Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is it wrong to get angry with God?

fist2 Each morning for the past couple of months, I have been reading, as part of my daily devotions, a chapter or two from Mike Mason’s excellent devotional commentary The Gospel According to Job.  I found yesterday’s reading particularly thought provoking, especially in light of the many reports we receive each day of persecution here at The Voice of the Martyrs.  Sometimes we read a story that brings us to tears, as Floyd mentioned in his blog yesterday.  Occasionally, anger rises up.  Is it wrong to be angry with God, as well as the persecutor? Read this over and let me know what you think.

The Primal Scream

"Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
so that you vent your rage against God?"

"Dialogue" is a very polite term for what happens in Job. Really it is an argument, and a hot one at that. Not only does Job argue with his friends, but he also argues with God. As for the friends, they too are engaged in a heated dispute with God, but like many people they do not care to admit this, and so their anger is directed instead against Job. A man like Eliphaz thinks that if he gets mad at God, God in turn will get mad at him and condemn him. So Eliphaz suppresses his anger and lives in continual, subconscious fear of divine wrath. He is like a hermit who prides himself on having no interpersonal hassles to upset his tranquil and ordered lifestyle. But anyone who lives in a family, in close fellowship with others, lives with tensions, complaints, disputes. Different families cope with these stresses in different ways - some quietly and some noisily, some effectively and some pathologically - but no family survives for long without some form of argument, and the family of God is no exception.

Is not the whole human race engaged in one long argument with God that is called "history"? The difference between believers and unbelievers is that while the former argue on speaking terms with the Lord, the latter do so by turning their backs and giving Him the silent treatment. Those who choose to live outside the family circle end up with no proper forum for expressing their hurts and resentments against their Heavenly Father. But those who gather around the Father's table know that such problems must be regularly aired, for if they are not, they will poison intimacy.

In our culture anger is generally frowned upon as being disruptive. But there are different ways of being disruptive. A chronically loud, critical person is certainly disruptive. But a polite, well-behaved person may also be disruptive, and in a church such a person may be using their friendly and unassuming ways to obstruct the purposes of God. A cult of niceness is as effective as heresy for destroying the spiritual life of a church. Anger, on the other hand, may be used by God to break up a spirit of complacency. Ezekiel, who when the Lord first called him to a prophetic reacted "in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit" (3:14). case the Lord used anger and bitterness to inflame Ezekiel's heart with passion for Him. If Ezekiel had insisted on remaining a mild-mannered priest (which he probably was by nature), he would have thwarted God's purposes.

Little wonder that the great believers of the Bible have also been great arguers with God - from Jacob, who actually came to blows with the angel of the Lord, to Peter who in Acts 10 answered a divine command three times with the words, "Surely not, Clearly, anger at God can be a sign of spiritual growth. It can mean we are outgrowing a concept of God that is no longer adequate for us. It could even be said that our anger is directed not at the living God Himself but at our own idolatrous concept of Him. While we ourselves may not understand this, nevertheless our anger functions to move us closer to God as He really is. Religious phonies will go to almost any lengths to hide the fact that their relationship with God is not real or satisfying. But people who truly love the Lord have a consuming hunger for reality. Freedom, truth, peace,joy: such things have a taste and a feel all their own, and we know them when we see them. If the people of God are deprived of these fruits of the Lord's real presence, naturally they grow angry and disconsolate. Is it their fault that they cannot live without God?

There are times when the Lord is actually honored and glorified by our anger at Him, in ways that He may not be by an attitude of unruffled "trust." Job provides a healthy balance to the traditional picture of the bloodless, gutless, cheerfully suffering saint. At the very least, anger means that we are taking God seriously and treating Him as a real person - real enough to arouse our passions. Angry prayer is not to be recommended as a steady diet, perhaps, but it is certainly preferable to lip-service prayer. Doesn't artificiality in relationships belie a far greater hostility than the honest expression of deep emotion? In the prim and proper prayer lives of many devout folk, a good old-fashioned temper tantrum might one of the best things that could happen. In the courts of Heaven there is a place for the primal scream.

(Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, Crossway Books, 1994: 175-176)


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