The potential for anger to destroy our plans and dreams comes through very clearly in the above story. God gave Moses straightforward instructions about how to call water from a rock for the thirsty Israelites. Instead, in his frustration, Moses whacked the rock twice with his staff, making a self-righteous declaration in the process.
God provided the life-giving water anyway, but Moses’ harsh action cost him the opportunity to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Moses had reasons to be angry. The people were stubborn and ungrateful, and no doubt he grew tired, listening to their complaints day after day. Today, we might say he needed to vent.
Such emotions cannot get the better of us, however. It is an easy thing for anger to cause us to focus on our baser desires (“I’ll show them”) rather than God’s plan, and in such moments we make ourselves into idols.
If I’m preaching right now, I’m preaching to myself more than anyone else. I know how my own self-righteous anger can distract and confuse me, particularly if I’m tired or feeling betrayed in some way. (You might be surprised how often pastors feel tired and even betrayed.)
My solutions are almost kindergarten simple. First, recognize what’s rising up inside. Breathe; take a time-out. When the emotion subsides, pray for guidance about how to inject some grace into the situation.
No doubt, at least 50 people who know me and are reading this can cite examples of when I failed. And they would be right. Managing anger is part of the human experience, and I am quite human.
The trick is to not let anger destroy our plans and dreams. We should never let anger position us in such a way that we never fully recover.
If you find yourself going down that path, get help. Talk to a pastor or a counselor, someone rooted in Christian concepts of grace and forgiveness, before it’s too late.
Lord, when we are red-hot with anger, hose us down with that peace that passes all understanding. Amen.