- Religion and Philosophy
Angry conversations with God and the Devil
As a Christian, do you feel less like a beacon of light and more like a foghorn?
Somewhere along the line, talking to God became arguing with him and blaming him for everything that went wrong
Have you ever felt like a puppet? Did you ever fear that God would allow the Devil to abuse you the way he abused Job? Maybe God and the Devil made some sort of pact to see how much you could take before you would break. You read Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." But, you wonder what kind of future God is talking about and find hope wavering as the world around you seems to be getting worse not better and you feel powerless to do anything to change it and can only pray and have faith and try to stay strong when you really just want to give up trying for fear anything you do will end in failure anyway.
It's not a right way to think and certainly not a good thing for a Christian to contemplate; that God is just using us because he's bored and has nothing better to do than test our faith on a daily basis.
Lately it seems like everything irritates me; the way people smell and act, the slow computer that spins and rolls and tells me to wait when I don't want to; the silly questions people ask and the way they expect me to do all their work for them without taking responsibility for their own affairs.
I had a woman the other day ask me when her child goes back to school. I do not have children and am not a teacher, but I knew the answer. Still, isn't it a parent's responsibility to know such things? When a parent enrolls a child in a summer program, shouldn't they write down the times and dates in their calendar rather than ask last minute what they signed up for and what they needed to bring and should they then get mad at me because they thought they were signing up for something different? Shouldn't you know these things and get confirmation and not wait until the last minute? Maybe I am too harsh on them, but these little things multiplied daily tend to wear me down and make me doubt the intelligence of human society.
When people make mistakes, like not knowing when their child starts school, should they take their anger out on the school system and administrators and caregivers or should they admit they failed to do their part and face the consequences? When we get angry with God or blame the Devil on thwarting our every move forward, are we justified in doing so or are we pushing our burdens off on others and blaming them for the problems we could prevent ourselves if we just followed through on what we needed to do in life?
"This is the day the Lord has made," so why am I so upset about it?
It's a Sunday. Most people sleep late on Sunday, but i get up at 5 a.m. to go running with friends downtown. Actually I can't run right now. I have an injured hip that makes my leg unstable sending shooting pains in the back of my knee if I move too fast or pound too much on it. I can move sideways, but not too well forward and so I walk with friends, but I don't mind because I like talking to them and it is not competitive so it is more fun.
I have decided to skip church this Sunday. The last time I went I nearly fell asleep. My parents like the new pastor and he's alright, but a little too liberal and into politics and even when he talks it sounds like he is reading from a script. I guess I expect too much, but I am not really into church. I don't like all the reading and repetitions. If I get through soon enough I will try to make it to Sunday School. That is more my style; talking and discussing things with other people.
I volunteer to walk a friend's son's dog. He is a huge hound and when he finds the trail of something interesting he snuffles air through his huge cheek pouches making the oddest sound, sort of like a dog version of snorting marijuana I suppose. I feel like I need to be wearing a hunting jacket or a trench coat with a Sherlock Holmes style pipe in my mouth. While I enjoy the walk, when it is over i dread going home. I have to stop by Home Depot to pick up a few small items to finish repairing a broken hinge on the chicken coop door and get numbers and letters for a mailbox I am repairing for my parents whose old one is about to fall apart.
I tell myself I am doing a good thing. I listened to a sermon on the radio on the ride home and while it was uplifting and half in Spanish ( I am attempting to relearn Spanish yet again), a part of me feels dead inside and has for a while. Maybe it is the incessant heat and humidity, the underlying pain in my hip or my inconsistent diet that goes from humus and brown rice one meal to tater tots and vegan hot dogs the next, to chips and dip and breakfast cereal followed by Clif Protein Bars and Lenny and Larry cookies.
I get home too late to go to Sunday School. I am not in a good mood or a bad mood, i just don't feel like doing anything. Yesterday i worked in the yard without shoes and kept stepping on things. At first I was okay but after the third time I stepped in chicken poop, rotted pears that fell from a crab-pear tree, wrapped two vines around my big toe nearly ripping it off on each occasion and stepping on more briars and sticks than one would imagine existed on the earth, I was beginning to feel like the powers that be were picking on me to see how much I could take before I got angry and blew a fuse.
