Sometimes we lose it with people.
It takes a lot. We’re not quick to anger. We’re the ones called to patient endurance, long-suffering, and persistence. We’re the people tasked with teaching, counseling, shepherding, discipling, and leading. We usually like people, even the challenging ones.
We’re realistic. We anticipate slow growth. We expect setbacks. We’re prepared for barriers, excuses, and restarts. All day. Every day.
Still, we remain calm, focused, centered on offering the same love and grace we’ve received from the One who loves us, stays calm with us, shows us the way. We’re accountable to Him. We want to represent Him well.
So, we live in the Proverb that “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” We memorize James 1:20 that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Others are annoyed that we hang in with people as long as we do. We study farmers, fishermen, and soldiers to learn how to stay the course.
But sometimes, people push us across a threshold we didn’t even see was there – and we lose it.
Maybe that’s why I love Numbers 11. It’s a chapter about losing it with people.
When the chapter opens, God’s people complain, in the hearing of the Lord, about their misfortune.
The same people who cried out to Him to save them from slavery. The very people He delivered from Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s armies. Precisely the people for whom He parted the Red Sea and drowned soldiers, horses, and chariots. The exact people He’s provided free food for every day.
But now, well, now miracles are in the rear view mirror, and His people are tired of eating manna. They’re missing the free food they ate when they were slaves. What have you done for us lately, Lord? Rude, right? Completely understandable that the God who invented patience feels the burn – literally. The text says the people’s complaints kindled God’s anger, so His fire burned among them, consuming parts of the camp.
Moses steps in. He intercedes. These are Moses’ people, after all. Moses prays for the people, and the fires die down.
Moses rocks, right? He let his anger get the best of him once back in the day, but after spending forty years in the desert raising goats and watching bushes burn, he keeps his cool. He’s held a serpent staff, turned the Nile to blood, and watched his own leprous hand heal before his eyes.
In Numbers 12 **Spoiler Alert,** God tells us “the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” The meek will inherit the earth, but first, they have to survive the people they share it with.
After Moses intercedes, he hears the people complain again. Seriously. Again. And He feels the heat rise off God. He knows what’s coming, so he loses it. He turns to God and utters some of the most honest words in the Bible,
“Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.’” Numbers 11:11-15
Remember this prayer for when you need it. I’ll summarize: “Did I design these people, Lord? No. These people are yours, and they would test the patience of a saint. Send me help, or take me now. Peace. Out. Amen.”
It’s true that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Moses did the right thing in that moment he was losing it – he took it to God. Earlier in life, he’d allowed his anger to lead him to murder. That’s the wrong way to lose it. Now he knows to lose it on his knees before the Lord.
Anger can lead to sin or we can recognize it as a sign. A sign that we need support. A sign we’re carrying too much on ourselves. A sign that even the meek have limits.
We spend too much time searching the sky for signs. Sometimes God embeds the signs in our design. Pay attention when you are normally someone who loves people, but suddenly, you can’t stand the sight of them.
Don’t waste time beating yourself up. People are tough. They’ve driven God to send floods and fire. They required a long walk to the cross to save. We won’t survive them without help – the help of the Lord, the help of others filled with the Holy Spirit, the help of a quiet room with a comfy chair and a hot beverage. That’s how others survive us, baby.
When they push you too far, remember Moses’ prayer. If the meekest man in all the earth can lose it, we don’t stand a chance without Holy Spirit intervention. Get transparent with God, and send up the white flag. Do not try to handle people alone. (Read all of Numbers 11 – 12, too)
Have you been praying for a sign? It might be that feeling raising your blood pressure right now. Get with God. He’s felt the burn, and He knows the way through the fire.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) March 8, 2017