Resolving Past Anger

Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationship with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit. “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalm 73:21–22)

So, how can past anger be resolved?

Realize Your Burning Anger:

  • Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger.
  • Ask God to reveal any buried anger in your heart.
  • Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger.
  • Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor.
  • I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” (Psalm 38:18)

Revisit Your Root Feelings:

  • Did you feel hurt (rejected, betrayed, unloved, ignored)?
  • Did you experience injustice (cheated, wronged, maligned, attacked)?
  • Did you feel fearful (threatened, insecure, out-of-control, powerless)?
  • Did you feel frustrated (inadequate, inferior, hindered, controlled)?
  • Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

Receive God’s Love:

  • Meditate on and memorize Scripture revealing God’s love for you:
    • Jeremiah 31:3
    • Psalm 32:10
    • Lamentations 3:22–23
    • Psalm 89:1
    • Psalm 13:5–6
    • Psalm 103:17
  • Read five psalms daily for one month.
  • Rest in the acceptance of God, not in the acceptance of others.
  • Rely on the Lord to meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security.
  • How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Release Your Rights:

  • Confess that harboring anger in your heart is sin.
  • Give your desire for revenge to God.
  • Refuse to hold on to your past hurts by releasing them to God.
  • Pray for God to work in the life of the one who has wronged you and to change your heart toward that person.
  • Release the one who hurt you into the hands of God—forgive as God forgave you!
  • Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Rejoice in God’s Purpose:

  • Thank God for the ways He will use this trial in your life.
  • Know that God can use your resolved past anger for your good and for the good of those around you.
  • Praise God for His commitment to use all the circumstances in your life to develop Christ’s character within you, making you strong, firm, and steadfast.
  • The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Restore the Relationship: … When Appropriate.

  • Even if reconciliation is not appropriate (after adultery or with an unrepentant abuser) or not possible (after a death), you must always confess your own sin.
  • Realize that when someone sins against you and you hold on to anger and refuse to be reconciled to the person, you are sinning against both God and that individual.
  • Confess the anger in your heart to God and ask the person to forgive you for refusing to be reconciled.
  • Write out the confession first to get the wording correct: “I realize I’ve been wrong in holding on to my anger against you and refusing to allow God to restore our relationship. I’m deeply sorry. Will you forgive me?”
  • Be sure the encounter is free of anger and accusatory statements.
  • You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.… Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21–24)

Reflect Christ’s Love:

  • Actively seek to reflect the love of God toward the person who hurt you.
  • Pray in your heart …
    • “Lord, help me to submit to Your control.”
    • “Lord, I want Your mind to direct my mind.”
    • “Lord, reflect Your attitudes in my actions.”
    • “Lord, guide my words to express Your love.”
  • A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35)

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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.

Solution to Anger

Whether you are filled with hurt, a sense of injustice, fear, or frustration, what should you do when you get angry? The Bible says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)

Key Verse to Memorize:Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19–20)

Key Passage to Read and Reread: “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.… Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, 29–32)


  • Anger is appropriate at certain times. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger must be resolved, or it becomes sinful. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger can be curtailed. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger, if prolonged, gives ground to Satan. Ephesians 4:27
  • Anger can lead to corrupt, unwholesome, degrading talk. Ephesians 4:29
  • Anger can grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30
  • Anger can be totally cancelled. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger becomes sin when it results in bitterness. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be eradicated before it turns into rage. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be forfeited before it leads to fighting. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be stopped before it becomes slander. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be mastered before it becomes malicious. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger can be conquered through compassion. Ephesians 4:32
  • Anger can be defeated through forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32

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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.

The Root Cause of Anger

When we feel that our real or perceived “rights” have been violated, we can easily respond with anger.

But what are our legitimate rights? One person might answer, “Happiness” while another might say, “Freedom to live life my way.” But this was not the mind-set of Jesus. He yielded His rights to His heavenly Father. Based on the Bible, we have the right to live in the light of God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Other than that, we are to yield our rights to the Lord and let Him have His way in our hearts. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

WRONG BELIEF: “Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about the disappointments in my life and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me.”

RIGHT BELIEF: “Since the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointments to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do.”

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)

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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.

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.