“Be angry, and do not sin,” Paul wrote the church at Ephesus. “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
This passage is instructive to marriages on a variety of levels, because few things can damage feelings of intimacy like anger. Let’s look at the details of this verse:
“Be angry, and do not sin.” Anger, by itself, is inevitable. Paul acknowledges that it’s a normal human response. People get mad. Even Jesus got angry. Remember the story of Him cleansing the temple? You will never be so spiritual that you don’t get angry.
In general, there is nothing wrong about experiencing anger. Today’s anger is something we should expect. Great marriages deal with anger from time to time.
“Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Today’s anger might be normal, but yesterday’s anger is dangerous. This kind of anger is the most destructive force in marriage.
When Paul says “don’t let the sun go down” on anger, he is saying it needs to be resolved soon after it is experienced. Bottling up anger or letting it simmer into the next day only causes it to grow stronger.
Unresolved anger just builds in intensity until it erupts in the future. This can destroy passion, kill optimism, and harden your heart toward your spouse.
That’s how people go from being passionately in love in front of a preacher to being vicious and contemptuous in front of a judge. It happens one drop of unresolved anger at a time. Leave it unchecked, and the flood will drown your marriage in negativity.
“…nor give place to the devil.” As anger builds, it gives the devil an entrance. It leads to sin. Something a couple could talk about easily today becomes a huge fight a month from now. That’s the work of the Deceiver, who convinces people that wrong behavior—yelling, cursing, threats of divorce—can bring a right result.
This hurts more than just the marriage. Children are profoundly influenced by their parents. Children need to see Mom and Dad resolving conflict righteously. If they don’t, their parents’ habit of unresolved anger can become a generational sin.
The psychologist and researcher Judith Wallerstein wrote a book called The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. In it, she shows that children who have gone through their parents’ divorce become fearful of conflict. They don’t know how to deal with it. Their parents’ anger leaves a mark on them for the rest of their lives.
This can become a powerful curse that passes from one generation to the next. The devil uses it to destroy marriages across decades unless a couple learns to process anger when it occurs.
Resolve your conflicts now. When anger does arrive, deal with it immediately. Start by choosing the right setting. You need to be alone and it needs to be at a time when emotions are under control.
Begin the conversation with affirmation rather than negativity, because the first few minutes dictate its entire tone. Say, “I love you and I’m committed to our marriage, but we need to talk about something.”
Then, gently communicate your complaint about the specific issue. “You said this and it really bothered me. This is how it made me feel.” Don’t attack. Remain respectful and kind.
You may not be able to avoid anger in your marriage, but you can avoid the destruction it causes by following Paul’s advice. Anger will occur. Will you deal with it today?
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today