Expressing anger can take several forms. Rage is one that’s described as heated agitation with sudden explosion of words and/or action. Anger stuffed inside manifests as resentment and includes an attitude of retaliation. It is said that another form is depression, which is anger turned inward.
But there is one valuable expression of anger – indignation, and that is a form of anger that can be used for good. Indignation is a righteous anger that exhibits no wrong behavior and can be used as one of life’s most effective motivators.
Maybe you have never recognized indignation before. Think of a moment of righteous anger that has been so effective that it has changed our world. Think of Martin Luther and Martin Luther King and how they brought religious reformation and racial integration. Who was so motivated by abortion to start the pro-life movement? Or how did the TV and movie ratings come about in the entertainment industry? And now others are inspired to expose domestic violence and sex trafficking. Whatever the issue, all were energized by righteous anger.
Yes, indignation stirs to action. This kind of anger can be used as a tool to protest, to correct wrong, to develop a passion to serve. Don’t waste it when it knocks on your door.
How can it be wasted? By not seeing it as a nudge from the Holy Spirit. It grieves the Spirit if we choose to ignore the power He gives us. Because we are free, we can choose His ways or our way. Although we can still behave according to our sinful natures, we are not prisoners of their control. We are free to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit when we respond to anger or free to choose the enemy’s baited trap and respond with our old nature.
Moses exhibits some good examples of responses to anger. Some were appropriate with good responses. Some were results of wild emotion that got him into big trouble. Exodus 32 tells us that after spending 40 days and 40 nights with God, he came down the mountain to find God’s people partying and worshipping a golden cow. He showed righteous indignation as he shattered the God-given tablets. It was not an inappropriate response.
Years later, Moses was told to speak to the rock to bring water to the people. In a fit of rage, he struck the rock with his rod instead of speaking to it as he was commanded. He was rebuked by God and this explosive rage caused him to lose entry into the Promised Land!
On the other hand, one who used righteous anger as a motivator was Nehemiah. He channeled his anger into indignation and achieved amazing results. He was doing a great work rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem (Neh. 3-6). When he found out the rich Jews were fleecing their poor brothers for high interest on loans, he took action. Mosaic Law forbids this (Neh. 5:1-6).
Nehemiah’s reaction was righteous indignation. His anger was also God’s anger. It stirred him to action. He corrected that corruption and the work of building the walls continued.
Let’s get personal. What makes you angry? How can you control and use anger rather than it using you? We can learn a thing or two from Moses and Nehemiah:
- Admit feeling angry
- Think things through before reacting
- Yield to the Holy Spirit
- Don’t take Satan’s bait
- Pray for grace
- Choose to forgive
- Then act appropriately
- Accept circumstances that don’t change as from God
Let’s bring the subject home. What if your difficult circumstances never change? What if you are constantly angry due to your circumstances? How does a lifestyle of anger – confess – repent – forgive profit anyone? It doesn’t!
Channel that anger into some appropriate action. If you have been waiting for God to change your world, stop! God just might want to change YOU. He just might want to develop the fruit and fullness of the Holy Spirit in you through your circumstances. God might be preparing you for something big. In Rom. 8:18 Paul says: “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Okay, the choice is yours. Keep on stumbling your way through life or build life Jesus’ way. If you can’t change your circumstances, change yourself. Use your righteous anger for YOU. Rage and resentment will ruin your life, your self-worth and your relationships. But indignation can jump start your dead batteries and get you moving right past the difficult circumstances. Ask the Holy Spirit what you can do. Just take a step. Grow a little. Take a class. Run in a charity marathon. Do a pro-life walkathon. Collect food for a food bank. Why you might even write a blog!
Volunteer. Minister to others. Serve. Press toward the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). God will use the difficult situation to ignite your indignation and cause you to grow spiritually. You will rise above where you are to where God wants you to be.