To be fair I get angry with myself as much as I do God or the Devil, though I know I should not get angry with anyone. It is like complaining. The only people that complain are the people who are powerless or perceive themselves to be powerless to do anything about whatever it is that upsets them.
I arrive home and eat a second breakfast. It is good, but now all I want to do is lie around and play on the internet. I force myself to go outside and begin work on the mailbox. I take the bottom of the box and place it on the post and measure the spot where the hold-down screw will go and the box flips to the right suddenly as if some supernatural power has grabbed it and it smashes into my good ankle like a hammer to the bone. In my favor I do not curse, but do say, "Really, God? Really? I try to do something good to help someone and this is how you reward me?" A part of me thinks God is doing this to get back at me for not wanting to go to church, but another part of me knows better.
I am wearing shoes today in an effort to avoid the mistakes of my past. Maybe I should wear thigh boots. As I turn to go back in the house I trip on a blackberry vine and nearly crash into the steps. I glare at the skies as I pitch a little fit and say, "Fine. If that's the way you want it, I will just go inside and sit and be a bum then. Try to hurt me then will you?"
I really should not talk this way to God, my creator, but seriously, why does he allow me to get hurt and injured doing something that should not cause pain and injury. Why, when I start doing a project to help someone or make my own life less hectic so I can find time to help others, does God seem to throw me under a literal bus and do everything in his power to thwart me moving forward to do good?
Does God allow the Devil to do these things to me, and if so, for what purpose? Am I being tested for some greater good? If so, it would be nice if someone let me in on it so I could put a bit more effort into doing the will of God at the expense of my own health and happiness. I'd be more willing to sacrifice and suffer if I knew there was actually something good that would come out of it and not just more pain and misery, you know God?
So, I put the mailbox aside and pushed a rock against the chicken coop door, hoping for a better outcome tomorrow, but knowing full well I would not want to tackle a job that promised to tackle me back and then some. Maybe I would just write. It's hard to hurt yourself by typing and maybe some good would come of it? Who knows. It's worth a shot.
I don't think Christians should complain and yet I do it all the time!
I complain a lot. I will often wake up in the dark of the night and complain. "It's hot in here. The sheets are all bunched up. I can't sleep. I have to go to the bathroom for the third time in six hours. Why can't I have a normal bladder and be able to sleep through an entire night?"
I wake up in the morning and stretch and get a cramp. It feels like someone has stuck a knife in me. I drink plenty of fluids (hence the going to the bathroom multiple times during the night), I take probiotics and eat healthy most of the time. When I eat junk food it is the healthier version with bean protein and brown rice sugar. I exercise and stretch, but it seems like I am always in pain. There is always something dripping, stuffed up, stiff, sore, and aching, and always work to do that I don't want to do, and as soon as I have done it, it only lasts for a day and has to be done all over again.
I remember when my dad planted a garden every year. Most people would be thrilled to have fresh vegetables, but my mom hated it because it meant more work for her. She was raised on a small farm where they planted and pulled weeds and picked vegetables, washed them, shelled them and canned them and she felt obligated to put them in a recipe rather than let them go to waste so that took effort too.
A friend once told me that he spent over $100 on tomato plants and fertilizer and got maybe five pounds of edible tomatoes out of it. "I just spent $20 a pound on organic tomatoes, how proud of myself I am," he said with sarcasm in his voice. Yet, he admitted that he did enjoy watching them grow and was proud of the scrawny, misshapen things and learned a lot about blossom end rot, fungus, squirrel preference for nearly ripe tomatoes and the hazards of forgetting to water every single day in 90 degree heat. Still, it would have been a lot easier to go buy the tomatoes and would not have been such a struggle and anxiety causing event waiting for that precious piece of fruit/vegetable to become ready for human consumption before the bugs, fungus and animals got to it first.
That's a lot how I feel writing this article. It is easy for me to do this. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes I will go back and read something and think it is garbage and wonder why I bother. "I just wasted two hours on nothing," I tell myself. "Who am I kidding. I am not a writer. No one wants to read this."
