The biblical counselor who understands the heart and the cause of anger realizes that the reactions of the counselee are not biblical, and thus not honoring and glorifying to God. The counselor must constantly be reminding the counselee that whether God changes the circumstances or not, it is the counselee’s goal in life to glorify God (2 Corinthians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 5:9-10). Guiding the counselee through this reversal and revision of their thinking, when it comes to their anger, will be a slow and difficult task. The counselor is fighting an extremely strong emotional reaction and the biblical commands and precepts may seem counterintuitive to the counselee. With this in mind, the counselor will be spending much time on her knees seeking the godly wisdom required.
The first difficult step in helping direct the counselee will be helping her pray for the one who is/is perceived as persecuting her. On this, God is very clear, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer” (Psalm 109:4). The counselor must guide the counselee in praying for mercy and transformation in the life of the one with whom they are angry. The counselee should pray for mercy and heart softening change in the life of the one creating unjust suffering in their lives.
Even more difficult for the counselee will be looking inward to determine their part, if any, in the situation in which they find themselves. The counselor must help the counselee check for the log (Matthew 7:1-5), per se, in the heart of the counselee who is feeling helpless, downtrodden, and angry.
The counselor must focus the counselee’s thinking on the cross, and the one who suffered hostility, abuse and shame, far beyond what they will ever endure. The counselor points the counselee to the cross using Scripture such as,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Have the counselee compare their injustice to Job, David, Paul, especially Jesus. How did these men respond? Especially Jesus (1 Peter 2:23).
And certainly, the counselee must learn to forgive. Jesus modeled this when he prayed, “…and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4. Luke 6). Since we have been shown mercy and grace, we show the same mercy and grace to the one causing injustice toward us. “If you know you have been forgiven, you will forgive and reconcile with others. If you don’t, you must believe that your sins were not that bad compared to the person you are judging. So, another of your deepest needs is to forgive and reconcile with others.”
One of the assumptions that we bring to any discussion like this is that the Bible is sufficient to counsel a situation such as this. The people of the Bible did encounter traumatic experiences similar to what the counselee has experienced. They did suffer from these experiences (1 Cor. 10:13), and the Bible does gives a record of their response to that suffering. But, can we truly understand these spiritual truths? The answer is a resounding yes! “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:12-16)
Where will our counselee find God’s wisdom and truth, even to deal with after effects of the experience ? The Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Who are some examples of people who went through a terrible trauma and came out the other side? Joseph, Job, Paul (2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 11:24-27; 12:9-10), and Jesus.
Although we all would like our sins forgiven, we often find it difficult to forgive others completely and genuinely, particularly when the offense has hurt us so deeply. So how can one possibly forgive the one who has sinned against another in this way? Remember first that the offender has sinned against God. How has God responded to their sin? If they are a Christian, God has forgiven them. We tend not to want to forgive in a case like this because we think we are giving the offender a ‘free-pass’. This is certainly not true. All sin must be paid for. No sin is overlooked. It is God, however, who assumes any loss, through Christ who paid the penalty. Through Christ, God extends mercy. And so, we are to forgive as God forgave us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32). It is not easy. It requires trust in the Word of God. While the sufferer might like to have the offender earn their mercy, we must be clear: we can and need to do nothing to earn God’s mercy.