“I just don’t understand . . .”
“Why would God allow this?”
“I’ve done everything a Christian should do and still . . .”
Anger at God has become a routine theme from those who visit my office. No doubt we live in a world broken and full of tragedy, a reality of which I am reminded daily from a multiplicity of mediums. The loss of a loved one to a drunk driver, rape, the death of a child, not being able to find work and by extension, barely being able to provide for one’s family, just to name a few from the previous week. In light of this the emotion of ‘anger’ makes perfect sense at times, but it is the focus of that anger that has often been misplaced that is our topic here today. You see, we may have heard along the way that it is okay to be angry at God. I have heard counselors espouse statements like:
- “God can handle you being angry at him…” or
- “Be honest with God, if you are angry then tell him…”
While all of us will feel angry at times, and that emotion is not in itself necessarily sinful, we must remember Ephesians 4:26, In your anger do not sin. It is important to recall that when we focus anger towards God that the emotion becomes unhelpful and even sinful.
Below is a summarized excerpt from Dr. David Powlison’s pamphlet on Anger: Escaping the Maze. Here we will examine some commonly held thoughts on this idea and then examine them biblically.
It could be narrowed down that popular psychology suggests four thoughts when dealing with anger towards God:
- Anger is neither good or bad and is an emotion that is part of the human experience. Therefore, it must be okay to feel and express anger towards God.
- Since God often lets us down and disappoints us, anger is the only way we can explain our disappointments and continued abuses. After all, God is supposed to be in control.
- God can absorb your honest anger so don’t be afraid to tell him how you really feel.
- After feeling anger towards God, you then need to extend Him grace so you can be at peace with yourself and continue building a trusting relationship with Him.
Does this sound familiar? Comfortable? True? Like anything else, we have set our self-up for what we want to believe. As Powlison writes, “your heart is controlled by desires and lies that have been substituted for the living and true God. For example, if I crave marriage and believe that God will reward my devotion to him with a wife my heart sets itself up for anger at God if that desire is not satisfied.”
He goes on to note that anger at God observed in the counseling room is almost always sinful anger as it attempts to justify sinful behavior. It can, however, present an opportunity to learn who God is and who you are as well. From here let us examine popular psychologies theory point by point:
- Anger is not neutral. It will either cause one to express faith in Christ or spitefully accuse Him regarding current circumstances.
- Does God let us down when we suffer? Powlison points out that the Bible does not give us a shred of evidence that God truly betrays us. “The Bible discusses suffering constantly, but it always shows us that any apparent “betrayal” by God must be seen in the context of his larger purposes.” People truly let us down. Most definitely the devil plagues us. But God never abandons us. Lamenting (groaning) to God in faith and hope about our sufferings is “right and good.” Let’s pause here and talk about the sovereignty of God. To say, “God could have changed things and didn’t” is to say that you believe in His sovereignty but don’t mean it when you angry. Powlison notes that to really believe in God’s sovereignty is to gain an unshakable foundation for trust in the midst of even hellish torments, let alone milder pains.
- You do not need to express your sinful anger at God to deal with it. Like Job, you need to repent. In looking to the Bible, one sees that it teaches us how to express our pain to God in a cry of faith, not in an irreverent rage.
- The idea of forgiving God is blasphemous. As sinners, we have no need to forgive God and he has no need for our forgiveness.
In summary, Powlison tells us that every step in the worlds therapeutic formula is bent to one end: keeping man on the throne of pride. The person who is honest about his or her anger will walk a very different path. In conclusion, “The believing heart will find truth, joy, hope, and love unspeakable. The believing heart will find God.” Questions? Come see me and let’s talk!