That I think is when the devil is trying to derail us. A lot of times I get mad at God for bad things happening to me when I know I could prevent a lot of it, like wearing thigh boots or If I wore shoes in the yard I would not step on things. If I cut back all the blackberry vines instead of letting them grow with the hopes they would produce berries I could eat before the goat and the birds and the turtles got them, then I would not trip over them and get raked by thorns or step on thorns. If I had a place for everything and put everything back in its place, I would not lose things with the alarming frequency with which I lose them. I should not be yelling at God telling him he does not love me or he would want me to do well. Instead I have to trust that God has a reason and a purpose which is why I now say, "Thank you, God!" when something bad happens to me, though saying it like I am grateful and not accusing is the hard part.
About ten years ago I could not find my keys. I had an important meeting to go to that I did not want to miss and could not find the keys anywhere. I ranted and raved and blamed God on trying to undermine something good that could make my life better, even arguing that if I got this position I would have more time and money to spend doing God's work, so why was he working against me?
It turns out I had put the keys exactly where I thought I had, but then I had laid my jacket over them and when I picked up the jacket, the keys had fallen behind something else. I discovered this after tearing everything up around the place looking for them. I was livid and angry. Why would God prevent me from getting to this appointment on time, why?
As I pulled out of the road leading to the main highway, there was an ambulance and police cars. A big wreck had happened at the intersection about the same time I would have been there. An oncoming car sped through the red light striking another car as it pulled out legally into the road. That could have been me.
As it turns out the great opportunity I was expecting at the meeting turned out to be pretty abysmal. I felt like I had wasted my time and anxiety attack for nothing and only then did I really appreciated and say, "Thank you, God" in earnest, but often you don't know if God has presented you with all these miseries and anxieties to make you a better person, to protect you or steer you on the path that is best for both of you, so it is hard to be appreciative and easier to blame and complain that life and God are being unfair and acting like a bully not a friend. At some point you have to get over it and trust that no matter how awful it seems, God will pull you through and you have to have faith and not get all flustered and upset, but that is hard to do, especially for people who feel hurt deeply and equate good things with love and bad things with punishment for being a bad person. It's a work in progress for most of us and shows how broken we really are by relationships in life where others have done us wrong and prospered from it while we suffered.
Why do we get angry when things don't go as planned?
When I was younger, I dated an army ranger. He was a nice looking guy, but he had a temper. Once when we were at a dance club he went outside to buy a pack of cigarettes out of the machine. That should tell you how long it has been since I've dated!
He put his money in the machine and pulled the lever but nothing came out. He got so furious that he kicked the machine and called it names. He turned so red in the face he broke out in sweat beads and I really thought he was going to have a heart attack. We tried to get him to calm down. His friends told him it was just a machine and he could go inside and tell the manager and get him to open it and give him a pack. That made a lot more sense to me than injuring himself or damaging the machine.
That was our last date, but if I were to be honest, I have done something similar in my youth and am finding myself doing it more as I get older, which scares me a bit. I would like to think I have a scientific mind, yet when the computer freezes or I spend two hours downloading photos to a website only to have it crash and take all my hard work with it, i want to beat something, scream, yell, cry, anything. To do less almost seems too pacifistic, like turning the other cheek... oh, right... well then...
It is hard to take abuse from anyone or anything, especially if you feel you don't deserve it and even if you do feel like you deserve it, the truth is you probably don't. I mean, there is nothing wrong with a human being telling you in a loving manner that you need to correct your bad attitude or put a greater effort into doing what needs to be done and not sitting around all day typing an article you might not even have the courage to publish or which might be rejected by editors or end up making people mad at you or... oh, le sigh!
Why do bad things happen? Why, when you are trying to do something useful and good, does it seem like everything that can go wrong is going to go wrong? Why, when you lay around and do nothing, does nothing bad happen at all? Why is life such a struggle? Is it God's fault when you stump your toe when you were being super careful not to do so? Did he make that stray Lego pop out of nowhere just so he could laugh when you stepped on it, slid and did a split, pulling your groin the day before you volunteered to walk 20 miles for charity and now you can't walk from the living room to the toilet without being in pain and people made pledges for charity for each mile you were walking? Why would a good God do that, and if not God's fault, did the Devil do it and if so, why didn't God stop him?
