Can I Be Angry With God?
WAKE UP! WHY ARE YOU ASLEEP? GET UP!
WHY ARE YOU REJECTING US? WHY ARE YOU HIDING?
YOU FORGET US WHEN WE NEED YOU MOST?
WE’VE DONE ALL WE CAN DO – GET UP AND HELP US!
IF YOU REALLY LOVE US, WE NEED TO SEE IT NOW!
These cries sound like the lyrics to an aggressive emo song or something written hastily in the journal of a scorned teenager – tears streaking the ink before it can even dry.
They are explosive, angry, pointed, accusing, and bursting with indignation. But these aren’t the words of a raging teenager or some psychotic ex-lover. They aren’t the words of a spoiled child yelling at his parents to satisfy his entitled heart.
They’re Scripture, and they’re addressed to God.
I’ve been reading through the Psalms recently and have been both alarmed and comforted by the vast spectrum of raw emotion contained within each song. Yes, there are the “Sing to God – his love endures and everything is pretty like flowers” psalms. But just as many, if not more, are the songs I don’t expect.
Destroy my enemies God – murder them. Smash them.
What on earth are you doing God? Is this how you treat your people?
If this is being your chosen people God, thanks for nothing!
Psalm 44 (verses 23-26 paraphrased above) is one of those Psalms I don’t expect. It begins well enough with the acknowledgement of God and his work in history. The Psalmist then moves to his security in God and his confidence in God’s continual work. It’s a celebration of God’s sovereignty and a pointed arrow at God’s strength and ability. Yay God.
Then it gets dark. The psalmist continues to point the finger at God, but instead of celebration, he brings accusation. He blames God for desertion and derision. He justifies himself before God and calls against God’s injustice of abandoning such a blameless heart. Verse 22 injects the splicing dagger, “for your sake we are killed all the day long.”
As I read these words, I had to remind myself – this is Scripture. Whether God approved of the tone or not, whether the psalmist was in sin or not, the Holy Spirit has ordained these words and given them to us as a real life example of life with God. There’s something here He wants us to know.
This leads me to a question that I don’t know if I feel comfortable asking:
Can I be angry with God?
I’m not talking about just having a divine discontent in a sin-soaked world or just having a feeling of injustice when things don’t go my way. I’m asking a bigger question.
Can I stand before the Creator of the universe – the one who sent the Son to die on the cross on my behalf – the very Giver and Sustainer of my very breath – can I stand before this God and scream? Can I let him have it? Can I pour every ounce of pain, accusation and hurt to his face? Is this okay to do to God?
I admit as a Christian, there are times I don’t understand what God is doing. I bite my tongue and look at the world so bent against God’s plan, person and purpose, and ask in the depths of my heart….Really? How long, God? I know you have saved, are saving and will some day fully save, but God…
There are times that degree of questioning boils over and, like the psalmist, I want to pray destruction on God’s enemies. I want to pray fire and brimstone. But then I remember I once was an enemy of God, swallow my emotion, and return to my anemic prayerful list of those with medical conditions and repetitious uses of the words “just” and “be with us.”
When I consider this question and what God’s response is to my tempered emotion, I think of Lazarus’ sisters in John 11. They send word to Jesus. They have faith in him and know He will come through. And He doesn’t. He lets their sick brother die and he waits.
Upon the first word of His proximity, both sisters run to Jesus spitting accusation -ALL CAPS – if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died!
What we see from Jesus is not rebuke at the audacity of questioning God. Jesus knows what He did. He knows how this looks. He knows the pain He caused. But Jesus also knows something else – He is God, and He is good.
God is extremely secure with His ability to be God. He knows the weight and bears it gladly. He also knows we are not God. It can be scary for us walking through life on earth. He knows walking in darkness creates many stubbed toes and in a sin-soaked world, we are never away from the stench of decay on our own clothes.
Just like with Job, when he angrily spewed at God, the response is not condemnation for the anger, but a reminder of who God is.
In this way, I am comforted by (but still nervous about) the idea that I can be angry with God. I can read through the broad pendulum swings of the heart contained in the Psalms and believe that’s what God wants from me. I can ALL-CAPS every concern, every circumstance, every boiling area of my heart before Him knowing that He sees it there anyway.
But I also know while I can be angry with God, I need to do so under the blood of Jesus. If anyone should be angry, it should be the very God against whom we have committed cosmic treason. If anyone has the right to ask for smashed enemies, it’s the Father. But instead, He smashed the Son on our behalf.
So today, lay it all before Him. Throw all the ugly out on the floor and say, “Here’s what it looks like to me.” It’s okay. It’s in the Bible. But remember our perspective is limited, our motives often selfish, and our will should be submitted to Him.
Even in our anger, let us pray alongside Jesus Christ, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”