Is it Right for You to Be Angry
"But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
~~Jonah Chapter 4
If you are not familiar with the story of Jonah, a brief summary is that he was called by God to preach to Nineveh, but instead of going there, he ran away and rode a ship to Tarshish, which later encountered a vicious storm which others attributed to have been caused by God. Jonah then told the others to throw him overboard, which then ended the storm. A giant fish swallowed him and later deposited him onto the land of Nineveh. Realizing he could not run away, he then preached to Nineveh and they repented to God, even mourning wearing sackcloth.
Continuing on from that summary, in this chapter, we will see that Jonah was unhappy. In fact, he was angry that Nineveh was spared from calamity. In his point of view, they did not deserve to be forgiven, even though they have repented. He even dramatically left the city and watched it from afar, probably hoping God would change His mind and punish them anyway.
Perhaps Jonah thought that Nineveh's wickedness before was too much to be pardoned just like that. Perhaps he was angry for their lack of punishment. And this could be the reasons why he did not want to preach to them, because he knew and understood that God is compassionate and forgiving.
But God saw it fit to forgive Nineveh their many sins. And He even asks Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry?" Following this, God tried to make Jonah understand by using a plant. We had a little chuckle discussing Jonah's story because he was being dramatic, even saying that he'd rather die than have Nineveh be spared, or that it was better for him to die than to live because he was so angry about the plant. And we could only imagine God's own amusement at Jonah's actions. But if we really think of it, this kind of reaction is not limited to Jonah only. Sometimes, maybe without us realizing, we are also acting like Jonah had done.
I think God's point is this: It's easy for us to get angry about things even when we have nothing to do with them.
For instance, we get angry when we are inconvenienced, when in fact, the convenience we previously received was not even something we worked for or gave any effort for. It only benefited us, but we did nothing for it. (Jonah and the plant) Or we get angry because somebody got away with their mistakes, and that they were pardoned. But did that person actually do anything wrong to us for us to even get angry? (Jonah and people of Nineveh)
There are many reasons we get angry, but how many of them are justified?
Out of all of us, God has the most reasons to get angry, and all of them are justified, but if He chooses to forgive, why should we remain or even be angry in the first place? Maybe we should first stop to think about the many mistakes we ourselves were forgiven for, that may have taken place without us even knowing.
And if God takes away some conveniences in our life that He Himself gave out of grace, what right do we have to complain? If what we received were things just given out of good will and were not even rewards that we were found deserving of, then why should we complain?
For me, this was God's way of teaching me that not everything I get angry about is justified. And being a person with a bad temper, I have to learn that, and I am grateful for this lesson.
Now, whenever I get angry, I should remember to ask myself, "Is it right for me to be angry?"
How about you? Maybe you should also remember to ask yourselves, "Is it right for me to be angry?"