Is it OK to be angry at God?
I’ve been thinking about this recently and the most clear image I have is from the film, Forest Gump, where a crippled Lt. Dan with scraggly hair and beard clowing, perched atop the mast of the little shrimpboat in the midst of the horrendous storm, cursing at God, taunting Him, flicking him off:
Where the hell’s this God of yours?
The wind begins to blow strong.
It’s funny Lieutenant Dan said that,
’cause right then, God showed up.
EXT. BOAT – NIGHT
Water sprays on deck during a hurricane. Lt. Dan on the
rigging, shouts and shakes his fist as he is pelted by wind
You’ll never sink this boat!
Now me, I was scared. But Lieutenant
Dan, he was mad.
Come on! You call this a storm?
Forrest slides back and forth as he attempts to steer the
Blow, you son-of-a-bitch! Blow! It’s
time for a showdown! You and me. I’m
right here. Come and get me! You’ll
never sink this boat!
Is it OK to be angry with God?
The more I wrestle with this question, the more silly I think the question is. Because anger–real anger– isn’t something you control. You can repress anger. You can convert anger into positive feelings. But you can’t really stop yourself from being angry, can you? Its like saying, is it OK to wince after touching a burning stove.
We get angry at people who disappoint us. We get angry at injustice in the world. We get angry at ourselves when we fail. Is asking if this is OK even worth it? Or is it just a natural response we have no control over? Here’s a verse I found that has to do with anger in general:
3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.
4 In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.
– Psalm 4
It doesn’t say “don’t be angry”… but in your anger don’t sin. Paul picks up on this in Ephesians somewhere. It seems to pressupose sleepless nights, lost in thought. I’ve experienced that. And it says that regardless of what is going on to be silent, offer the right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. This is one of those principles that to me, don’t seem hard to understand, but very hard to put into practice. When angry, we should do these things, not because of obligation, not begrudgingly… we still will feel upset, but we do them anyways, because to trust in the Lord, to search our hearts, to offer the right “sacrifices” is the good and TRUE thing to do in ALL seasons. My emotions and my circumstances does not change that immutable truth.
However, what to do when our angry is directed at God? What if we are in a conflict with God? We’re not angry at Fred or that driver who cut us off, that friend who let us down, or Osama Bin Laden, but God almighty, who we call our Lord and Savior, creator of the heavens and the earth. What then?
So let me go back to my original point. To me, true anger, real anger– whether it is repressed or in the open– seems like a natural human response to unmet expectations, perceived injustice. So when we are talking about God, who we believe knows the depths of our hearts better than we do, it is any use to hid our anger when its just a natural response we feel? Is there any point to asking, “Is it right to be angry with God?” or should the proper question be: “What should we do when we are angry with God?”
One may respond and say that we should just simply never be angry in the first place, and anger at God comes from the result of sin, a broken perception of reality and perhaps even a projection of our own shortcomings on God. I think that’s true. And I think every human being wrestles with all three. I know I do. I I think I am feeling that right now. But for me, that’s a given… something that I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of. What then?
Here’s how they deal with it in the OT:
13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.
– Leviticus 24
Yikes. I guess maybe the difference is that being angry with God is one thing, cursing Him is another. But Jesus said that even if we say “raca” in our hearts, that’s tantamount to murder, in danger of the fires of Hell (Matthew 5). To be honest, when I’m angry with someone–anyone (including God)– I say “raca” in my heart to them, as well as a slew of other things I probably shouldn’t include here.
But maybe a consolation is that you can’t get angry with something or someone unless you really truly care about him/her/it and so anger with God is perhaps a good thing because it shows how much we care. That’s never how feel in the moment, though. I think the more I think about this topic, the more I realize that I’m not truly honest with where I’m at with God, let alone with myself.
I think I’ve always been such an optimist, my personality almost won’t let me be angry. Its not because I’m so virtuous and loving, I just prefer to be in a happy state. Its like a warm pool on a cold winter day. My friendliness, happiness, happy-go-luckiness is a warm pool that I can effortlessly stay into and it actually is work to honestly brave the biting cold of the evening. I feel like I’m not myself…. and yet, sometimes I am. Sometimes I actually need to leave my pool, but won’t because its much easier to stay put. I have to go somewhere, I think to myself.
So when I feel let down by God, it takes a lot of effort to be angry, even when I know that’s what I truly feel. And the interesting thing is, that once I embrace those true feelings, I feel like I’m on another planet. I’m actually angry with someone for an extended period of time. That’s never happened before. Where I wake up and I that’s the first thing I think about… my anger. Its not stereotypical anger, movie anger, Adam Sandler, Waterboy anger:
But much more mundane than that, unfortunately (or fortunately). I just googled “angry with God” and two interesting entries came up, one by Christianity Today and other by John Piper. I guess this is a pretty well discussed topic. Interesting.
In the meantime, I’m going to be looking at Job and Jonah, two people who had some perhaps legitimate reasons for anger with God. Maybe it will be helpful. In the meantime, here’s to more and more honesty in relationships with the Divine and a youtube clip that isn’t really related: