Expressing Anger (Numbers 20:2–11)
A young, thirsty lion and an equally thirsty cougar arrived at their usual watering hole at the same time. Immediately, they began arguing about who should drink first.
Their argument quickly escalated into rage, and the animals started clawing at one another. However, the fight was interrupted when the lion and cougar caught sight of vultures circling overhead, waiting for the loser to fall. The thought of being eaten was enough for the lion and cougar to end their fight.
Anger destroys people and relationships. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, committed the world’s first murder when in anger he killed his brother Abel. Today, jails, hospitals, abuse shelters and divorce courts are filled with the evidence of anger’s destructive power. However, anger itself isn’t bad. Ephesians 4:26 doesn’t condemn anger; rather, it says, “In your anger do not sin.”
Moses knew the consequences of letting anger lead to sin. At age 40, Moses became so angry when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew that he killed the Egyptian (see Acts 7:23–24). Then Moses had to flee for his life, remaining in exile for 40 years (see Acts 7:30). Then, 40 years after Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, Moses’ anger got him into trouble again. The wandering Israelites complained bitterly about their thirst to Moses, blaming him for their discomfort and hardships. So God instructed Moses, “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (Numbers 20:8). Instead, Moses angrily struck the rock with his staff. That disobedience against God cost Moses entrance into the promised land (see verse 12).
Anger in marriage isn’t wrong. In “Anger and a Good Marriage” (Together in His Grace, Heartlight Magazine, September 19, 2005), Byron Ware says that anger is inevitable, and the healthy expression of it is a testimony to the strength of a marriage. “Relationships that don’t acknowledge or express anger are usually fragile, unstable, and anemic,” he writes. “For anger not to be expressed suggests that the couple isn’t secure enough or the marriage isn’t strong enough to handle disagreement.”
Not expressing anger leads to the stockpiling of bitterness and resentment; it leads to cold shoulders and cold wars. On the other end of the spectrum is out-of-control anger that is expressed through name-calling, profanity, belittling, intimidation, character assassination and even physical violence. Both extremes are costly to a marriage, undermining intimacy and trust. At its most extreme, unrestrained anger can cost one or both partners their very lives.
In a marriage, respect is key to expressing anger. When anger flares, respect will lead to a discussion of the anger rather than one spouse swallowing their anger in silence. Respect will also guide the expression of anger so that actions are kept within boundaries when tempers blaze. Respect leads to spouses treating each other as helpers and advocates, not as adversaries. And when that happens, the vultures retreat and no one gets eaten.
Taken from NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible