Further Down That Same Sidetrack

“God is big enough to handle my anger.” That statement, or some form of it, has become one point of justification for Christians hurling our ire at God. Not so long ago, I read a blog post to this effect, but by no means was that the first time I’d heard the argument.

Like most arguments, it has truth mixed in with the error, which makes it hard to pin down the problem. For surely, God IS big enough. A Christian’s anger toward Him would never diminish Him. Consequently, the silent part of the argument goes like this: If God is big enough to handle my anger, then to say I shouldn’t be angry at God is to imply He isn’t big enough, and certainly, certainly I don’t want to suggest that.

But this reasoning is flawed. It leaves out the other person in the equation: me. The problem isn’t with God, it’s with me. I’m not big enough to be angry at God, and doing so diminishes … not me exactly, but my relationship with God.

Let me elaborate on these points. “The problem isn’t with God, it’s with me.” The verse I quoted from Lamentations yesterday spells it out pretty clearly. My sin is the real issue. Who am I, a sinner, to accuse the Perfect One of wrong doing? For certainly that’s what anger toward Him says. He’s goofed somehow—fallen asleep at the wheel, made a bad decision or a cruel one. It calls into question His very character. Who am I, a sinner saved by His grace, to do that?

In some ways, this was Job’s problem. He had lived a righteous life, but when he was suffering, at some point he decided he needed to confront God. Part of his complaint was that God was silent about the whole thing. God answered Job by showing HIMSEF. He said things like, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of earth!” (Job 38:4) Job saw God as He is, and he repented. “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You” and “I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 40:4 and 42:3). In other words, Job realized he wasn’t God’s equal, to put Him on trial, to accuse Him of wrong doing.

Thirdly, to be angry at God hurts my relationship with Him. All unconfessed sin does. But when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and we decide to spit accusations at God, we are the losers. God’s intention is to walk through those trials with us. Instead, we push Him away, kicking and screaming accusations. How can He comfort us under those circumstances? How can He show His compassion, mercy, grace to help in time of need?

We are foolish, foolish immature children to yield to the temptation to vent our anger on God, the Righteous One. Sure, He is big enough to handle it, but that doesn’t make our actions right, any more than a four year old is right to stomp his feet and call his mom names because it’s time to pick up his toys.

Mind you, I am not belittling suffering or how hard it is to lose a loved one or to endure any number of other heart-wrenching trials. I just know that being angry toward God because of the circumstances is adding to the weight, not alleviating any part of it.

Published in: on March 5, 2008 at 11:53 am  Comments (11)  
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11 Comments

  1. I don’t want to add to the error by misappropriating God’s attributes to others, but I can’t imagine ever saying “My wife/child/best friend is big enough to handle my anger.”

    Even though it is true. I’m completely blessed with people, even children, who, at least at a certain level can “handle” my anger. But that is no excuse for me to direct toward them in the way we so casually direct it toward God.

    It is pretty easy to turn this specious theology into an attitude that says “Pfft. God can handle it.”

    Sure He can, and so can, to a more human degree, my loved ones. But that is no different than me saying “I can abdicate my responsibility, my self-control, because I have people and a Lord I can just as easily use.”

    Anger toward God may be something that many, even most people experience at some point in their life, but it is by definition the fruit of an immature spirit, not something that should be embraced, and certainly not something upon which to attempt to build a relationship with God!

    There is a stark difference between being angry about one’s circumstances and blaming an innocent party for them. Even if that party is God.

    Jesus was “big” enough to bear our sin, and our sins’ punishment in his life and through his death. He was scourged on our behalf. Does that mean then that we are justified in attempting one more lash of the whip?

    Good point Rebecca. I’m glad you wrote this.

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  2. Yup, immaturity. Been there done that. To what end? To turn away from Him? To blame Him for the results of sin on earth resulting in death and all things ugly and tormenting? That He is “able” to handle our anger is a no-brainer–is there anything He can’t handle? But to assault the only One who can bring peace where there is none, calm where chaos reigns, hope when reason asserts there cannot be any . . . what other choice is there? To live on in rebellion?

