Injustice is maddening. By this, I mean we usually become intensely angry when we are confronted by it and the suffering experienced by the victims.
This past week I have had numerous conversations with people who were struggling to deal with their angry hearts in the face of injustice. One counselor was struggling to deal with her heart after hearing men blame the female victim of a serious assault for what had happened to her. My fellow counselor was angry at these men for their response because it was unjust. Yet she knew that she had to deal with her own heart; otherwise, she would become an angry person herself.
Treating the Mad Heart
My friend knows people who are involved in church work who can be harsh and judgmental toward others, while not seeing their own faults and sin. Or, if they do see them, they consider their sins to be of less importance than the bigger issues that others struggle with, such as adultery, addictions, and the lasting effects of childhood neglect.
How is it possible to get into this position? I believe it is because we do not deal with our hearts daily. During my first biblical counseling course, Dr. Howard Eyrich made us counsel ourselves. One of the reasons he gave for the assignment was that there is nothing worse than being given advice by someone who does not apply it to him- or herself. We always have things in our lives that we need to work on. My friend knew that she had to work on her angry heart toward these men so we thought together about how to do this.
The Nature of Anger
Jim Newheiser defines anger as a “whole-person response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.” My friend was responding to the evil of the assault and to the victim wrongly being given the blame by others. She was judging this to be wrong, which it is. Having understood this, my friend asked what would make anger righteous. What are the characteristics of anger that is right and appropriate? Newheiser teaches that righteous anger involves the following: (1) a sin that has occurred; (2) a concern for the glory of God, not one’s own glory; and (3) a righteous expression.
In my friend’s situation sin had occurred, she was concerned for the glory of God, and she was concerned for the well-being of her counselee. In some ways her anger was being expressed in a righteous way, for example, she tried to get support from the church for the counselee. However, she knew that her own heart was sinfully angry.
She confessed this sinful anger as being her own proud judgment of others. She was thinking that she was better than they, because she believed that she would not be so foolish to ever treat someone in that way. In order to overcome evil with good, she started to pray for those men, asking that the Lord would work in their hearts. After praying for them, she decided to appeal to them and explained why she understood their reaction to be unkind.
While knowing that the assault and the reaction of the men were wrong, she decided to trust that God is providentially at work in his world. This includes in her own life, in her counselee’s life, and in the lives of the men involved. Every time she thought about the men, she would remind herself that God is at work. Nobody gets away with evil ultimately.
Colossians 1:17, while teaching us about the preeminence of Christ, explains that all things hold together in him. He sustains all things. In Ephesians 1:11 we learn that the Lord works all things together according to the counsel of his will. This includes situations where it appears that people are getting away with evil and others are being victimized.
In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet was upset because he wondered how long he had to cry out to the Lord about violence, iniquity, and wrong before the Lord would intervene. We read about how the Lord did see what was happening and promised to intervene. The Lord called Habakkuk to live by faith in contrast to others who were arrogant around him (2:4). His faith is expressed at the end of the book where we read that even if the harvest should fail, he would rejoice and trust in the Lord.
My friend knows that God sustains her world, works out everything according to his will, and is called to live by faith as she trusts the Lord to do this for his glory and honor.
When we are confronted by extreme injustice and evil, it is natural for us to become angry. How we deal with this anger is very important. As caregivers, it is imperative that we deal with our hearts daily. We hear some of the worst things that people do to each other, and we are exposed to suffering to a degree that is foreign to most people. If we do not deal with the seeds of sin in our hearts daily, we can become indifferent to it and end up being angry, judgmental, and proud. This will affect our own lives and the lives of everyone around us. One of the most difficult situations to do this is when we are confronted with severe injustice and evil.
Join the Conversation
I have written about a friend’s way of dealing with her angry response to serious physical assault and to some men who compounded the suffering by blaming the victim. She is trusting the Lord in her own life to change her, while seeking to counsel others to honor him too. What are ways that you have dealt with your heart when you have been confronted with situations that grieved and/or angered you?
Jim Newheiser, “Anger/Abuse,” Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, mp3, February 10th, 2013. http://www.ibcd.org/resources/messages/cdc1-14-angerabuse/ (accessed January 16, 2014).