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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The Lesson Of The Bee


Not so long ago, I had a bee find its way into my bedroom. I don’t relish killing bugs, and less so bees, but this one was in my bedroom! What to do?

I ran through my options as I watched the angry little critter buzz to the top of the window screen, find no opening, and buzz back to the bottom. Again and again.

At last I figured out a way to avoid killing him. From the cupboard, I pulled down a goblet, then retrieved an envelop that fit nicely over top. I held the glass stem and approached the bee still bouncing against the screen in a futile attempt to zip outside.

In one quick move, I plopped the goblet over the wayward wanderer. As he flew into the bowl looking for escape, I slid the envelop between the screen and the lip of the glass. Got him!

Earlier he seemed mad. Now he buzzed with vicious frenzy.

Poor little guy, I thought. Wasting all that energy, so mad he’d sting me if I gave him the tiniest opening. Yet my only intention was to help him get exactly what he needed, the very thing he’d been looking for.

And then it hit me. So often I act just like that bee. I find myself in a mess of my own making and try furiously to free myself, often repeating the same futile steps over and over. Then, when things seem to get worse, not better, I rail against God, not realizing that He’s using the very circumstances I hate for my good.

How much simpler if I obeyed God and refrained from grumbling and disputing, if I trusted Him instead of blaming Him, if I turned to Him in dependence instead of away from Him in stubborn willfulness. After all, my buzzing about is no more profitable than was that little bee’s.

God, on the other hand, sees the big picture, knows what’s best, and has much more regard for me — love, actually — than I had for the miscreant I set loose from my bedroom.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” Philippians 2:14 says. Now there’s a novel idea. 😉

What does me in, though, is what Paul says next:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (emphasis mine).

By this one thing, refraining from grumbling or disputing, we will accomplish what Christ called us to do — serve as lights in the world, even the crooked and perverse world.

I’m thinking the first grumbling or disputing I need to eliminate is any directed at God. We’re so quick in our culture to say that it’s OK for us to rail against God. He understands. He forgives. He’s big enough to handle it. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well say it.

Actually, no. What I should do when thoughts of disgruntlement come into my mind, is confess them and seek God’s forgiveness.

Who am I to accuse God of wrong doing, or of falling down on the job, or of not keeping His promises? I’m really no different than an irate bee buzzing madly to get what I want, ignoring the helping hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

From the archives: this post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in August 2011. Somehow it escaped being one of the under-three-stars posts. 😉

Published in: on May 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm  Comments Off on The Lesson Of The Bee  
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Tested By Fire


Fire is a refining agent. Cheap stuff burns up–paper, straw, twigs, logs. Gold, on the other hand, purifies.

The Apostle Peter alludes to this process in his first letter to the Christians of the first century. They faced a lot of persecution because of their faith, and he noted that fact:

In this [your salvation] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

According to Peter, faith is of greater value than gold because even gold will eventually perish. But faith, even when tested by the fires of persecution ends up bringing praise and glory and honor when we see Jesus.

It’s an amazing thing. This trust in God, this dependence on Him even in the worst of circumstances actually is cause for joy. Peter again:

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)

How ironic, then, when contemporary Western Christians approach trials as opportunities to express anger and disappointment toward God.

I do believe we should be truthful and of course that includes truthfulness when we’re talking with God. But there’s a difference accusing God because that’s how I honestly feel and confessing to God because that’s how I honestly feel.

The first might sound something like this: God, why did you let this unfair thing happen to me? I am so mad at You right now. I thought you were on my side, looking out for me. You really let me down.

The other might be something like this: God, this bad thing happened and it makes me so angry. I know that’s not an attitude demonstrating trust in You. I’m worried and fearful and want revenge. I know none of that brings you glory. Please, God, forgive me and help me find a way out of those debilitating reactions to a place of trust. Help me to find in You exactly what I need.

One reaction makes God out to be the culprit and the other recognizes Him as the rescuer. The first pushes Him away, the second draws near to Him for help.

The bottom line is, accusing God of wrong doing, no matter how honest the person is being about their emotion, is still saying about God what is not true. James says, “For God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not do evil. How then is it honest to express anger toward God by accusing Him of something He is not?

I’ve heard Christians, time and time again, toss off their tantrums as something God is big enough to handle. The issue is not whether God can handle our sin. We know He canceled our sin debt at the cross. The issue, instead, is whether we should justify our sin and even applaud it as being real.

It’s much the same as the church in Corinth boasting about their tolerance of sin in their church. We today act as if we are doing some great good to hurl angry charges at God because … well, because we feel angry and we need to be real with Him.

What happened to trusting God in the midst of trial?

Here’s what the prophet Habakkuk had to say about the matter:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

Where’s the exultation of the contemporary Western Christian? I fear it is reserved for our honest emotions we hurl at God rather than for He who is with us when the waters and the rivers overflow, who walks with us through the fire and flame.

How sad that we rob ourselves of His comfort and presence and even protection because we’re so busy venting our honest emotion.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm  Comments (7)  
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The Lesson Of The Bee


Not so long ago, I had a bee find its way into my bedroom. I don’t relish killing bugs, and less so bees, but this one was in my bedroom! What to do?

