9But 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.”
Again, God attempts to reason with Jonah, and Jonah digs in deeper as he clings to his anger against God. Jonah is quite right to declare, “[I’m] angry enough to die.” Evidence is everywhere, both in research and actual occurrences, that anger can be destructive to the point of death. News headlines are filled with examples of anger: road rage, school violence, violence against authority figures, attacks of family members on other family members, public massacres—examples of anger directed at innocent people are endless.
While there are physical causes for depression—many requiring medication to control chemical imbalances—some depression may have its root in anger turned inward. Unforgiveness towards another person can become full-blown anger and, when not recognized, can eat at a person’s spirit. Repressed memory—in many cases a survival skill—may be connected to deep anger that can only be healed by God’s gentle touch.
One of the benefits of contemplative prayer, a quiet opening and yielding of ourselves to the presence of God, is the potential for healing those deep places inside of us that cause emotional and spiritual pain, even anger. Many of the mystics—John of the Cross and Thérèse of Liseiux, for example—teach that when we sit in this quiet posture with our hearts intentionally turned to God, he changes us slowly into his image. Rather than follow Jonah’s example (remember, he runs from God’s presence), we are to seek God’s presence if we want to be like him.