt at peace for the first time in over a year. God is wonderful and kind and forgiving, just as we should be.

    • Amen, I’m amazed at how much praying for my perpetrators, or showing some level of concern for them helps me to feel more at peace. Talking to them helps a ton as well, although it rarely goes the way I want it to 🙂

  • I’m learning (failing and errors included) to try to balance when anger needs to be resolved within myself and when that anger needs to be resolved and reconciled with others. I’m finding a fine line between anger over an injustice and the point where one must actually set a boundary and say that it’s not okay to be treated over and over in such a way. There’s definitely a difference and it feels different. But without holding that at the forefront, it’s easy to stay angry. I do agree that letting the sun set on the anger only makes it worse. Better to resolve it in some way, even internally, than to let it fester. Thanks for the thoughtful insight on this!

  • Thank you for writing this. Such encouragement for so many. Anger isn’t unhealthy, but is usually a cover emotion for something we’re feeling and unable to admit or unaware of. If I’m holding on to anger I usually stop myself and ask myself
    what am I really feeling? Usually there’s a deeper emotion I can identify…sadness, loneliness, abandonment, etc.
    I’m reblogging this!!

  • I read someplace once that we tend to think “venting” will make us feel better, but that is not the case. It said that it just makes us more angry and upset. I can see that. We keep perpetuating the anger by telling more and more people, getting them to validate our rage…as it grows and grows. Guilty!

    “That really sucks, tell me how you feel, what’s your plan for letting it go?” is a great suggestion for the mindset needed to respond to people’s complaining (or even to ourselves when we are fixated on our anger)…especially when the person complains A LOT.

  • Most hated of slogans… I should be angry about is, ‘keep calm and carry on’. Yesterday, a man called Brian Gerrish commented, this poster wasn’t used during the WW2 because those in charge thought it would be an insult to say this in such times of distress, when obviously people would – even under such circumstances – live up to this call.

    Sound read, as normal, brother Mark – but suggest, ‘birds in the air’ and stuff pouring through our screens, significantly compounds better life together in this modern world? Not to excuse or take from your wise-lines but are we purposely pushed to mess up? But that’s me, angry over ‘Orlando’ for quite different reasons to the ones you rightly decry. Could we, as much be off-sinning in selfish-anger, as not angry-rightly? Or ‘rage’ if you like? Turning in-on ‘ourselves and each other’ when we were made to express strong reaction – just how? To whom? Why? How about domesticating and dumbing down, robbing us of more Christ-imaging in us, and the making of whips.

    • That’s a good distinction. Slavery, trafficking, racism, etc. make me angry in ways that aren’t going anywhere soon. I’m pretty sure that kind of anger isn’t what’s expressed in this passage though. This is the “f-you for screwing me over, I’ll never forgive you” kind of anger. From what I gather…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.