Expectations and Anger

It is easy to live under the illusion that we can determine what people should do or how situations should be decided. “My destiny should be this; therefore, people should do that.” We pray and expect God to do everything we ask.

The primary problem with these expectations can center around one simple word, pride. Ask the Lord, “Do I act as though I am at the center of my world?”

Here is a tough word from the Lord: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.… ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (James 4:1–3, 6)


Anger over Circumstances: “I expected good things would always come my way … but life is clearly not what I’d expected.”

Anger toward Others: “I expected that you would always be here for me, to always support and love me … but now I’m left alone.”

Anger toward Yourself: “I expected to always excel … but now I am struggling and feel like a failure.”

  • The more we expect people to do what we want, the angrier we become when they fail us.
  • The more we try to control others, the more control we give them over us.
  • The more demands we put on others, the more power we give them to anger us.

Instead, we need to humble ourselves and submit to God’s sovereignty over our lives and over the lives of others. We need to leave our destiny in His hands—where it rightly resides.

The Bible says that we are to lay our expectations before the Lord and allow Him to determine what we should receive. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5)

“How can I handle my anger over the losses in my life?” When you experience significant loss in your life, you will go through a time of grieving.

Admit your feelings—your hurt or sense of injustice, your fear or frustration. Release to God all the pain you feel, along with the situations that are beyond your control.

Express your faith—trust God to give you the grace and insight to deal constructively with each loss. Release your expectation that life must go your way.

Pray to your Father—“Lord, thank You that You are sovereign over my life. Whatever it takes, I want to respond to You with a heart of gratitude and to accept these unchangeable circumstances in my life. I choose to stop making myself and those around me miserable for something none of us can change. Instead, I thank You for how You are going to use everything in my life for my good and for Christ’s glory. In His holy name I pray. Amen.”

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Sources of Anger

Anger is typically started and fueled by one of four sources: hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration. With these roots, anger is a secondary response to one or more of these four sources. Probing into buried feelings from your past can be painful, so it can seem easier to stay angry than to uncover the cause, turn loose of your “rights,” and grow in maturity. We must have perseverance because, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Hurt: Your heart is wounded. Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: 12 Sons of Jacob… Joseph was the undisputed favorite of the twelve sons of Jacob. Feeling hurt and rejected by their father, the 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 a richly ornamented 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)

Injustice: Your right is violated. Everyone has an inner moral code that produces a sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or others (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: King Saul… Saul’s unjust treatment of David evoked Jonathan’s anger. When Jonathan, son of Saul, heard his own father pronounce a death sentence on his dear friend David, he asked, “ ‘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; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David” (1 Samuel 20:32–34).

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. He was threatened by David’s popularity and feared he would lose his kingdom. (Read 1 Samuel 18:5–15, 28–29.) “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 left Saul.” (1 Samuel 18:8, 12)

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 of yourself or of 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. But Abel brought 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.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (Genesis 4:3–5, 8)

Ask yourself this important question: “What does God want me to do about my inappropriate anger?” God wants you to examine the true source of your anger. Is it hurt, injustice, fear, frustration, or a combination? Then evaluate whether you are using anger to try to get your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security met.

Hurt: Have you been hurt by rejection or someone’s unkind words? If so, evaluate. Are you using anger to intimidate or coerce someone into remaining in a relationship with you?

Injustice: Have you been the victim of a real or perceived injustice? If so, evaluate. Are you using angry, accusatory words to cause someone to feel guilty and obligated to you?

Fear: Has something occurred that causes you to have fear? If so, evaluate. Are you using anger to overpower and control someone in order to get your way?

Frustration: Do you feel a sense of frustration because of unmet expectations? If so, evaluate. Are you using angry threats and shaming words to manipulate someone into meeting your demands?

In searching your heart, decide that you will not use anger to try to get your needs met. Instead, repent and enter into a deeper dependence on the Lord to meet these God-given needs. “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Hidden Anger

Many people live life unaware that they have hidden anger, or suppressed anger that only occasionally surfaces. While hidden anger is usually rooted in past childhood hurts, the underlying effects are always ready to surface at any time. For example, when someone says or does something wrong, the one with suppressed anger often overreacts. When someone makes an innocent mistake, the magnitude of anger is out of proportion to the mistake.

If you have hidden anger, you can find yourself at one extreme or another; from feeling hopeless to feeling hostile, and can be totally unaware of why you are experiencing these feelings. The Bible makes it clear that some of our motives and emotions are hidden from our own view. “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” (Psalm 19:12)


  • Do you have irritability over trifles?
  • Do you smile on the outside, while you hurt on the inside?
  • Do you find your identity and worth in excessive work?
  • Do you deny ever being impatient?
  • Do you have to have the last word?
  • Do those close to you say that you blame others?
  • Do you feel emotionally flat?
  • Do you find yourself quickly fatigued?
  • Do you have a loss of interest in life?
  • Do you become easily frustrated?

If you find that you have hidden anger, resolve to follow the Lord’s directive to these Christians in Colossae, “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Unresolved Anger

The emotion of anger is not a problem in itself, but anger becomes a problem when left unresolved. Prolonged anger brings bitterness and unforgiveness. One way you can choose to harbor anger is by refusing to face your feelings in a healthy way. This unresolved anger not only creates a rift between you and God, but also damages your body, destroys your emotions, and demoralizes your relationships.

Whether you recognize it or not, extended anger can cause significant physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22)

Unresolved anger is known to produce in many people some of the following physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms:

Physical Symptoms: High blood pressure, Heart disease, Stomach disorders, Intestinal disorders, Headaches, Blurred vision, Insomnia, Compulsive eating

Emotional Symptoms: Anxiety, Bitterness, Compulsions, Depression, Fear, Insecurity, Phobias, Worry

Spiritual Symptoms:

  • Loss of Perspective
  • Allowing your emotions to distort your thinking
  • Loss of Vision
  • Losing a sense of purpose for your life
  • Loss of Sensitivity
  • Failing to hear the Spirit of God speaking to your heart
  • Loss of Energy
  • Lacking strength for your service to God and others
  • Loss of Freedom
  • Becoming a prisoner of your circumstances
  • Loss of Confidence
  • Feeling insecure about your response to difficulties
  • Loss of Faith
  • Failing to trust that God is working in your life
  • Loss of Identity
  • Becoming like the person toward whom you are bitter

Unresolved anger produces bitterness. And the Bible links bitterness with being in bondage to sin. “I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:23)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Action or Reaction in Anger

It’s time for some self-evaluation… ask yourself these questions:

  1. When you are angry, does reason rule the day or do tense emotions take over?
  2. Do you allow the mind of Christ within you to determine how best you should act, a choice that leads to appropriate action … or do you have a knee-jerk reaction that leads to inappropriate reaction?

If you have never evaluated what happens when you feel angry or if you lack insight as to how others perceive you when you are angry, seek God’s wisdom and understanding. “If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:3–6)

An appropriate action is expressing your thoughts and feelings with restraint, understanding, and concern for the other person’s welfare. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27)

An inappropriate reaction is expressing your thoughts and feelings in such a way that stirs up anger in others so that it produces strife. Proverbs, the book on wisdom, paints this graphic picture, “As churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 30:33)

To help assess whether you act or react, take time to answer the following questions:

Anger ActionsEven though a situation may evoke anger, those who allow the Lord to be their strength will respond appropriately. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.