Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Angry with God

I met Jesus when I was four years old. It is my second memory. I don’t have a clue what life is like without Him, because He has been with me for as long as I can remember. The most intimate relationship in my life is (and always will be) with Him.

But recently, I experienced a new thing in my relationship with Him: deep, true anger. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m not an angry person in general—I don’t yell or have emotional outbursts—and I can only recall maybe one other time when I felt resentment toward God. The worst and most dangerous thing I could imagine would be to give God the silent treatment, so I told Him my thoughts. I wrote four pages in my journal… questions, accusations, fears. I knew He wouldn’t be threatened by my words. He knows them all; they don’t surprise Him.

Even as I tore across the pages with my pen, I knew that God stood by, loving me. I knew that He understood more about my situation than I did. And I knew my anger was rooted in selfishness – the kind of thing that says, “I have a better idea than You. You aren’t listening. You owe me more than this.” My feelings proved to me that I didn’t trust God to be God… I thought I could do a better job. My anger was—at its root—sin.

It hurt me not to trust Him. It scared me to be angry with Him – not so much because I feared His wrath (Jesus bore that for me on the cross), but because I do not even know how to breathe without Him. Being upset with Him felt like a crack in the surface of the universe… I couldn’t bear the distance I was choosing to put between us. I became aware of my great need for more faith in Him. I prayed, “Lord, I believe… help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

In His love, He rescued me from my own anger. As I hurled my fists at Him, He embraced me. And in case you’re in a place of being angry with God (or even doubting His existence), here are two significant things that helped me work through things:

The Shack – a controversial book with a few theological flaws, but that ultimately served to remind me of the relationship I have with God. If you have doubts (even if you’re not a Christian), this is a phenomenal read.

This sermon by Perry Noble – I will probably think about this sermon for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. Watch it or listen to it.

I don't know if or when I'll be angry with Him again, but I'm grateful that He walked me through it. And I can even appreciate that the experience might allow me to understand what some of you are dealing with. So, tell me your story... what has it been like for you when you've been angry with God? How did you handle it? What was the result?


Brantley said...

Just like God can use imperfect people, he can use an imperfect book. The shack while it should not change your ideas about who God is, can provide the emotional tug that can help people through difficult situations.

Focus on the Family had on their single's site the following to say about the book (they focus more on the theology and not the story):

Amy said...

Wow, I've spent many years of my life being angry at God and I'm only 28. Growing up in church, I never knew a time without God and tried fervently to follow Him during my young/adolescent years. However, having so much teen angst and then issues as a young adult (parents' divorce, dad's affair, health issues, and so on) eventually led to a year and a half, maybe two years of anger toward and wrestling with God. I was at the lowest point I've ever been and I thought it was all God's fault, when really I should have thanked Him that things weren't worse (and they could have been much, much worse). God's faithfulness, that inexplicable faithfulness despite my anger, got me through. He used people, MUSIC, and books (especially Philip Yancey's DISAPPOINTMENT WITH GOD and Henri Nouwen's THE INNER VOICE OF LOVE and Harry Potter ironically) to get me through this time. Plus, the small projects and little jobs I did to get by helped me to grow creatively and emotionally. The fact that your anger lasted only a little while is fantastic, and yes, it's a horrible place to be in. Yet I can imagine that the experience has taught you a lot. Thank you for being open and sharing this!

ester said...

I take issue with this sentence from the review Brantley linked to: "God has chosen to reveal Himself as masculine. Nowhere in the Bible would we find any suggestions that God expects us to relate to Him in anything but masculine terms. Nowhere is God known as our Mother. Nor does the Bible give us the leeway to re-imagine God as female — as a Goddess."

That's not true, at least not in the Hebrew bible. Sometimes the pronouns for as well as the names of God are feminine. The most famous of these is the "Shekhinah," which is connected to Shabbat (the day of rest). See here and here.

I haven't read The Shack but it's fiction, right? If the book manages to be diverting *and* comforting, then that's pretty impressive.

Selah said...

Man thank you for posting this! It's so funny to read that you were in this same place as me, cause that's exactly whats been going on in my life over the last 3 weeks. I'm a missionary from london working at jhmglobal.org, where i work alongside my parents and siblings. We support communities of orphans, pastors and widows in india, pakistan, kenya and south africa, but we're currently stationed in california, usa. Originally our home was in the uk, but following God's call on our lives, we ALL upped and sold everything (putting only important documents into storage) and set out for the nations living for Christ. It has been 2 years since we last saw the Uk itself.

