I’m angry, and I’m sad. I suspect we all are. Before Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, we were already sad and angry. Sad because we lost normal life to Covid-19. Angry because we weren’t getting what we wanted. Tensions were high.
Now they’re higher.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on global pandemics or racial reconciliation. I greatly appreciate my fellow Christian writers who have urged white people simply to listen.
I will, however, point to what God’s Word says about anger and sadness, since that is where so many of us find ourselves.
First, anger and sadness are right emotions in a world gone wrong.
Jesus was angry. He was angry with money changers doing business in a house of prayer (Mark 11:15-17). He was angry with disciples who turned away children seeking a moment with Jesus (Mark 10:13-16). He was angry with Pharisees who cared more about religious tradition than about healing a hurt man (Mark 3:1-6). Anger, therefore, is right, when it is motivated by one of two things: (1) the dishonor of God or (2) the mistreatment of people. It is right for Christians to be angry when people of color are repeatedly oppressed by officers in uniform. It is right for Christians to be angry (yes, still!) about slavery and Jim Crow laws. It is right for Christians to be angry with opportunists who use protests as an excuse for looting and violence. It is right for Christians to be angry with those who defy authority for fun and draw attention away from peaceful protesters. It is right for Christians to be angry with authorities who abuse those peaceful protestors. It is right for Christians to be angry with powerful people who trivialize the Word of God.
Jesus was also sad. He wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:33-36). He mourned over the Jews who would not receive Him as the Messiah (Luke 19:41-44). He cried for mercy before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:36-39). He was even grieved by the very Pharisees who attracted His anger (Mark 3:1-6). God teaches us to lament, to mourn, to weep, and to wail (the Psalms express these emotions at length). He commands us to “be wretched and mourn and weep,” to “let [our] laughter be turned to mourning and [our] joy to gloom” (James 4:9). It is right that we mourn our own sin and the sin that surrounds us. It is right that we grieve loss and hardness of heart.
Second, anger and sadness have a purpose.
Anger is an emotion of judgment. Anger acknowledges that something is wrong and that it matters.1 Anger motivates us to right that wrong. Usually, our anger is tainted by our own sin. Maybe the “wrong” we perceive isn’t really wrong (someone is taking too long in the bathroom). Maybe it shouldn’t matter to us (someone we barely know disagrees with us on Facebook). But even when our anger is right, we often express it in wrong ways. In other words, we waste our anger. Right anger is an opportunity to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8, ESV). It is right to use our anger to bring about change.
Sadness is an emotion of longing. Sadness acknowledges that how things are is not how things should be. Sadness motivates us to repentance, hope, and comfort. Like anger, it can be tainted by sin. We can grieve the loss of something that is bad (an addiction). Often, though, we are sad about the right things. When right sadness loses hope, it becomes despair. Right sadness can also morph into bitterness or hardheartedness. In those cases, we waste our sadness. Our good sadness can be an opportunity to repent.2 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10a, ESV). Sadness is also an opportunity to hope. It reminds us to long for “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, ESV) . Mostly, sadness motivates us to draw near and experience firsthand the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
If you are angry and sad, you may be exactly where God wants you. Draw near to Him. Seek to do His will. Take courageous action to share His love. And remember only He can save us.
1I am indebted to the late Dr. David Powlison for this definition in his book, Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness.
2I am indebted to Dr. Charles Hodges for this insight from his book, Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.
Know someone who would be encouraged by this? Please share!
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