Sometimes I feel like Job in the Bible. I feel like the Devil has made a bet with God to see how much I can take before I give up on God and turn to the Devil, but that is not going to happen I tell myself, and yet I act like the Devil when I get mad at God and complain about the computer being too stupid to do what it was designed to do. I often wonder if God says that about the people he created as well and if he gets as angry with them and us as I do with a machine that was designed to make my life easier but forces me to spend several hours debugging it to get it to work the way it is supposed to work.
We've all planned that special day only to have it ruined by weather or sickness and injury. We dreamed of getting into a school or a club that would help us follow our dreams, only to be rejected or been told that if we do this we are guaranteed to get rich, when instead it robs us of what we had and takes more. A lot of that we can't control. We don't know the outcome of investing in a stock or a dream.
When I bought my first show horse in the mid-eighties I knew I finally had a chance at competing in A level shows with some of the top riders who used to look down on me for riding stiff legged ponies and half wild stallions on loan from friends. Now I could actually show them that with the right mount I could ride as well as anyone.
Three weeks after I bought the horse I took my older gelding to a local fun show. When we came back, someone was leading my new show horse up from pasture with blood streaming down his leg. He had tried to jump the fence and got his leg caught on the wire and sawed through the tendon to the bone. The vet said he would likely never be able to move normally again. Twenty three hundred dollars and dreams of competing in the upper ranks foiled just like that. Yet I loved the horse and kept him and he did recover after six long months and was ridable again, but never able to compete in horse shows.
I could have been bitter then and blamed God and I suppose a part of me did, but I kept saying that maybe God had a plan. Maybe I was too proud. Maybe I would be recognized and go to work for a big barn and ride a horse that broke my back and paralyzed me for life. Maybe I would become so full of myself that I turned my back on friends and treated them poorly. Maybe this was God's way of keeping me humble.
I had that horse for over 30 years. He was a lot like me; stubborn, prone to fits of temper, sweet spirited, loved to eat sweets, moody, honest and put up with a lot of garbage most others would not. He had staying power. I guess in the long run I am glad we never made it to the big time and I think that is what all of us need to remember is that often things do have a purpose and while at the time it may seem frustrating, maybe it is guiding us in a direction we need to follow and isn't as bad as we really think. Maybe this curse is really a blessing in disguise and at the very least or very best, perhaps it makes us more empathetic towards others and more encouraging, letting people know that if they just hang in there, it does get better, though the road to there is often rough and bumpy.
For Lent this year I gave up blaming and complaining about inanimate objects
For forty days of Lent this year I swore off getting upset with inanimate objects or thinking bad things about people. There are many verses in the Bible that tell us that what is hidden in our hearts will be revealed, often through words or actions and it seemed that lately I had been upset with everything from the can opener to the computer for not working as it was designed to do and this attitude was spilling over on the people in my life as well.
My favorite word was "stupid". Stupid people, stupid computer, stupid software program, stupid traffic light that only lets four cars go through before it turns red. Who designed these stupid things anyway? I even called myself stupid on multiple occasions and while I fell short of calling people stupid to their faces, it was hard to hide it in the look on my face.
At this point I decided that complaining was not working. When the computer crashed for the fifth time, rather than rant and rave. I ran a diagnostic on it, purged old files, cleared out some memory and saved my work every few minutes so it would not get lost. When it still took five minutes to download a photo to a website despite being optimally set for website production I simply pulled out a magazine or paid bills while I waited on it to download. If it still gave me fits, I turned the computer off, got up and did something else and came back to it later.
When I bumped my knee on a protruding object for several days in a row, I cleaned house and moved the object far away from the path I traveled: problem solved. I tried to come up with solutions, but sometimes nothing worked and I wanted to complain and call things stupid and blame God and the Devil on making my life miserable. Often on days like that I noticed I did not feel right all over. The tag on my clothes irritated me, the room temperature, someone's cologne; they all bothered me and I realized it was not so much the outside factors making me upset as it was my attitude toward everything and everyone and that is what helped me most control the complaining if not to get rid of it for good, but just like purging sugar from the diet, the minute you allow yourself to let it come back in, the struggle begins again. It is not an easy thing to control and the key to controlling it is to admit that it is not a good way to feel and you really shouldn't let it have so much power.
During Lent, when I wanted to complain or curse or yell or feel sorry for myself. I would make up silly songs to change my attitude rapidly. It would go something like this:
Hit my toe, woe oh woe
Burns like fire ain't no liar
But it's still attached. It hasn't fallen off.
