Admit it – you’ve been angry with God in the past, haven’t you? Maybe you’re even angry with Him right now?
It’s OK to admit it; we’ve all been there (including me), whether you’re a believer or unbeliever. And when it comes to Christians, I believe anger towards God is a rite of passage that most every Christ follower goes through at some point or another.
Some of the hostility that both Christians and non-Christians feel has to do with the personal sting experienced from evil in the world. Other aggressions may arise because of painful disappointments in life and prayers that appear ignored.
But what’s underneath the covers?
The Great Existential Mismatch
Most every time someone explains to me the resentment they feel towards God, the foundation of it boils down to this line of reasoning:
A bad thing – X – has happened to me, someone else or the world at large.
God says He’s all-powerful, in control, and loves me/the world
That being the case, X shouldn’t have happened.
What ensues is that we experience an existential mismatch in our mind and heart between something terrible that’s happening, our knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture, and (here’s the key part!), what we believe He should be doing about it, which always equates to making X immediately go away.
Sound about right?
This naturally concludes in irritated confusion at first and then leads to red-hot anger. When I look back at the times in my own life when I was angry with God, this mismatch between my experience and my theology was always the instigator.
So, what’s the remedy to this felt disparity? Let me explain what’s worked for me.
Getting over anger against God
Step one for me is asking whether the situation I’m upset about is something outside my control or if I’m the actual problem. There’s an interesting verse in Proverbs that says, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3).
The Bible and life itself prove that God has hardwired the consequences for sin into life for a purpose – to protect us from harm and trouble just as any loving parent would do. So, I first ask whether my anger at God is a mess I’ve made, and if so, use that realization to get myself back on the right track.
If it’s not me, then I work to remind myself that the Bible shows there to be no existential mismatch between God and bad things that happen. Instead, it says the two are in actual harmony.
A.W. Tozer gives us a good dose of biblical reality about this in his essay entitled “The Ministry of the Night”, which begins: “If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure.”
No doubt about it – that’s a contrarian truth, which is tough to swallow. But even just a cursory examination of Scripture shows it to be correct.
Tozer’s statement also makes an eye-opening implication, which is the God who honors His own with trials is the same one who brings them. While this makes sense, it’s still hard to accept, even with compelling biblical evidence.
Isaiah 45:6-7 says: “There is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Amos says the same: “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6).
Almost all Christians know the story of Job and how it describes the ways in which Satan persecuted him. But very few comprehend what is perhaps the most often quoted verse in the book: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (v. 21). Notice it doesn’t say, “The Lord gave and Satan has taken away”.
This is very similar to an important verse near the end of the book that reads, “The Lord also restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased double all that Job had. Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they sympathized with him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him” (Job 42:10-11, emphasis mine).
The point is there is no disparity in the Bible where God and afflictions are concerned. But can it be a mystery? Might you experience times where you won’t have an answer about a trial in this life? Definitely.
This leads to a final truth and practice that helps eliminate any anger I may experience towards God.
Help from a prophet with a funny name
Thankfully, Scripture shows that God doesn’t get upset with us when we temporarily get mad at Him. The book of Habakkuk is a great example of this. I like how The Message paraphrases Habakkuk’s rant at God in the book’s opening, which easily could have been written about our current times:
“God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head” (Hab. 1:1-5).
Habakkuk’s royally peeved at God and wants answers. And God graciously gives Habakkuk an understanding of why He’s allowed an evil nation to oppress God’s people. God also gives Habakkuk the hope he desperately needs to know everything will turn out OK in the end, with God’s purposes being accomplished.
In the end, when horrible things happen and I just can’t put the puzzle pieces together, I remember that God asks us to have faith and trust Him. I don’t think anyone has articulated this fact better than Thomas Aquinas when he wrote:
“He who would become educated should begin by trusting his teacher. He will never master his science unless he presumes in the beginning that the doctrine being presented is true even if, for the moment, he cannot tell why.”
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.