My wife read these words to me from Numbers 5 early this morning as we both took some time in God’s Word. This may just be the most unusual passage to write a devotional on yet – for me anyway. It goes against our western sensibilities.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure — or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure — then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt.” …
The passage goes on for some time to describe a ritual that is meant to bring the matter to conclusion for both parties, proving guilt or innocence. It is a protection for the accused and the accuser. If the woman is not guilty the jealous guy need to put the jealousy behind him and move on, the whole community will know of his false accusation and he will be more careful in the future. If guilty, a curse is pronounced on the unfaithful spouse and the man is vindicated.
My wife and I talked about the passage, and she pointed out the implications for our understanding of emotion. Look how seriously God takes jealousy, there is a good chance it is pointing to the truth. There is no brushing aside the feeling without a thorough analysis. At the same time, there is room to prove the emotion and the man wrong – emotion can show the truth but does not necessarily show it. There is also resolution, there is not to be a stewing, an incessant dripping, a holding on to doubt. The matter and the emotion is to be confronted and dealt with right away in the strongest terms.
Kind of an unorthodox and strange passage to find truth about emotion but there it is. A few simple truths shine through clearly, especially as we work to build strong marriages and relationships:
1) Confront what seem to be hard and even dangerous emotions head on, do not sit and stew.
2) Involve your spouse and even your community when dealing with them.
3) Both parties need to be ready to either find truth in the emotion, or if it does not line up with the facts, to forgive and move on.
These are the steps that build relationships. Pushing down hard emotions, holding onto negative feelings, or letting them out violently without taking steps toward a final resolution are all bad ideas. If we learn to handle hard emotions in a relationship well, that will go a long way toward building a great relationship.