When Is Anger at Death Righteous?

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Is it acceptable to be angry at death? The sinless example of Jesus, which we considered two days ago, leaves us with no other option. Anger at death, in itself, is not sinful. However, perhaps the best way to pose this question to yourself is this: How can I, a sinner, be angry at my loss, and yet not sin? Or, what does it look like when I react to death’s provocation in a righteous manner? Let me attempt to answer these questions by reflecting on some biblical principles.

  • Anger may be righteous when it is properly restrained. “Be angry and do not sin” is a command. But you have to admit that even righteous anger can quickly turn unrighteous as soon as it takes control of you, rather than you controlling it. You must never allow anger to linger. Never “let the sun go down” on it. If you do, then you will give ground to the very one whom Jesus defeated, the devil. Instead of becoming resentful, give your hurts or injustices to God immediately.
  • Anger may be righteous when it produces a longing for the day when God reverses the curse. Death should make us long for the final consummation of all things more than ever before. If you have righteous anger toward death, let your heart resonate in agreement with all of creation, as it “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
  • Anger may be righteous when it produces a hatred for sin (your own, not just the sins of others). Death is a constant reminder of the reality that sin is still your enemy. Therefore, being angry at death is essentially being angry at sin, which caused death in the first place (Genesis 2:17; 3:19). In his honest confession of the battle against his own indwelling sin, it was “this body of death” from which the apostle longed to be set free (Romans 7:24).
  • Anger may be righteous when it produces a heart of compassion for the lost. Ask yourself, Am I like Jesus who, although he got angry at death and the devil, was also filled with compassion for the spiritually destitute and dying—like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34)? Does my grief produce a willingness to be separated from Christ if it could possibly mean the salvation of others (Romans 9:1-3)?
  • Anger may be righteous when it reminds you of the brevity of life. Life is short and unpredictable. It is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Knowing this should compel you to live in light of eternal values. If death serves that purpose then it profits you.

Indeed, the mixture of grief and anger in times of loss can be confusing. But, for now, perhaps these thoughts will help you discern the intentions of your heart.

Pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23)

Confess any sinful anger to the Lord. Ask for his forgiveness and sustaining grace.

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