    I remember being mad at God. It was foolishness. Not that we can hide the feelings, nor should we attempt to, but the Holy Spirit can reason us into truth if we’re willing.

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  3. Oh Becky!
    You really have done a beautiful job of completing this very profound thought! I also like what xdpaul and Nicole have added. I must also add a hearty a-men! Any time we start measuring our infinite God with our finite standards we stumble into error. This “anger” business is a perfect example of that!

    May we all pray and ask God to show us our error when anger surfaces. Instead of asking him Why? we should be asking Him how He would have us to respond so that He will receive the glory.

    Great post Becky! Thanks so much!

    Kim

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  4. I believe in expressing it to deal with it. We can disagree, I suppose, and that’s cool. But some of us fester if things are unaddressed. I believe in putting it there, accepting it’s there, and dealing with it.

    I was angry with God. He knew it. I knew it. He helped me through it, as He helped me through other issues on a variety of subjects.

    Had I denied the anger, had I suppressed it out of fear of, what, blasphemy, sin?–then I might have stayed angry longer.

    I suspect many people have left the household of faith out of anger that was never dealt with.

    Fourteen years later, I am still here, believing in Him and turning too Him on both easy and hard days.

    Perhaps it was immaturity. Or maybe I, as a very introspective person all my life, simply recognized and accepted what I felt, when others, out of fear, went into denial about how they felt when God left them on a sickbed or took their child or left them in a concentration camp to rot.

    I’m not big on denial or repression, personally. When I feel anger, I feel it and I deal with it. And if I feel I crossed the line into sin (be angry, yet sin not leaves room for anger without sin), I confess.

    My anger resolved by the Grace of God, even if the factors that led to the anger didn’t fully resolve. So, yes, he’s big enough for anything anyone wants to talk about, even anger. Come boldly to the throne. Well, that’s what I did. Really boldly.

    Mir

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  5. Again, brilliant stuff, Becky…and convicting. I read a book recently: Inside Out by Larry Crabb. And in one section he explores Job’s plight. Crabb calls it the problem with demandingness. How dare Job (and how dare us) demand things of God: explain this, do that, oh, and right now! Clearly we are in the wrong when life doesn’t go our way and we become angry with God, or even blame Him.

    However, anger is a legitimate feeling that often must be faced when people grieve. When a person is in the midst of a tragic loss, I don’t know that the anger is necessarily anger toward God. Most often it is hard to pin point. Feelings are all over the place. I guess all I’m saying is that, even in the midst of this consuming anger, we can go to God and let it all out.

    You used the analogy saying “We are foolish, foolish immature children to yield to the temptation to vent our anger on God, the Righteous One. Sure, He is big enough to handle it, but that doesn’t make our actions right, any more than a four year old is right to stomp his feet and call his mom names because it’s time to pick up his toys.”

    But take that same toddler who, for whatever reason, is angry and beating his fists on his father’s legs, struggling even as his father picks him up and embraces him. Embraces him until the storm passes and the child melts in his arms. I believe God scoops us up like that sometimes–even when we are angry and foolishly aiming our anger at Him.

    My .02

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  6. I think anger with God or directed at God, is always, always sin. You said it well, Becky. We, sinless people have no ground for judging God to be less than perfect and therefore deserving of our wrath. YIKES!

    Yes, God loves us and forgives us. Praise be to him.

    He forgave me for having abortions, too, and for abusing drugs, but I’d never tell a teen girl today, “God is big enough to handle it if you have an abortion.”

    If you’ve already had an abortion or been angry at God, praise God, he can forgive those terrible sins.

    But if you haven’t yet sinned in these ways, let me tell you that you need to fight, fight, fight the temptation to sin. It will hurt you. God will forgive you but how much better to live in a manner that is pleasing to him and to walk with him and feel his comfort in the storm, instead of turning your back on him.

    My problem with the “God is big enough to handle your anger” idea is that I hear it preached to people who are not sorry for their anger and looking for God’s forgiveness. I hear it preached to people who are still angry at God as a way of encouraging them to continue in the anger.