I ran through my options as I watched the angry little critter buzz to the top of the window screen, find no opening, and buzz back to the bottom. Again and again.

At last I figured out a way to avoid killing him. From the cupboard, I pulled down a goblet, then retrieved an envelop that fit nicely over top. I held the glass stem and approached the bee still bouncing against the screen in a futile attempt to zip outside.

In one quick move, I plopped the goblet over the wayward wanderer. As he flew into the bowl looking for escape, I slid the envelop between the screen and the lip of the glass. Got him!

Earlier he seemed mad. Now he buzzed with vicious frenzy.

Poor little guy, I thought. Wasting all that energy, so mad he’d sting me if I gave him the tiniest opening. Yet my only intention was to help him get exactly what he needed, the very thing he’d been looking for.

And then it hit me. So often I act just like that bee. I find myself in a mess of my own making and try furiously to free myself, often repeating the same futile steps over and over. Then, when things seem to get worse, not better, I rail against God, not realizing that He’s using the very circumstances I hate for my good.

How much simpler if I obeyed God and refrained from grumbling and disputing, if I trusted Him instead of blaming Him, if I turned to Him in dependence instead of away from Him in stubborn willfulness. After all, my buzzing about is no more profitable than was that little bee’s.

God, on the other hand, sees the big picture, knows what’s best, and has much more regard for me — love, actually — than I had for the miscreant I set loose from my bedroom.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” Philippians 2:14 says. Now there’s a novel idea. 😉

What does me in, though, is what Paul says next:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (emphasis mine).

By this one thing, refraining from grumbling or disputing, we will accomplish what Christ called us to do — serve as lights in the world, even the crooked and perverse world.

I’m thinking the first grumbling or disputing I need to eliminate is any directed at God. We’re so quick in our culture to say that it’s OK for us to rail against God. He understands. He forgives. He’s big enough to handle it. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well say it.

Actually, no. What I should do when thoughts of disgruntlement come into my mind, is confess them and seek God’s forgiveness.

Who am I to accuse God of wrong doing, or of falling down on the job, or of not keeping His promises? I’m really no different than an irate bee buzzing madly to get what I want, ignoring the helping hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Comments (5)  
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To Be Angry or Not To Be Angry … or …


Too often I’ve come to an issue with an either/or attitude. In one of my comments yesterday, I said

I have a friend who has been a good example for me, but for the longest time, I didn’t get what she was saying. I mean, isn’t there something about being genuine and transparent and authentic?

I’m certainly not at the place where my first thought [when I’m going through a trial] is, Praise God. I wish I was there.

My understanding some years ago was, either I am authentic and don’t pretend that everything is peachy when it isn’t, or I put on a fake happy-face and say “Praise the Lord” no matter how bad things get.

It never crossed my mind there was another option.

But there is.

First, let me clarify. The Bible does indeed say, Be angry and yet do not sin. But here’s the context:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
– Ephesians 4:25-27 (NASB)

From the passage, it is apparent that this is addressing the way we are to treat each other—not God. It also indicates anger should be something we deal with. In Colossians we’re told to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech. (3:8)

Our culture, however, says that putting anger aside is somehow unhealthy. In fact, as in dealing with sexual urges, American society claims that self-control in regards to anger is outdated, unnecessary, undesirable.

It’s no surprise, then, that the church has adapted this false thinking and is now preaching—yes, preaching—that we should express our anger toward God.

So, what am I suggesting, if I don’t think we should deny anger or give in to it?

We should confess it. Just like any other sin, we need to own it, repent of it, turn to God for the way of escape from it.

It’s kind of like that doubting/believing man Jesus encountered: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. In this case it would be, Lord, You are good; help me to stop questioning Your goodness and trust You even though I hate what’s happening right now.

How opposite this “express the anger you have against God; He’s big enough” counsel is to what the book of James says:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance
– James 1:2-3

I suggest these verses don’t mean we pretend that the trials aren’t trials. We aren’t called upon to name black, white. Instead, we can say with Joseph, You meant it for evil but God means it for good.

One of the most awesome things about God is the way He redeems everything. My sin, as horrible as it is, God turns into a tool to humble me and excise my self-righteousness. The death of a loved one, as painful as it is, God uses to teach me compassion—even as He comforts me, He is preparing me to turn around and comfort someone else. And He uses all of it to make my faith grow stronger.

But how can any of that happen if I rail against Him? Shake my fist and call Him names? Declare Him to be what He is not?

This is all part of the “Grandfathering of God,” in my opinion. A grandfather loves you no matter what, so you don’t really need to be on your best behavior. He isn’t even going to discipline you for misbehaving. Probably he’ll stand back with his buddies, nudge the closest one, and comment how cute and funny the little tike is, kicking up dirt like that.

God is not a grandfather.

My sin required Jesus’s sacrifice as payment. My sin is ugly and deadly and not to be pandered to. That’s what telling people they can be angry at God since He’s big enough to handle it is doing.

Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Comments (6)  
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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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