Hope it still stays on there if I have to cough...
It was all silly stuff, but made me laugh and when I did then I wasn't as upset about it and in a few minutes it was like it never happened, so I think that is the key: when you get a negative thought or attitude you have to diffuse it like a bomb primed to go off. You have to clip the wires, stop the clock and make it safe. Then, you have to divert your attention to positive thoughts like cute kittens and gorgeous sprays of flowers and fresh cool air and fill your heart with light and laughter rather than wallow in the darkness of self pity and cling to old hurts and old pains as if they were your best and finest companions rather than the evil, grumpy, attitudinal joy stealers that they are.
Treat everybody and everything as if it were a little child looking to you for guidance
Seriously, when I was getting upset with the can opener and the computer and threatening to trash them and get new ones that worked (I actually did that with the can opener after it refused to cut through the lid and released the can on my foot for the umpteenth time), I was not thinking of them as having feelings so thought it was okay to speak poorly of them and to them, but on the one level that did not make sense. If they could not hear me then my complaining to them and asking them what their problem was did not make any sense. On another level my negative attitude toward them was spilling over onto the way I viewed people.
I would get upset with newscasters and politicians and customer service people who put me on hold for thirty minutes and then told me they could not help me and I would have to just live with the problem because I agreed to the contract. I tried to put myself in their position and imagined they had to deal with disgruntled people all day and just because I did not know them personally and could not see their face, did not mean it was okay to treat them as if they were not human.
It requires a bit of self sacrifice to not think of others as stupid or lazy or not doing their jobs or purposefully trying to make your job more difficult and there are times when you have to call someone out and remind them that they are putting an undue burden on you when they do not do what they should do. It's not okay to yell at machines or people. The former does not have the ability to change by your accosting it and the latter will respond better if they perceive you have their best interest in mind.
If someone on the television or radio frustrates you, turn them off. Again, it may require a certain sacrifice on your part, but in the end it will save a lot of upset. Sometimes you don't have a choice of having to work or live in frustrating circumstances, but if you can change your attitude and be honest with yourself and others you can at least get things under control and accomplish more with less frustration.
I struggled all through Lent trying not to complain or get upset with inanimate objects, but I got better at it and was not so upset and it felt good, but then life happened and I was back to thinking everyone and everything that did not do as i expected it to do was indeed stupid and not worth putting up with.
In the end I had to remind myself that all people have feelings, even if they don't show them or seem oblivious to subtle cues meant to correct them without confrontation. Kicking the car or slamming the hood down and cursing at it is not going to make it start up and work like magic. It may be frustrating when it happens, but though it may be a pain, taking steps to correct the problem or finding someone who can help you correct it gets you a lot further along than blowing your cool and looking and feeling like a fool in the end process.
It's not easy controlling the human tendency to blame others or think God and the Devil are teaming up to get us, but sometimes things happen because of things we do, like forgetting to pay a bill on time and having to pay a late fee and sometimes things happen for a good reason we can't see yet, but may be revealed to us later and make us feel grateful rather than hateful.
We are all works in progress and it may feel good to blow off steam and blame others for all our problems, but once the rant is over it is time to evaluate why we feel the way we do and take some steps to alleviate the things that stress us rather than bless us.
At some point this week I will return to the mailbox and try again to put it back together, including gluing on a new flag where the old one broke off. i will probably glue my fingers to it as well, the way my previous week has gone, but when it is all done and put together and placed in the ground, I have great expectations it will do the job it was designed to do, now the real problem is will i do the job that God designed me to do and not complain about having to do it! We shall see, but there is hope for us all if we have faith and remind ourselves how silly it is to let little irritants turn us into raging fools who are so caught up in what we want out of life that we fail to see what God wants out of us.
Let us focus more on what God desires of us and less on our own desires and have faith that he really does want us to prosper and not fail; living in peace, not disconnected from the greater good, even if it means a little sacrifice on our part.
God bless and help you overcome all of life's unpleasantness. Wuffle-snuff the good stuff like a hound on the trail of a universal mystery no human has yet to fathom and do so with enthusiasm and focus and the misery of every day trials will become less of a burden! Happy trails to you!!!