Anne Lamott

What To Do When You're Angry At God

resentfulOne of the things that I love about Jesus is that he's a realist. Case in point: one of Jesus' disciples records him saying "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." (John 16:33)

He doesn't mince words by saying 'you may have trouble' or 'bad things could happen'. He gives us a guarantee. It's certainly not one of the promises we talk about claiming when we're in church.

But Jesus knew that sometimes life will suck.

Illness can strike, a loved one can die, we can lose a job or a house or our transportation.

So the question is not 'will something bad happen', or even 'what/when/how bad things will happen', for we cannot control those things, but rather 'how will we respond when bad things happen'?

The most important thing we can do in these situations is to respond by being honest with God.

When I am dealing with difficult emotions or frustration with God, I look to the Psalms.

The author of Psalm 44 writes "Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever."

David opens Psalm 55 with "Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles."

In Psalm 3, David prays "Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!"

Imagine if I got up on stage at my church, asked everyone to bow their heads for prayer and then started saying any of those things. People would be shocked. Offended.

Yet nothing we say comes as a surprise to God. When we are honest with God about how we feel, it is something he already knows.

David was called a man after God's own heart despite his failings because he invited God into his emotions.

We read the prayer to destroy his enemies and it makes us uncomfortable, because the violent texts do not fit well with our concepts of the loving Father.

Yet in this case, we don't have to assume that God endorses David's prayer. He's simply allowing David to express his rage in the situation he faces. David trusts God with his real feelings, knowing that God loves him in the midst of his despair and fear and anger.

Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow says that “you might shout at the top of your lungs or whisper into your sleeve, "I hate you, God." That is a prayer...because it is real, it is truth, and maybe it is the first sincere thought you've had in months.”

When I realized that God isn't afraid of or upset by my anger or hurt or fear, but that instead he wanted to be invited into those places within me to bring healing, I began to open up more with my emotions to God.

I began to start my prays with 'God, I feel ________ today'.

Sometimes it was optimistic. Sometimes it was frustrated. Sometimes it was scared.

The next line was to welcome God into those emotions. Until I could be honest with God about those emotions, I couldn't be honest with myself about how I was feeling.

Telling God how you feel doesn't guarantee that he will 'fix' the situation immediately. But it does create space for him to provide healing and comfort that hits our soul like air in our lungs after being underwater for too long.

As William Nicholson wrote in Shadowlands, "[prayer] does not change God - it changes me"

When you are angry at God, follow the example he provides to us in the Psalms:

  1. Share those feelings with God.
  2. Invite God to meet you in those feelings.
  3. Allow God to work in you even while you are in the midst of your situation. It's not about what's happening to you, it's about what's happening in you.

God's not looking for men and women who can put on the nicest face on a Sunday at church. He's looking for the ones courageous enough to take off the mask and be themselves, trusting that God's love is bigger than our hurts and our concerns for appearance.

Whispers in the Deep

lava_tube_cave_lava_beds_national_monument-normalI love how Anne Lamott describes God in Help, Thanks, Wow: Way beyond us and deep inside us. God is a being far beyond our comprehension. I mean, seriously, how am I supposed to understand a being for whom time and place are not limitations? Whose existence fills both without effort? The God who describes the whole of planet earth as a footstool (Isaiah 61)?

Yet this same God says the place he most wants to dwell is not within grand structures of stone, marble and gold. He says he wants to live within us. Humanity. His creation. (1 Corinthinans 6:19-20)

But instead of some process where God ends up destroying us by his overriding presence, he desires to live alongside us. To be a wellspring of life that does not diminish us, but rather increases us. To give us fuller life - a life “more abundant” is how Jesus describes it. (John 10:10)

I love that God is willing to be a ‘whisper’ within me. So that I have to seek it out. To quiet myself to hear it.

God, who could make it impossible for me to ignore him, makes it easy and effortless to disregard him.  The most valuable things in life are available in an unlimited supply (love, hope, faith, joy, etc), but they are not gained without pursuit.

I love that God is the same. His presence is in infinite abundance, but it is in no way common. Taking it for granted will ensure that we are never able to find it.