Is it Okay to Be Mad at God?
Anger at God in the Bible
So you're mad at God. You feel He dropped the ball, that He is responsible for your having this or that terrible thing to happen to you or someone you love; that He has done wrong by you. It happens all the time. Even some of the great heroes of the Bible got angry with God. Here are few examples:
♦ Cain was angry at God for accepting his brother Abel's offering, but not his (Gen. 4:1-5).
♦ Jeremiah was angry at God for the failure of his ministry and the persecution he was going through. He also expressed anger on behalf of Israel, who felt God was to blame for the tragedies they kept experiencing for no good reason (it was due to their own rebellion, by the way) (Jer. 20:7-18, Lam. 3).
♦ Jonah was angry at God for extending grace and forgiveness to the Ninevehites whom he hated with a passion (Jonah 4).
♦ Job was mad at God for all the horrendous things that happened to him; the loss of his wealth and possessions, the death of his 10 children, the loss of his health and the persecution from his so-called friends and community (Job 16:7-14, 19:7-20, 30:16-23).
♦ David got angry with God when God killed Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant in effort to protect it from falling (2 Samuel 6:1-15).
♦ Naomi was bitter toward God due to the loss of her husband and two sons (Ruth 1:19-20).
If you read through these passages you see that they blamed God for their misfortune or the misfortune of someone they cared about. They made assumptions that God caused or allowed their trial because he was being mean, unfair, broke a perceived promise or didn't see the situation rightly. Job went to great lengths to tell his four accusing friends, and God, how righteous he was and therefore God was being unfair. These mindsets are problematic for a few reasons.
1. They didn't have enough information to make those kind of assumptions about God. Job was not privy, prior to his devastating trials, to the fact that God and Satan had met and God's plan was to prove to Satan that Job was a good man, blameless in all his ways. Job presumed to know what and why God was at play. And Job had no idea how his suffering was going to transform his relationship with God, which would be to see God's glory.
2. They could not or would not see God's perspective. In the case of God killing Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant to keep it from falling, David looked at it from his human perspective; Uzzah was just trying to do the right thing by trying to prevent this holy and sacred, symbolic object from falling to the ground. This passage is often looked at from David's perspective, that it seems so unjust. But the reason Uzzah was killed was two-fold: First, the sacred ark was only to be moved by the sons of Kohath (from the tribe of Levi), no one else (Num. 4:15). Uzzah was not a Kohathite, therefore not qualified.
Secondly, the ark was to be carried a specific way. There were poles that passed through rings so that the ark could be carried on the shoulders, which would prevent such a predicament as when it started to topple when Uzzah carried it. David knew all this, as did Uzzah, and they did not follow it, whether because of rebellion, lack of judgment, I don't know.
3. They could not accept that God allowed their calamity by letting evil men assert their free will. Jeremiah felt that God was causing him to fail as His messenger. The Israelites would not heed the warnings of God spoken through the prophet. It was their rebellion, their choice, not God's. Jeremiah was the one doing the warning, and yet he loved Israel so much that he lost perspective.
4. They forgot that God is sovereign, just and good, period, and that His ways can be trusted even when it doesn't make sense. All of the above people were guilty of this. Jeremiah vascilated on this quite a bit. In Lamentations 3, he spends the first 20 verses railing about how bad God had been to Israel in very graphic terms. Right in the middle of it, he does an about face and says,
"This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,Therefore I hope in Him!”
He continued in this vein for several more verses. But then in verses 47 hrough 54, he returned to complaining and accusing God of his hardness against Israel. From verse 55 to the end, he flip flopped back to saying good things about the Lord.
In Jeremiah 20:7-18 he does the same thing. I think it's a human struggle when terrible things happen to be able to still see that God is good and just. Let me tell you my story.
My Journey From Anger to Bitterness to Healing Joy
Several years ago I was dealing with a past trauma. I viewed all of life through that lens for some time. At one point it seemed like people came across my path almost daily who had a story to share of childhood trauma. It started to really make me mad at God. The anger turned to rage. Two pastor's said, "Go ahead and let Him (God) have it. He can take it." I was surprised at this, it didn't seem right, but at the same time, I ended up doing just that with perceived justification and the blessing of two pastors. I am responsible for raging at God, not those who said "Have at it." They may have influenced me to some degree but I chose to continue to be mad at God. Here is how it came down:
It started off as "Why God, do you allow innocent children to suffer horrible things when they are not able to defend themselves, don't have the maturity and experience to cope with it, and many times don't know how to reach out?" I was sincere at first, or mostly. I think God is patient in this type of anger or questioning because it comes from deep pain, fear, and confusion, and the desire to understand what He's doing. I think in this kind of situation it can also be that we are actually more mad at the circumstance or those who injured us. I think I was looking for hope. God listened I have no doubt, and cared very deeply. Many people came into my path to speak truth into my life. But my heart continued to harden.
My "Why God?" turned from a desire to understand to a defiant, fist shaking, demand. At one point I shook my fist at Him and said "How dare You!" I wasn't looking for answers anymore but an apology from God. For three weeks I told God I wanted nothing to do with Him. This was after 30 years of being a Christian. Deep down I knew He was the Sovereign Lord and a God that is Good. But kind of like Jonah, I didn't want Him to be. I didn't trust Him to protect me and other innocent children from traumatic experiences. It was at that time that my rage became frightening. I had some close friends and the two pastors praying for me. In the end I decided that God owed me nothing because He had given me everything at the cross. I would rather have been shattered and broken at the feet of the cross than to be shaking my fist in wicked defiance, which was so very destructive to my relationship to Him and my sanity.
I spent a good many months, probably a year, asking God to forgive me. He did of course, but I wasn't able to forgive myself, which actually boils down to I would not receive His grace. God worked in me though and I feel forgiven and so joyful that He forgave me such wretched behavior toward Him. When I look back on that time now, the shame is no longer there. Not because what I did wasn't shameful, it was, but because I know He took my shame upon Himself and I am forgiven and made righteous in Him.
Anger at sin is good, but anger at goodness is sin. That is why it is never right to be angry with God. He is always and only good, no matter how strange and painful his ways with us. Anger toward God signifies that he is bad or weak or cruel or foolish. None of those things is true and all of them dishonor him."— John Piper
So is it okay to be mad at God?
The Bible indicates it is never right to be angry with God, because He is always good (see the sidebar quote from John Piper). Being angry with God reveals a lack of faith, and a very wrong view of who God is. God is good even when nothing makes sense. It is important to remember that God is love, merciful, compassionate, and has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) - a good plan, not a harmful one. It's hard to see it in the midst of pain and turmoil. Paul said in Romans 8:28. "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie said in a devotional on this verse, "The word her for good does not necessarily mean that the event in and of itself is good, but that its long-term effect will be useful and helpful. It is hard for us to imagine certain things working for good. The Bible isn't saying tragedy is good. Rather, it is saying that God can take a horrible thing and make good come as a result of it." This may not comfort us in the acute stage of our trial, but as things progress and you are trusting and seeking God, you will discover this wonderful promise to be true.
That being said, being mad at God is human, and it comes up. God understands us when we are angry at Him, just as parents understand when their little children are mad at them. But what do we parents do when that happens? We correct them, lovingly, in a variety of ways. We can trust God's correction because it is not punitive. He loves us, and understands what we are going through. With each Bible character mentioned above, God corrected them in different ways. But at the end of the day, they all came to see God for who He really was - A sovereign God of love and mercy and compassion.
It is hard for us to imagine certain things working for good. The Bible isn't saying tragedy is good. Rather, it is saying that God can take a horrible thing and make good come as a result of it."— Greg Laurie
How should we deal with being angry at God?
What is next in line of importance is how to deal with it appropriately. The biblical course is to go to Him and confess to Him how we feel (but not accuse Him), being mindful that God is never wrong nor does He ever have evil intent; therefore we humbly ask for forgiveness and ask Him to show us the way back to seeing Him rightly, and the issue through His eyes, or how to simply trust Him without leaning on our own understanding. God loved us enough to take our place on the cross, rather than let us spend eternity in judgment (which we deserve). In Isaiah 53, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. That is the message that helped me the most. Another truth that helps me see things rightly when I am tempted to get upset with God is this wonderful passage from Paul, who hits it right on the head:
When we were utterly helpless Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though some might perhaps be willing to for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God's condemnation. ~ Romans 5:6-9.
Learning from Job's lesson
God declares Himself just, and we see that truth throughout the Bible. We also see His grace. He is a just God and a gracious God. In the beginning Job saw this and said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:21).
He also said to his despairing wife, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not also accept adversity?" (2:10)
Job did not remain in that attitude. But at the end of Job's long season of extreme suffering, and God's calling Him on the carpet for his assumptions about why, and what God was doing, he said these remarkable words,
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42:1-6).
I find this astounding. Reading it brings tears to my eyes because that was my experience at the end of it all. Job did not sin in the same way I did. But the end result was the same - God's glory shone through our transformed lives. Although I have suffered much in my life, my suffering doesn't hold a candle to what Job suffered. I've learned that if God allows a suffering, it means that His glory can be revealed in it by the work it does in us. That truth certainly doesn't make suffering any less painful. Toward the end of the book, chapters 38 through 41, God asked Job a series of questions, all rhetorical of course, but God already knew the answers. You can read if for yourselves, but let me paraphrase it, and see if I'm hitting the mark:
"Okay Job, who are you to question my wisdom with such foolish ideas and words? Tell you what, Job 'ol boy, Mr. Wiseguy, you want questions? I'll ask you some questions. Number one - where were you when I laid the foundations of the world? Tell me if you're such a smart guy."
In the next few chapters God asks Job if He knows the intricate facts and in's and out's of God's creation; things no man could know. It humbled Job. I love this little exhchange and read it once in a while when I need a good dose of humble pie.
...but now my eye sees you
He has overcome
I don't care to suffer ever again, thank you very much. But life is full of suffering, and Jesus made it clear we would suffer. He was known for saying, "Fear not. Let not your heart be troubled." But my favorite was when He also said "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."— Jesus (John 16:33).
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