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.

Two Kingdoms

I believe that there are two kingdoms. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of his enemy.

I believe these kingdoms are at war on the earth today.

The Kingdom of God has already secured the ultimate victory, but his enemy is unwilling to lay down his arms and peacefully surrender. He wants to cause as much damage as he can before he is destroyed permanently.

The kingdom of his enemy does not require any oaths or commitments. Everyone is by default a citizen of this kingdom from birth.

The Kingdom of God requires one to commit their life to the service of the King and renounce their citizenship to the kingdom of the enemy. It requires one to lay down his or her plans, desires and purposes and instead work only at the command of the King.

It does not require effort to advance the kingdom of God’s enemy, because disunity and confusion advance his purposes. Everyone may set their own agenda: money, power, comfort, religiosity, sex; these are all common individual purposes in the kingdom of the enemy.

It is also the reason that the enemy’s kingdom will not stand. It has no unified purpose other than to consume all that it comes in contact with. It is at war with itself all the time.

As as the Kingdom of God unifies behind the King - not behind a particular denomination or doctrine - he leads us in a great campaign of sabotage against the enemy.  He sent his son to lead our campaign: “the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8)

Our purpose is two fold: to press back the advancing lines of the kingdom of the enemy from his attempts to rule over the people of this earth, and to rebuild what his army has destroyed. He uses a slash and burn campaign, destroying anything he cannot have.

We share the secret that anyone in the kingdom of the enemy is free to defect. The miserable existence they lead now under the oppression and infighting of the enemy can be left behind.  The Kingdom of God is exclusive in so far as it is only for those who will stand with the King.

I serve at and for the pleasure of the King. And by my life or my death, I will advance his kingdom on this battleground called earth.

I don’t do this in my own strength, but in his. For unlike the kingdom of the enemy, who only takes from his denizens, our great King actually puts his life into us. He doesn’t make us hired soldiers. He makes us sons and daughters. He adopts us.

I stand with the King.

The Way of the Cross

When God came to strip away my sin, I was glad. Sin only ended up making me miserable, and in the end, I was a slave to it. He freed me. When God came to strip away my selfishness, I reluctantly agreed. I knew it wasn’t a good thing. Focusing on other people is what I’m supposed to do. But this wasn’t fun. It wasn’t as enjoyable as being freed from sin.

When God came to strip away the plans I had made for my own future, I wanted nothing to do with it. I had cobbled together my own hopes and dreams. I had looked at all my possible paths and decided on the ones that would be most fulfilling to me.

God was no longer taking bad things away from me, but good things. Things I wanted, not things I wanted to be rid of.

But this is the way of the cross. God is not a cosmic garbage can, where we only toss the things that we don’t want.

We have been called to surrender everything to him. So that he may remove from us whatever he deems necessary for reasons that may often remain his own (at least initially).

The way of the cross is the opposite of ‘what’s in it for me?’ Rather, it’s ‘what is asked of me?’

This is where I’m trying to incorporate ‘The Path Proverbs’

Proverbs 14:12 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

If I set out to navigate this life based on what I can see, it’s not going to end up where I want. Remember those puzzles in kids books where you have to trace a line as it twists and turns among other lines, almost like a pile of spaghetti? I think life is a lot like that. But this one is so complex and convoluted, only God actually knows which start point gets to which finish.

As I feel like God has been sending me in a different direction that what I would have chosen for myself, I am choosing to trust in him. I trust that if he has me on my current path, it is to keep me away from ending in disaster or disappointment.

I don’t think hopes and dreams and a vision are inherently bad things; I only think they are if they get placed above trusting the Lord and following his lead.

God is the potter I am the clay. How can I get upset about how he is molding me when I don’t know how he will use me? If I think I’m going to be a planter, a handle would be silly. But perhaps God knows I will be a pitcher, and he therefore knows I need a handle.

The way of the cross doesn’t stop at God removing the bad stuff from our life. It only begins there. The way of the cross comes in accepting that God’s will for our life is going to encompass all of who we are. Not just our ‘spiritual life’, but our whole life. Mind, body, spirit, soul, finances, time, focus, etc.

Jesus gives us this example in the garden of Gethsemane - “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39)

He was giving up his life then and there so that he could lay down his life in the hours to follow. It was an extraordinary life, lived in complete and total service to God. Jesus deserved accolades and adoration, not torture and murder. But God’s path led him through Golgotha.

But it didn’t end at Golgotha. It ended in eternal life. Not just for him; but also for you and me. It led to the defeat of sin and death.

From his human perspective, Jesus wanted nothing to do with the path God was leading him on. But in his obedience to God, he followed it and in the end God had led him on the path of life.

Jesus followed the way of the cross. The way of humility. The way of downward mobility.

He calls us to do the same.

The God of Daniel


After God saves Daniel in the lions den, the king of the Persians sent a message to all of his subjects throughout his expansive kingdom: “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:26a)

The king looked at the gods he subscribed to, made of wood and gold and silver, and he decided ‘Daniel’s God is better than the gods I worship’.

I know a lot of people who worship themselves, money, power, sex, etc. Shouldn’t they look at me and say ‘his God is better than mine’?

Whenever Daniel got an opportunity to shine in the kingdom of Babylon, he never hesitated to give God all the credit. When Nebuchadnezzar demanded that somebody tell him what dream he had and provide an interpretation, Daniel’s response was “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (Daniel 2:27-28)

He never left any doubt as to where his special abilities came from. And as a result, “The God of Daniel” was exalted and glorified.

Instead of trying to scare people with hell, shouldn’t we be astounding them when we tell them that what he does in our life, he’s willing to do in theirs?

So I ask myself: What do people think of the “God of TC”? Is he mean? Pompous? Insignificant? Or is he kind and life giving and a source of joy? The only way they’ll be able to tell is based on how I act and what I say.

Truly, we are ambassadors of our God (2 Corinthians 5:20). And everything that people know about our kingdom and its leader, they learn from us.

The God of Here and Now

There is no yesterday for God. There is no tomorrow. There is here and now.

God created time. It doesn’t limit him.

There’s a reason the Bible says ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). It’s because he can’t change from one minute to the next. He simply exists.

For God, each moment is infinite, yet he also exists across all of time in a moment. (2 Peter 3:8)

He is right now at the creation of the world. Right now at the end of this age. Right now at your birth. Right now he is pouring his wrath out on Jesus at the cross.

Now this is the point when the whole ‘how can I really have free will if God already knows what I’m going to do’ debate comes up.

Here’s where I stand on it: God is able to know what you’ll decide without interfering with your free will. He’s God. He can do things we can’t even fathom.

God is not surprised when we get sick. Or when we sin. Or when our car breaks down.

He’s the God who is here and now. As we make our way through life, we do well to remember that we are anchored to the one who is above and beyond everything we are dealing with.

There’s no tomorrow for him. There’s now.