If grief is the normal response to abuse, anger follows honesty or candor. “How could I keep going back?” “Why didn’t I ____?” “Who does he think he is?”
Because anger is a response to moral failure, it reveals what we perceive to be right and wrong. In the case of abuse, anger is not only justified, it is biblical and correct. God Himself is angry, ready to pour out His wrath on sin and injustice (see “Anger“). Those who side with God and see abuse will also experience righteous indignation at awareness of abuse.
When we walk through abuse with others, we must make room for their anger. It is not sinful to express anger, disappointment, a desire for justice and change. God has given us language to communicate righteous anger in the imprecatory Psalms. Victims of abuse, even those with bursts of fire and spunk, become worn with time and violence, loss of freedom, isolation and repeated assaults on their very being. They struggle to believe and understand what it looks like to speak out against evil and harm. “The verb ‘imprecate’ means ‘to pray evil against’ or ‘to invoke curse upon’ another, hence the name for these prayers.”*
If we are going to move individuals through abuse, we must invoke the power and anger of God against injustice and oppression with a voice that is consistent with goodness, love, and holiness. We need God’s Word.
The next time you struggle with anger–or you are helping someone express godly, biblical anger–carefully read and choose a psalm** that applies to their situation. Help them rewrite it using their own experience, feelings, and individual names. Pray it aloud. Expand and personalize it.
Then, use anger for its intended purpose: solve the problem. Name the problem that led to the anger. Work through the Circles of Responsibility and Concern (Sanctuary, p. 60) as it relates to the problem. Prayerfully consider and shoulder their God-given responsibility while trusting God with the things they cannot control. We are only called to do what God has prescribed; nothing more, nothing less.
Here are some practical ways to use anger to move forward. In addition to prayer
- Seek counseling for yourself and/or confide in a trustworthy friend
- Get a safety plan and put it into place.
- Prepare to how and when to engage appropriate authorities: law enforcement, DHS, child welfare, etc.
- Share your concerns and needs with church leadership (be strategic but honest)
- Shore up your heart with spiritual disciplines: regular Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, worship as much as you are able.
- Document conversations, texts, manipulation and prayerfully consider how to respond biblically.
- Review past abuse and document it: date, incident, result, etc. Include photos or text messages as you’re able.
God does not squelch anger, He helps us focus and use it to accomplish His good purpose: to glorify Himself and make us more like Jesus, fully trusting, good, free from man’s approval…at rest.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)
**Imprecatory Psalms include: Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140