I often hear the first phrase of this verse quoted, “Be angry and do not sin;” usually followed with the question, “How do I do that?” First, I would like to point out that this verse is not saying that anger is a sin. It is saying that we can feel anger and not sin. However, our typical responses in anger rarely exclude sin. Very few of us would argue with James 1:20 where it says, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Most of us have experienced the detriment to our valued relationships from reacting in anger. Some of us react in anger so often that those around us are in a constant state of walking on eggshells. Anger is a pretty common response and can be a symptom of increased anxiety and/or depression in your life. So how do we be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry”? (James 1:19).
The writer of Ephesians 4:26 is actually quoting a verse in Psalms 4-
I believe the answer is found in this context. The Lord is being clear in verse 3 that He is at the ready to listen to us any time we call. Yes, even when we are angry. Even when we are irrationally angry. We can be sure that He is willing to listen to our every thought and concern, no matter how disjointed it may be, by the promise written in Isaiah 30:18-
He is literally waiting to show you his mercy and grace. I believe Psalm 4 instructs us, rather than to react in anger,
1) To excuse ourselves from the situation- without speaking if necessary
2) Get alone (perhaps in your bedroom as is suggested in the verse)
3) Talk to him about it. Tell God about your anger, about the situation, and about any wounds that have been inflicted on you.
4) Then listen, and allow Him to speak into the situation. What is His response? What does He have to say about your wounds, your emotions, the situation, and the other person/people involved? What does the Bible say about all of these?
As the rest of Ephesians 4:26 recommends, pray until you are no longer angry. Pray all night if you have to. If you are having a physical response- you want to hit something or scream, for example- couple your prayers with physical exercise. Call out to Him with every push-up. Spend your alone time with Him while running. Continue talking to Him about it until you can walk away with a gentle response that will build up and, hopefully, improve the situation.
Of course, if you get stuck in your anger, and need help processing, please call for an appointment.
For further reflection-
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Psalms 4:3-4 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.'
Proverbs 15:1 (MSG) A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.