Sometimes we run into situations where people get really angry with us. Even when we’re young we experience that. There are fights with siblings at home, in school there are bullies, or cruel friends, for example. When we get older maybe coworkers or family get angry at us and may not speak to us for months or even years. Maybe we did something wrong that's our fault, maybe we sinned against them. Or maybe it's not primarily our fault, but something happened and they are furious with us about it.
It can cause us to get angry back, or to feel sad or anxious if they're not forgiving us, or to look down on them because we feel they're being so ungodly for being angry with us. None of that is God’s will.
What do we do when someone is angry with us?
I believe the first thing is to HUMBLE OURSELVES. And part of humbling ourself is: we should be the first one to seek restoration.
In an argument the most spiritual one is the one to apologize and seek restoration. If I want to follow Jesus, I must be the one to seek restoration first.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said that if our brother is angry with us, we should go try to reconcile with him and make peace before we come to God. Apologize, make it right, try to reconcile - maybe we were in the fault. Even if we weren’t in the fault, we can still seek restoration… maybe we even have to apologize for something that wasn’t our fault! I believe that’s the heart of Jesus who died for many sins that weren’t His – seek reconciliation even if it means we must die to ourselves. It doesn't guarantee that the other person will accept our apology, but the question is, have we done all in our power to restore peace:
Romans 12:18 – “As much as depends on you live in peace with all men.”
Another thing I’ve seen is that part of humbling myself is to remember how much I've been forgiven by God, and how much mercy He's showering me with every moment.
For example, one of the things that helps me when I feel angry with something my child has done to disobey me, is to remember that my anger is more serious than my child's disobedience, because I’m older and I know better! God has told me of His love and mercy and forgiveness, and I know very well how I've been disobedient to God… so when I feel really angry with my children over their disobedience to me, it helps me to remember – it’s me first and foremost who needs grace and mercy from God more than they do.
If we've done all we could to reconcile with the other person and they're still angry with us, it's possible that it can make us anxious, upset, or tempt us to get angry back at them. I’ve sometimes felt very frustrated with others in situations like this when they are not quick to forgive me. I’ve learned that I have to find my rest and strength in God alone - His love and approval is the only thing that matters.
One great example of this is David:
1 Samuel 30:6 Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Our Father’s love is what we stand on, not the love or approval of anyone else. His approval and love is all we need to be strengthened.
If someone’s not talking to me, I can be encouraged by the fact that God still is! If someone’s holding my sin against me even after I've repented, I don't have to worry, because God isn't! God’s not holding my sin against me anymore, that’s infinitely more important than if anyone else is holding my sin against me.
I've noticed though that if others are angry and don’t forgive us immediately or respond to us seeking restoration, we don’t just give up on them right away. We have to be patient with them like God is with us. We have to allow them to cool down if we've apologized and they haven't forgiven us yet. It's like cooking on a barbeque - you put coals on it and you light them, and there are big flames burning for a while. You can't cook on it yet - you have to wait for the flames to die down to be able to cook and be productive with those coals. In the same way sometimes you have to let the fires of anger in another person die down before talks can be profitable. It may be that God is trying to teach me patience with others just like He’s patient with me.
The Bible says “Do not repay evil for evil, but repay evil with good” (1 Peter 3:9). If we want to be like Jesus, there’s no better way than to repay evil with good, rather than evil in return. Repay hostility with gentle words (Prov 15:1). Repay another’s grudge with patience and kindness. This was the story of Jesus’ life – coming to lay down His life for a world that despised Him. He’s the One we look to.
“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 NASB
We can be encouraged by looking to Jesus and seeing how gentle He is, how much hostility He endures with patience and mercy.
May God help us to master every ounce of anger in ourselves by the power of His Spirit, and to be full of love toward others (including our enemies), wise in our responses, patient and merciful when others are angry with us.