God Is Our Stronghold Amid Anger

Erica Wiggenhorn
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In Exodus 11 we see Moses’ anger get the best of him. First it was back in Egypt when he rashly murdered the Egyptian overseer. Now after a long contest with Pharaoh (many scholars suggest it was a span of months), we see Moses’ anger erupt again.

The Root of Our Anger

Often, our anger and frustration actually stem from our fear of inadequacy and failure. When we experience a lack of control, a distrust of others, or angst over an outcome, anger and frustration emerge. Moses has gone head-to-head with Pharaoh at least fifteen times now and Pharaoh has stubbornly refused his requests, reneged on his promises, manipulated Moses to appease him, and wreaked complete havoc for the Egyptians. You might already be familiar with the story, and you’ll be directed to it in this chapter’s Bible reading plan. Briefly, God through Moses warned Pharaoh of plagues that would come upon the land if he refused to let the Israelites go, and Egypt experienced plagues of water being turned to blood, flies, darkness . . . you get the idea. After several requests to let the Israelites go and Pharaoh’s emphatic refusals, God began to inflict plagues upon the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally relented after the tenth and final plague. (See Exodus 5–12 for the full account.)

“When we can see God working, we surrender more easily.”

It seems strange that Moses has been able to keep his cool under such intense confrontation up to this point. What caused him to lose it finally? I think Scripture gives us a clue: this was going to be the last time Moses was going to stand before Pharaoh. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away
completely” (Ex. 11:1).

All the tension Moses had pent up over the course of several months burst in violent emotion. He took his final opportunity to show Pharaoh his true feelings.

Feelings of Inadequacy Can Lead to Sinful Anger

I think this passage speaks to another cause for anger in our fear of inadequacy. Look carefully at Exodus 11:3: “And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.”

That sounds encouraging. But do you notice who never, ever gives Moses props? Pharaoh. Instead he tricks Moses, manipulates him, lies to him, and reneges on his word.

When others doubt our capabilities or diminish our character, our fear of inadequacy triggers a switch within us. Pharaoh’s unwillingness to pack up his golf cart and go home at Moses’ command hinted to Moses that Pharaoh did not really think Moses could outwit or out-strengthen him.

Our sinful nature entices us to behave independently from God and exhibit emotions that He never intended for us to display. The emotions themselves aren’t necessarily wrong, it’s what we do with them that becomes sinful. This was a contest between Pharaoh and God. Moses was not expected to be emotionally involved in the battle. He was merely the messenger.

Moses did not need to be the one to win the battle against Pharaoh, God was. He is the only one who softens, molds, and remakes hearts. While the praise of the rest of the people could tempt Moses to demand Pharaoh see him in the same light, Moses needed to stay emotionally detached. Our fear of inadequacy and failure can bring us into battles God never intended us to fight.

Oftentimes these battles surface unexpectedly. We don’t see the confrontation coming and our desire to protect or defend pours out violently.

Anger and Trusting God

Anger becomes a distraction that demonstrates our distrust of God. What if we realized our anger is actually the fear that God will not make good on His promises and right every wrong in the end? I’m not suggesting that when a golf ball flies in front of a loved one’s face you ought to just shrug your shoulders and move on! But when people bait us into arguments, strike a chord within us that resonates our insecurities, or flip a switch causing a surge of anger to course through our veins, we need to pause and ask, “Is this really my battle to fight?” Maybe this is Operation Confrontation between our enemy and God—and we just happen to be standing on the battlefield.

I think Moses kept his cool for fifteen go-arounds because he trusted God. He knew God would prove His strength over Pharaoh. He understood God’s purpose in the battle unfolding the way that it did. He could see glimpses of the Israelites’ trust being built and the Egyptians’ eyes being opened to believe in the power of their God, Yahweh. And when we can see God working, we surrender more easily.

We lack “Godfidence” when we demand that others affirm our ability to effect ideal outcomes. We basically tell God that it doesn’t matter what He thinks about us. Until we find another human to agree with Him and make it clear to us on a daily basis, we just won’t believe Him.

Our lack of intimacy with God demands a human substitution. But in our fear of inadequacy we know all too well how incapable we are, so our insecurity generally drives us to self-fulfilling prophesies. And we seek affirmation from people who only bring out the worst in us, leaving us in endless cycles of striving and self-destruction. But we don’t see that. Instead we become distracted by our anger toward those who treated us wrongly.

What Makes You Angry?

What sparks your anger? Is it distrust in another person? Lack of control over a situation? Angst over an inability to control an outcome? Failure at another person to properly affirm you? Can you choose to handle it with “Godfidence”? God can see everything at all times. He can guard your heart. He can protect you from flying golf balls or any other threat, and provide for you. And He loves you more than any human ever could.

For Further Reading:

Letting God Be Enough

by Erica Wiggenhorn

Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...

book cover for Letting God Be Enough