To be angry with God isn’t okay. Or so I’ve been told throughout my life. We must reverence God, and resign ourselves to His will, and simply accept what He does, without question. Or so they say. And for many years I was afraid to be angry with God. So I wasn’t. Or so I thought…
Even so, when people struggled with anger, and expressed it, I said, “God can handle it… He’s not afraid of you, or what you feel.” And I believed it. At least for them. But my real belief was that I had no anger towards Him.
That all crumbled one beautiful summer morning, when all seemed right in the world, except the storm clouds brewing in my heart….
I was in ministry, and we all know people in ministry have it together and always trust God. Except when we don’t. We’re just humans, after all, trying to love God by loving others.
I was in Scarborough for ministry-related purposes when it all came down the pipe. It was a blend of things that collided, leaving me undone. And in that spontaneous moment, anger I didn’t even know was inside me, pushed from a place deep within and I yelled at God. My thoughts were, If nothing good can come out of the hell I’ve been through, then this is not worth it! That pain was all for nothing! And in that moment I was certain nothing good could or would come out of those years of trauma, and God had let it happen anyway.
It all happened so fast, so spontaneously, that my dignity was the farthest thing from my mind, as a dark reality that had been inside of me for over 30 years spilled out. In a ‘mini-series’ of flashbacks, scenes from childhood flashed at lightning speed through my mind, so that I could not contain it. And, right there, pulled over on a street in Scarborough, I yelled at God.
Of course my windows were down because it was summer, and my A/C wasn’t working. A man stopped and looked at me suspiciously, and I mumbled, “Shuffle along… nothing to see here”. And he did, God bless him. He didn’t wander over and ask if he could take me to the nearest psyche ward. And I sat there, in gut-wrenching sobs, letting that buried hell wash out of me.
At length I was empty of tears, and composed myself to drive home. But my words haunted me. My anger haunted me. What if that was it? What if God was done with me? And where had that anger come from? What if, on my ride home, God would let some semi truck run over me, flatten me out and show me that He is bigger and doesn’t have to take my anger lying down? Crazy thoughts raced through my head…
Fear, so powerful I felt nauseated, washed over me. If only I didn’t have to drive… But I had to, and I did, my heart numb from pain, fear and grief. As I drove, I tried to talk to God. I tried to say I’m sorry for yelling–because I really was sorry–but everything fell flat. No affirmation from God, no feeling of being forgiven. Only the heavy reality that I had yelled at the Almighty; the One who constructs the Universe with a simple command. I, a minuscule fragment of that Universe, had yelled at the Creator. And the only comfort my heart could find was knowing that God is good, that He loves me and my little meltdown had no power to change that.
I was never more relieved to pull into our driveway. God hadn’t struck me dead; I was home, safe and sound. Gradually, in resting, the shock of my yelling wore off, and I realized that this anger had burned deep inside for years. I had determined to always reverence God, and never, ever yell at Him or even allow myself to feel angry. Besides, how could I be angry with a God who has given so much? And with the realization that the anger had been there all along, another awareness settled more powerfully: I am His. I am loved. He can handle the truth. And He forgives.
But it wasn’t until I read the story of King David bringing the ark of God to the City of David, where Uzzah drops dead for inadvertently touching the ark, that I discovered the Bible addresses this thing of anger at God. In 2 Samuel 6:8 (rewritten using the words and meaning of the original text): “And King David burned with anger against God, because of His outburst against Uzzah…”
King David burned with anger against God… Let that sink in for a moment!
We’ve translated it to ‘was displeased’ or ‘was angry’ but the original word וַיִּ֣חַר means to burn with anger or be kindled with anger. King David was angry with God. Still, God honoured his request to bring the ark to his city; the anger didn’t disqualify him. God didn’t knock him flat. In fact, He called King David a man after His own heart.
In reading Bible stories, and simply in doing life with God, I am convinced that He longs for authentic relationship with us, not performance. He longs for us to trust Him with our pain, our grief, our joy and, yes, even our anger… but not to stay in anger. And, I, for one, need God too desperately to stay angry. While I yelled out of spontaneous desperation, I wouldn’t have if I had not first trusted Him and felt safe. And God, in His kindness, met me there in that grief and loved me.
He has give us permission to call Him ‘Abba Father’; “Daddy”, an endearing term reserved for intimate relationship. And every good parent longs to know their child’s true heart. Even the anger.
And God is a good Daddy…
~ T ~
If I am not honest with God about my emotions, regardless of what they are and how they show up, those emotions stay inside my heart and they drag me to the ground. But when I admit and am honest, God takes care of them in no time at all.
That’s it, exactly! And then to discover His love in that place… so healing!
This is so true, Katie! I think this unhealthy dealing with emotions is one reason there’s so much problem in society with violence, addictions, sexual decadence, etc. That coupled with the false idea that “happiness” is the ideal human condition and actually an American “right” has caused great harm to society, including the Church.
But as Trudy says, God’s healing plan is love! A truth that pervades the pages of Scripture from start to end!
God gave us all our emotions for a useful purpose. When we shut down any of them we are harming ourselves and causing our beings to malfunction, similarly to what happens if a vein, intestine, or organ gets plugged up or stopped. Anger, like a fever, is a vital assessment tool in that it tells us something major is awry and our God-given body system is trying to tell us we have a problem that needs attention and care.
The idea that only positive emotions are healthy and socially acceptable is actually a relatively recent construct in American history. In the 1800’s the idea that housewives needed to be cheerful and happy became the prevailing sentiment in America. Over time this idea was implemented into businesses as well requiring employees to be cheerful regardless of their situations. The Church picked up this idea somewhere along the way as well, marrying secular psychology and Christianity into the prevailing belief that a “don’t worry, be happy, have-a-nice-day, I’m-fine” modus operandi is the ideal and healthy perspective. Which ignores huge chunks of Biblical examples, including what Jesus modeled.
Science itself is showing that positive psychology has harmful effects on people and has led to diagnoses of depression for normal responses to difficult life situations.
That does not mean that it’s healthy to wallow in our emotions or harm other people with them. Just use them as God created our bodies and minds to function.
This is a subject that’s a special interest of mine, thus my “rant.” : )