We recently covered Romans 5:3-5 and the difficult idea of rejoicing even in our suffering. In one of our campus sermons that morning, the statement was made that it’s okay to be angry and shake your fists at God. For some of you who heard this you might have experienced a “blue-screen” moment. Did someone really just say it’s okay to be mad at God? Is this really okay?
Seriously, who has never experienced intense anger towards God when bad things happen? Who has not been very mad at God when He “allows” this terrible suffering? And it doesn’t even have to happen to us personally. Come on, be honest, in light of recent events in Boston, in West, Texas, and in Moore, Oklahoma, is there any of us that have not once asked, “Why God?” So how do we rationalize these intense, spontaneous, seemingly subconscious, and uncontrollable emotions given to us by God? He gave them, so isn’t it okay to feel this way?
In light of its inevitable occurrence, I want to ask, “Is it okay to be mad at God?” Here’s the short answer, No. (But our anger at God is incredibly important! Read on!)
It’s not okay to be angry at God – no matter what you seem to be walking through because of His actions or His apparent lack of actions. It is sin, plain and simple. Being angry towards God is nothing more than pitting our imperfect will against God’s perfect will and our temporal “glory” versus His infinite majestic glory. So, its not okay. It’s never been okay. It will never be okay.
Here’s the kicker: I believe that being angry at God is essential in our relationship to Him. In fact, I think it must happen for our sanctification! Let me explain: Anger is not something we might struggle with; it’s something we WILL struggle with! When the inevitable happens there are generally two responses: bury it or let it explode.
I grew up in a religious culture that led me to believe that not only was it wrong to be mad at God, but it was also totally unacceptable to communicate that. Not to God and certainly not to others. So I was left to bury these weighty emotions and leave them to fester into growing bitterness. (Guess what – that leads to explosion!) My guess is that most of you who grew up in church have had the same experience. What an oppressive life! This does not at all sound like Jesus’s words in John 10:10 – “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” So where is the place for us to deal with these emotions?
Look, we are the very children of God and He knows what we are feeling. He knows our struggles and our sufferings. Jesus experienced all of this and did so without sin. He longs for us to tell Him what He already knows. He is waiting for us to confess our anger to Him so that He may show us the truth. God is neither a tyrant nor a mean immortal who just likes getting His way to our detriment. He is a good & loving Father, and He gladly demonstrates this to us in our repentance!
So when we bury our anger and do not confess it, we are not deceiving God, but we are simply deceiving ourselves. When we explode and lose control, we are expressing our outright rebellion towards Him. So what do we do?
Hebrews 4:14-16 makes it very clear for us here. In light of Christ’s work on our behalf, we get to boldly, with great confidence, approach God’s throne of grace (even in our great anger!) “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help IN TIME OF NEED.” So here’s the beauty of anger: it generally brings the nastiness that’s on the inside to the outside much quicker! When we bury our anger or haven’t suffered to the point that we become angry, we tend to continue in our unknown or underestimated rebellion. Anger seems to quickly bring our sin to the surface!
So we may freely bring our sin to God. It is in this defiance to God that we are in great need of His mercy and grace. And He extends His open arms of love to us to wash us clean of our rebellious sin. What a great God and great Gospel!
Here are a few biblical case studies:
In Psalm 37 he writes a whole song here to tell us to quit complaining about wrongdoers and to refrain from anger and forsake wrath. This is the same David who questions God in Psalm 13 with gut wrenching questions: “Will you forget me forever?” Through David’s repentance he is able to say at the end of this Psalm, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Only anger leading to repentance could bring David to this.
Of course most of us are very familiar with Job and his sufferings. We see at several moments in Job’s suffering great integrity and faith. But Job does question God’s actions toward him. While Job’s questions might be sin, we see that it leads to great confession and repentance in chapter 42 after God answers him in chapters 40-41.
We see Habakkuk’s anger at God’s will in Habakkuk 1:2-4 and 1:12-17. Was it sinful for Habakkuk to question God in this way? Yep, probably so, but in this we see Habakkuk drawn not only to repentance but also to rejoicing by the end of this book. Habakkuk ends his writing in Habakkuk 3:17-19 by saying that no matter what happens “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
So yes, anger at God is wrong. But it happens just like any other sin (like disappointment, bitterness, etc.). And in our sin, we may freely bring our lives to God to receive the forgiveness and grace purchased for us by Christ on the cross.