Yesterday I wrote about the importance of wrestling with God and being transparent before Him. I especially focused on the issue of expressing anger to God. Christian psychology may have popularized this idea; I really don’t know. Expressing anger can be very therapeutic and lead to changes that make life better for everyone. However, anger that turns into physical, verbal, or emotional abuse is not acceptable. Just as God doesn’t expect us to be doormats, God doesn’t tolerate us making Him our scapegoat for every problem or hurt we experience in life.
Our Christian subculture has really strange views of God. Most view Yahweh as some kind of “buddy,” a regular Joe that can fill in as your personal therapist when needed. That’s not all bad, but it misses the depth of relationship that scripture portrays. I love Annie Dillard’s dry humor, raw honesty, and witty insights. Dillard has no qualms with expressing her frustrations to God, but in Holy the Firm we see balance. Dillard speaks about another relational issue in the Church that shares a similar misunderstanding:
The higher Christian churches—where, if anywhere, I belong—come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as though they knew what they were doing, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God. I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten the danger. If God were to blast such services to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom (Dillard 59).
Indeed, there is much wisdom in recognizing Who we worship and serve. Huge theological problems exist when we view God as merely a “BFF” or we come before God in confident self-righteousness. God encompasses so much more than a friend. Yahweh created a limitless universe (maybe even multi-verses depending on which scientist we ask) out of nothing. God is omnipotent and omniscient, capable of anything. I don’t think we should be superstitious or have some kind of religious tribal fear, but a little couldn’t hurt either… We should reverence God and give Him the respect He deserves for His individual and unique role over all humanity, natural and spiritual creation. God is love, but God also exhibits other emotions and personality traits.
I again stress that I don’t see a problem sharing concerns and feelings of anger with God. But we must remember who we are talking to. If I call God a lousy sadist, then I need to repent of that blasphemous thought. If I say, “God, I know that you care for me. But right now I’m so angry with You because _____ happened. I don’t understand. Please help me to be reconciled to Your will and use this situation to glorify You, to make me more conformed to the image of Christ, and to benefit your children.” I doubt we would be that nice, but this prayer reveals a difference in attitude. The latter shows respect and honesty, both equally important. So, as Paul says to the Ephesians, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV). We should use our anger for good, but not linger on the things that frustrate, hurt, or upset us. Anger eventually leads to bitterness, and the Bible definitely does not condone that emotion. Be genuine, but remember to show God reverence.
Dillard, Annie. (1977). Holy the Firm.
HarperCollins. New York