It’s the sorrow we taste in the morning and the abandonment we feel in our sleepless nights. These are the manifestos of our anger at God. It is a narrative that seems to repeat without our consent.
If anyone asks, we can explain. When we first felt our anger burn against God, we tried to douse the flames with spiritual disciplines and servitude before anyone could smell the smoke. We looked over our shoulders in case a park ranger came to scold us about our unlawful campfire inside the protected forests of their church. But the embers wouldn’t die, and now we are too tired to hide.
So we tell others about our anger when they ask us about the ashes floating in our words and attempts at worship. We are kindled against God because of the suffering and loss we live through. He let us down when we needed Him the most. He fell silent when we needed Him to speak peace into our midst. Death is still ravaging our breathing. Our hearts are ready to throw a punch at God if He would ever come close again.
We begin to tell our angry story before anyone asks. We are worn out by believers rehearsing a tired C.S. Lewis quote about pain and God raising His voice. Let the forest burn. People we love die, and God lets it happen. We lost it all, and God hoards an abundance of hope. It’s not a tantrum or a lack of faith. It’s hurt and doubts scorching the Earth beneath a believer’s feet. There is so much breaking in and around us, but He is nowhere in sight. Our pain doesn’t seem to affect His plans. Now, this has become our story: being angry at a God who failed us and is now hiding from our anguish and questions.
Our anger at God announces how what we say we believe isn’t always what comes out of our hearts when suffering is an intruding houseguest overstaying its welcome. We break our fingers trying to cling to our theology, but the pain has shrunk us into a cabal of questions about good evil, and justice. God feels out of touch with the world we are forced to live inside. We hazard our guesses over what He knows about people being gunned down, cancer being an unstoppable consumer of flesh or having the most powerful being in the cosmos turn His back on our cries for relief and healing. Somewhere we misplaced ideas of a God who loves us more than our wounds can bleed.
But where is Jesus in our anger at God? We haven’t been saying much about Him lately; we have only been yelling at God. Are we angry at Jesus or just “God”? Do we have it in us to rage at Jesus Christ?
What if God could put into words all He knows about pain? What if He knows it better than we do? Would we listen? Could God experience more suffering than we can imagine? What if those He most desires regularly abandon Him? Does He know what it feels like to be misunderstood and cheated on by His bride? To feel the echoing void created when torture and death are not stopped? What if He experiences all of this pain, but doesn’t throw it in our faces to make believers feel reprehensible? What if He truly empathizes with our suffering because He bears the marks of both human agony and of being an abandoned God? If any of this is true, we have been burning against a God who allowed Himself to be murdered for our freedom. And yet, even though we feel alone, He understands our anger and stays close to us.
Can this suffering God still profess to be our warrior and king? Has He stopped fighting for us because of our protests over an obstructed view of the battlefield? Does this king demand taxes and fill the gallows with His people who are unhappy with how he chooses to rule his kingdom? No. He fights tirelessly and remains kind. He keeps pushing back the darkness until all things are made new and death is banished from all of his kingdom. He even comforts His people until He dries every tear.
Should we be angry at God? All this considered, probably not. But our anger never stops His love. We need to soulfully grieve what is lost because we meet ourselves there in the most profound ways. Even more, God meets us there. And when we grieve without fear of judgment and demands for immediate satisfaction, we find God has been holding us close while we pound our fists into His chest.
Only through the journey of grief will the flames of our anger be put out. It won’t happen by fixing our behavior or by making sure that we use all the right theological arguments to explain ourselves. Grief is a holy process that God uses to transform despair into trust. And processed grief grows hope and eventually peace. We can feel both lament and worship in the midst of our sorrow and loss. Can we make room for Jesus in our anger at God?