Friday, January 11, 2013

Why People Get Angry with God...and What We Should Do About It

People who believe in God sometimes get angry with God.

Exhibit A for this truth is a man whose story is told in the Old Testament portion of the Bible, Job. Job was a man whose faith even God bragged about. But when God allows a series of tragedies to happen to Job, Job gets mad at God.

Even in his anger with God though (and despite the stupid words of condemnation of Job gets from "friends," who think they're defending God), Job never stops believing in God.

If you believe in God or want to believe in God and you feel anger toward God, it's silly to not express that emotion to God.

That's because God knows what you're feeling and thinking already. Psalm 139:2-4 says: "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways." God knows about your anger.

But why do we get mad at God?

Recently, my wife and I read How to Get Along with Almost Anyone by counseling therapist and college professor H. Norman Wright. He showed that one of the biggest reasons we human beings get angry at other human beings can be summed up in two words: Disappointed expectations.

It's true.

An employee expects a Christmas bonus never promised and it doesn't materialize.

A wife expects her husband's enthusiasm for her newest promotion at work even though they had never decided together that this would be a great move for their family.

Charlie Brown expects candy when he goes begging on Halloween night...and all he gets is a rock.

Sometimes our anger with others is warranted. But not if the person with whom we're angry doesn't share our expectations. When the other person hasn't promised what we expect of them, we've got no right to be mad at them!

So, what does this have to do with anger with God?

Just this: Sometimes our anger with God is based on the wrong expectations of a relationship with God. We misunderstand what benefits accrue to those who believe in God. That's why Job said accusingly to God, " destroy the hope of mortals. You prevail forever against them, and they pass away; you change their countenance, and send them away..." (Job 14:19-20).

Job seems to think that life is a kind meritocracy, that if a person worships and is faithful to God, works hard and plays by the rules, he or she will merit a smooth life.

But God never promises smooth lives to those who trust in Him.

When God came to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, He said, "[God] makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).

Faith in God doesn't give the faithful exemptions from the bad things that happen in this imperfect world.

The person who trusts in the God revealed to the whole world in Jesus Christ can expect that God will give them the forgiveness of their sins, the power of the Holy Spirit in making decisions in their lives, the certainty of a life untouched by tragedy after we, like Jesus, experience death and resurrection, and the unshakeable presence of God with us until this world no longer exists.

But faith in God isn't a rabbit's foot that makes the hard and inexplicable stuff of life go away.

Jesus warned His followers that they would even be persecuted for believing in Him. "In the world you will face persecution," He says, "But take courage; I have conquered the world!" (John 16:33).

We can expect an eternity of blessings from God. Those blessings begin in this world.

But sometimes we get angry with God because we have unfair expectations; we expect God to fulfill promises God has never made.

I hope that the reasons I have written this piece are obvious.

But, let's be clear: There are two reasons I have not had in writing this post.

1. I haven't written this post to impose guilt on people who may be feeling angry with God or to tell them to, "Snap out of it!" That's definitely not my goal.

I do ask you to take some time looking at the sources of your anger with God.

Then, spend some time getting to know God better.

The normative word from God and about God is the Bible. That's a great place to go to understand a bit better what the Creator of the universe and you can expect of one another when you follow Him. (For five tips on reading the Bible, go here.)

2. I haven't written this post for readers to send this link to friends whose griefs and anger with God are fresh as if to tell them, "Get over it!"

If you have a friend who's angry with God right now, the best thing for you to do is the opposite of what Job's friends did:
  • Listen to them. 
  • Let them articulate their feelings. 
  • Don't try to explain things you can't explain. 
  • Pray for your friend and pray for the moment when the freshness of their anger will have subsided enough that they'll be ready to talk things out with a friend--maybe you.

Remember, no one gets angry with a God in Whom they don't at least want to believe. God isn't afraid of believers' anger toward Him. You shouldn't be either.

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