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Don’t Ask, Tell

Life felt unbearable. So many bad things had happened to my wife and me in a mere six months that misery became the norm. Between illness, financial problems and career frustrations, we stopped expecting good things. It was no longer, “When is this going to end?” Now, it was, “The house is on fire? Makes sense. The dog got abducted by aliens? Yeah, that sounds about right.” Life became dark comedy. I opened the kitchen cupboard one night, and a can fell and hit me on the head. Hard. My shouts of angry pain soon turned to laughter. What else did I expect? I was surprised that more flying food products hadn’t whacked me in the skull. I anticipated breaking out in boils any moment. It was almost funny. Almost.

I began to question God at every turn. Actually, interrogate is more like it. “Why is this happening? I’ve given my life to You, why don’t You show up and help?” I’d plead for relief, and when it didn’t come, I’d ask God why. I asked God why we had to suffer so much when we put our trust in Him. Why wasn’t God giving us a blessing to balance all these curses? Why did I have to feel so rotten all the time? Why, why, why?

When I shared all this with a friend, he told me I was questioning God too much. I almost socked him. The last thing I needed was some rigid belief system that treated doubt and frustration as sin. I told him what he could do with his “don’t question God” nonsense.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t question God. It’s just that you don’t really have any questions. You’re mad at Him, that’s all. Stop asking questions that you know won’t get answered, and tell Him you’re angry.”

My friend was right. My questions were rhetorical, passive-aggressive. Come to think of it, I didn’t even want answers. I was questioning God because I was mad.

I took my friend’s advice and told God how I felt. I told Him that I was angry for letting so many bad things happen. I yelled at Him. At least, it started out as yelling. Soon, it turned to laughter. At first, I didn’t know why and thought I might have lost my mind. Then I realized what it was. I felt close to God again for the first time in months. My anger had been keeping me from Him. After I told God how I felt, things didn’t get easier, but it felt like God was with us again. Not that He ever left; I put the distance there by keeping my feelings from Him.

We sometimes think that God only wants to hear nice, adoring things from us. Our prayers are often limited to praise, repentance and requests. But how often do we tell God how we really feel? How often do we tell God that we’re scared, and it doesn’t feel like He’s calling the shots? The absurd thing is that we act like God doesn’t know. If God knows the number of hairs on our head, He certainly knows how we feel. When we come before Him and offer nothing but praise when we’re angry or frightened, we’re lying. Don’t get me wrong; praise is often most important during our darkest times, but we can’t lie about how we feel.

Plenty of biblical figures had no problem sharing everything with God. The Psalmist said, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). Job did plenty of complaining, ignoring the three friends telling him to stop. Jesus cried out from the cross, asking why God had abandoned Him. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Jonah, David and Peter all expressed doubt, discouragement or frustration with God. Augustine and Martin Luther joined them a few centuries later. Letting God know how you feel isn’t a postmodern fad; it’s been happening since the beginning of Christianity.

Most of us live out our faith on an intellectual plane. We base our relationship with God on what we believe, on what we have learned from Scripture and the theology we construct. That’s an indispensable part of being a Christian. However, our feelings sometimes get lost in the process. A relationship with God is both intellectual and emotional. How do you feel about God? How does God feel about you? I’m not talking about what you know from the Bible; I’m talking about what you feel in your heart. Some people believe with all their minds that God loves them, but feel with all their hearts that God hates them. We need to bring our ugliest feelings before God, the same way we do adoration.

I was asking God questions when I should have been telling Him how I felt. I was trying to get an intellectual handle on things. That was stupid and arrogant. We can’t figure out God, but we can tell Him how we feel. We can stop hiding behind our questions and reveal even the worst feelings we have. Being honest before God releases the feelings to Him. If you were angry with one of your friends and didn’t tell him, it would hurt the relationship. This would be especially true if he knew anyway! When we hide our emotions, it distances us from God. When we share everything, it brings us closer. And He can handle it. I doubt God freaks out when we’re angry with Him. He loves us just the same.

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I think that’s why I started laughing. I wasn’t going crazy, and what I said to God wasn’t funny. I stopped hiding my feelings from Him, and it brought me back into His presence. His love surrounded me, and that felt good enough to laugh.

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