We get angry. Or, if we don’t, we should.
That last sentence may surprise you. We usually think of anger as something that’s bad. But we’re made in God’s image, and God is sometimes angry. The problem is that God is always righteous in his anger, and we’re not.
In other words, we need to understand anger from God’s perspective, and how to manage our own anger (or lack of it).
I’m grateful, then, for David Powlison’s new book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness. It’s the kind of book I appreciate the most: practical, warm, and theologically rich.
The first section of the book describes our experience of anger. Powlison does a great job dissecting an incident at a supermarket, and helping us understand three different kinds of anger. He also helps us understand six common reactions to anger. I was surprised to learn that my default reaction, which I thought was good, actually isn’t. This section also includes the shortest chapter (one word) I’ve ever read, which was still surprisingly apt.
The second section is the “engine room” of the book. It analyzes anger: what it is, how it works, what factors come into play, why we get angry, and how to turn anger into a force for good. Powlison is a master at helping us form a practical and accurate theology of anger, and correcting our inaccurate notions. “At its core anger is very simple,” he writes. “It expresses ‘I’m against that.'” He helps us understand the DNA of anger, and what happens when we get angry.
These chapters contain the heart of the book, in which Powlison teaches us how to be angry in a good way. Again, Powlison’s material is theologically rich, and includes one of the best defenses of God’s good anger that I’ve read.
The third section tells us how we can change. It’s also intensely practical, with specific questions we can use to diagnose our anger. Powlison moves beyond the normal therapeutic solutions to anger to responses rooted in the gospel.
Finally, the book concludes with hard cases: deep hurts, everyday angers, anger at ourselves, and anger at God.
I absolutely love books that manage to be theologically rich and warmly practical at the same time. Good and Angry is one of those books. Not only that, but it deals with an important topic that affects us all. It’s a book that I’ll be referencing and giving to others for years to come.