It's been a really, really challenging time - we spent last year serving the homeless in florida and this year we are serving both the homeless communities and disadvantaged women and children in our local area in CA. I love what i do and i truly believe I am living out my calling - but it can be incredibly draining, isolating and just difficult learning how to adjust to different types of people and cultures.

I got angry with God because I just turned 30 (June 12) in a foreign country away from all my girl-friends, am still single, living in the same house as my parents, have no car, no money to speak of and we live a very hand to mouth existence. I was all like 'But God, we're serving you! We've served you for like, over 10 years now! Why aren't you blessing us God? Why does it have to be so hard? And yet, here are these californians with so much wealth they don't know what to do with it...and there are 8 of us missionaries sleeping on the floor of a house with no furniture and yet we serve you with all our heart!'

Yes, it was pretty bad. But i went there with God! I got all self-righteous and yucky...

The great thing though, is how patiently he dealt with me. I threw a challenge at Him - something silly like 'God if you do this (insert any number of insane requests!), then i'll know you love me' and guess what? He didn't take my bait! Instead, he gave me a few days to pipe down then He totally convicted me. He told me i was ungrateful. That like the 9 lepers who were healed in Luk17, i didn't know how to say thankyou! He told me that my 'blessing' was MY LIFE - the very fact that everyday, despite my sin, I BREATHE. He's seen me through some incredibly challenging times, life or death situations and healed me from a ton of afflictions and just because my life doesn't look like i thought it would at 30, i had neglected to appreciate what i already have.

I felt so awful about my pettiness, but more than that, so humbled and - ha! - grateful, that God would take time out from heaven to visit with little old me and set me back on the right path. Discipline my ass and knock the sense right back into me! Pardon my language... And this is for someone who should already know!

I work with brokenness everyday, i see the pain in people's eyes - i offered myself as a living sacrifce and said i'd be willing to live as a missionary and 'enter into the pain' by suffering with Christ. It shouldn't be my place to complain.

Instead I should ask God to comfort me in my struggles. Whenever we get to the point of anger we should PRAY and ask God for strength to get through the toughness of life.

That's what I learned and that's what i've been walking through in my life. I'm sorry this was so long, but I just believed that maybe, if Tara felt this way, too and was brave enough to share, you might all benefit from hearing what I have been going through, too. It’s important to share real struggles and triumphs of faith – not just cookie-cutter tales.

P.S. For those interested, God used Kay Warren's 'Dangerous Surrender' to help me get through this time.

God Bless you all and may your road to healing and wholeness in Him be short,
Anna Marie

Brooke said...

this is such good stuff - I identify so much because like you I was raised in church, born again at 4 yrs old and up until this year, I have never been angry with God (I'm 28). I've never even understood people who COULD be angry with Him. and I'm suddenly confronted with this "WHY God? Why can't you? why don't you like me!? I know you love me, but could you show me you LIKE me?" and the root is exactly what you are describing: things haven't worked out how I thought they should, I'm hurt, I'm selfish and I'm struggling. and ultimately I'm trying to control my circumstances and God along with them. I will definitely listen to that sermon and I guess it's time to pony up and read the Shack (my best friend's been trying to get me to). thanks for the recs.

lastly, I just wanted to share with you that I bought your book "Hindsight" on a whim - the description caught my eye at the Relevant Bookstore and it really sounded like something that would meet me where I'm at right now (struggling). I read it in 3 hours, cried and laughed through the entire book, freaked out when I read things that I myself had THOUGHT but never dreamed anyone else had the same thought/struggle. the very next day I went online & purchased "crowded skies" and counted the days till I got it in the mail - since I've finished that book, I cannot wait till you get the 3rd one published. talent and writing style aside (you ARE!!!), your books have been used by God to meet me RIGHT where I'm at in a way I cannot express. they have been meaningful and comforting, simply because it feels like you write whats in my head - the connection and similarities blew me away. I think God was just trying to tell me "see you're not alone. you're not forgotten. trust. I know you can- you have before...let Me have my way in you."
so thanks.
hopefully you'll come to TX soon so I can say "hi" and thank you in person.