    A beloved deacon in my church died after suffering with ALS for four years. My kids told me that in youth group a teacher told the group that it was OK to be angry at God. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what the man meant by that, but I told my kids, it is not OK to be mad at God. It is never OK to sin. God can forgive it, but it is never OK.

    sally

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  7. and duh! I meant we sinFUL people have not right to judge God. Not sinLESS!

    Where is the head hitting smiley?

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  8. One thing that I want to stress: God is innocent. The innocent never should be an object of our anger. It is simply sin. I find it remarkable that Job never directed his anger or his lamentations toward the Adversary (i.e. The one who caused his suffering) but instead toward the Lord (i.e. The innocent one with the power to improve his condition.)

    I’m not recommending denial. I simply think that, by definition of God’s character, if you have anger toward Him, it is being pointed in the wrong direction.

    Have you ever seen someone blow up at a cashier, even though the cashier was only calmly expalining store policy? The customer was angry with the store (or, perhaps, themselves for, for example, not returning an item on time), but took it out on the agent.

    The cashier was innocent. Everyone else in line knows it, maybe even passes on sympathy after the angry person is gone. (I’m not talking about bad service. A cashier who gives bad service, in this example “deserves” your anger – i.e. they caused the problem).

    Can God do evil? Is he an agent of harm? How then, can one justify anger toward Him? Again, I’m not saying we don’t ever get angry at God, but that doesn’t mean that acknowledging it as sin is somehow “denial.”

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  9. God is innocent of wrong-doing, Paul.

    But what do you think of the way Job worshiped and said “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    It is clearly God who controls the universe and everything that happens in it. Lamentations says that we must accept from God, both evil and good (chapter 3). The evil that comes from God, is just punishment for our sin.

    Job’s problem with God was that he had not sinned in any way that deserved the punishment he got–not when you compared him to others on the earth. (He learned at the end that he wasn’t to compare himself with other men, he was to compare himself to God–he wasn’t there when God laid the foundations of the earth so he needed to sit down and shut up.) But in his day he was a righteous man. In fact, he was the most righteous man. God was bragging on what a faithful servant he was. He was a generous, devout man.

    So Job logically wonders why God judges him so harshly.

    He was right to ask. His friends thought he was accusing God and got on his case for it. I don’t think he was accusing God. I think he was trying to vindicate himself in front of his friends who were more sinful than he. He was saying, “I didn’t sin like you are accusing me of. I am not a worse sinner than you are. There is no hidden sin in my life. And I want God to appear before me.I want him to clear my name. And I want to ask him why he has done this terrible thing to me. I don’t know why he did it but I know he did do it, and I know it was not punishment for my sin.”

    And, yes, it was Satan who did the terrible thing, but God was responsible. The king who gives permission to the peon has to bear the responsibility.

    To use your analogy–Satan was the store clerk and God was the manager who made up the rules.

    This does not mean God is guilty of wrong-doing. It simply means that God is God and he owns us and he is perfectly within his right to destroy us if he chooses. We are pots. He is the potter. If he decides to smash several of the pots, who lives who can complain against him for doing that? What do we know about it? God gives life and he takes it away and that is good. He is the one who should decide these things. He laid the foundations of the earth. He created all things. We need to cover our mouths and let him be God.

    sally

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  10. Great discussion here, folks. I’ve put my thoughts in my Thursday post so didn’t jump in here and repeat myself. I did want to mention, Wayne, that Larry Crabb is one of the authors who has had a profound influence on my life. His book Finding God is my favorite, though for a time Inside Out was.

    Paul, I think you and I agree on this exactly. God does not do evil. He permits evil, however. His giving Satan permission to bring catastrophe into Job’s life is certainly an example. He also permitted Satan to sift Peter. He was not the originator of it, though. It was not in His mind to harm Job, though certainly He knew before the foundations of the world came into existence that Job would be harmed.

    It’s a real tension between God’s sovereignty and His creation of beings able to choose against Him. But I conclude, since God is good, He does not cause evil.

    In essence, evil is choosing against God, so it isn’t even a created thing. God created the ability for us to choose, but that certainly isn’t evil. Evil is using the ability to choose, meant for us to glorify God, instead to go against Him.

    Becky

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  11. […] with God. (If you’re interested, you can read that post and others on the topic here, here, and here.) The subject has come up […]

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