Revisiting Anger With God

Toddler_tantrumI read another post today about how God is big enough to handle our anger, how He already knows we’re angry, so we should express it to Him and even to others. This view is not new. It’s been floating around Christian circles for nearly twenty-five years. But repeating it does not make it Biblical.

As far back as 1988 Philip Yancey wrote Disappointment with God, and ever since, it seems we’ve escalated our reaction to things we don’t like. Now it manifests itself as anger toward God.

Please understand, I’m aware that a believer can go through a crisis of doubt, especially when difficulties arise, but the new thinking seems to be that anger at God is normal, even somehow healthy, and certainly understandable.

A verse in Lamentations disagrees:

Why should any living mortal, or any man,
Offer complaint in view of his sin?
– Lamentations 3:39

In the margin of my Bible I wrote this note: “Satan counters with his great lie—man is good so that gives the feel of justice in complaining to God.” Or against God. After all, if man is good, then he doesn’t deserve the consequences of sin he must live with—sickness, pollution, crime, cruelty, hatred, death. We are, instead, innocent victims of God’s inexplicable abuse of His omnipotence. And of course we should be mad about it.

That’s very much the way the people of Judah responded when they were conquered by Babylon. Most were dragged into slavery. The few people left in Israel ran back to their false gods, concluding that all the trouble they had experienced came because they had stopped worshipping those gods in the first place. Never mind that Jeremiah had been prophesying for years that God would bring judgment upon them because they had ignored and disobeyed Yahweh.

After Adam sinned, God said from day one that life would be hard and Man would die. Now we come along and act shocked and hurt and shake our fists at God and say, “Life is hard and people I love are dying. What’s more, I’m sick/aging and can only conclude, death is creeping up on me! This is wrong, unfair. How could you?”

What are we thinking? Life was hard for Jesus, for goodness sake, and He died.

Instead of this anger thing, we should be rejoicing that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us.

But no. Our response is now, “God is big enough to handle my anger.” That statement, or some form of it, has become a justification for hurling our ire at God.

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 such 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 from Lamentations 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. God has goofed somehow—fallen asleep at the wheel, made a bad decision or a cruel one. Anger toward Him calls into question His very character. Who am I, a sinner saved by His grace, to suggest that God doesn’t measure up, that He is flawed?

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 what was happening to Job. In other words, God owed Job an explanation.

God answered Job by showing HIMSELF. 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 or to lie down in the middle of a store and wail his refusal to do what he’s told.

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.

Much of the content of this post in a reworking of two articles that originally appeared here in March 2008.

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9 Comments

  1. Great post! I enjoy reading your blog.

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    • Thanks for your feedback, Vocalruss. I appreciate your encouraging comment.

      Becky

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  2. Well said. That is the never ending atheist mantra too, expressing anger towards a God they claim to not believe in.

    Of course if you’re angry, take it to God. God is God! But there really is no justification for our anger because the error is always going to be on our end. Always. All anger does is wall us off from the comfort He often provides.

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    • True, IB, though atheists are quick to disavow their anger. Seems odd to me that the ones who seem most harsh, critical, and outspoken are the ones who claim they aren’t angry at God.

      And yes, our anger does need to be dealt with appropriately. We need to confess it and ask God for His strength to overcome it. We need to ask Him to trust Him with our circumstances and to help us praise Him even when we don’t understand why we’re going through the difficulties He’s allowing. We need to thank Him for His Holy Spirit who is the perfect Comforter.

      God is absolutely the best one to go to when we are angry and disappointed—not to shake our fists in His face but to cling to that we might get through the hard times we’re experiencing.

      Becky

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with you, Becky. Anger at God is never justified. Our view of ourself is way too big and of God, way to small, when we are angry at Him.

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  4. […] via Revisiting Anger With God | A Christian Worldview of Fiction. […]

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    • Thanks for the link, Wally! I appreciate you sharing this with your visitors.

      Becky

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  5. “God is big enough to handle my anger” or “God is big enough to handle your ugly” — I’ve said them at different times throughout the past several years. When I do, I mean He is not discomfitted by it. He does not strike us down and rail at us about it. He lets us express it in an honest exchange.

    I speak as one raised in and surrounded much of my life by a form of Christianity that –whether it intended to or not — fostered dishonesty. Certain emotions were not allowed. We were not upset, oh, no. We were concerned. We did not gossip. We made prayer requests. We did not become angry. No, we showed brittle smiles and were ever so insincerely polite.

    Therefore, when I say He is big enough to handle my anger, I’m implying trust in His greatness, in His authority, in His love. He doesn’t need me to be always correct in every matter. He doesn’t need me to quash my thoughts and emotions. He doesn’t need me to hide reality behind a mask of “perfect Christianity”. He knows everything already. He needs me to be real. To be honest. To come to Him with everything. Even my anger.

    If, from the outside, that looks like irreverence, so be it.

    One thing I battle all the time is the common human, prideful failing of not asking His help for this or that matter. It doesn’t always occur to me He might be interested in helping. This forgetfulness is perhaps far worse than showing Him my true thoughts and emotions.

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  6. Addendum: My characters in a particular novel express anger toward God or their circumstances in different ways, which is a direct result of whatever I was personally wrestling with in the two decades during which the novel was written. One can trace my spiritual journey by reading it, and see the places where this or that battle occurred. But that should, I hope, lend reality to the characters, even if they’re not expressing perfect theology.

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