November 7, 2017
Is it ever appropriate to be angry at God? Is it? I have certainly been around enough people over the years who were furious with God. Tragedies in our lives can produce hostile feelings toward the One we blame… the One who could have prevented calamity if He chose to. Oh yes, I have known many who have caused their hearts to be hardened toward the King of the Universe.
It’s interesting to note that some of those who express anger toward God have few thoughts about Him one way or the other when all is well. They have no expressed faith outside of a flippant, “Sure, I believe in God.” And they have little if any connection to Christian fellowship whether it be church or some other form of faith acknowledgement outside of Easter and Christmas. And yet they vigorously express their wrath toward a God that they otherwise don’t acknowledge. Honestly I don’t understand that.
Believers on the other hand, those who sincerely and actively seek after a Holy God… their anger is a little more complex. Please understand that what I am about to say here is said without a current crisis in my life, and is articulated under the guise of reason. I realize that anger is an emotion and not always subject to the same guidelines.
The scripture seems to speak to two types of anger: sinful anger and righteous anger.
Sinful anger is referenced numerous times in The Bible. A few examples:
Psalm 37: 8Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
Matthew 5: 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.
Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
And then there is righteous anger:
Exodus 32:19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.
John 2:13–22 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Ephesians 4:26b “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
And then of course there is the anger/wrath of God:
Judges 2:14 In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.
Romans 1:18–32 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
One author suggests that we not hold onto our righteous anger too long lest we give Satan a foothold and our “Godly fury” morphs into sinful anger.
The question remains… is it ever appropriate for Believers to be angry with God. If it’s true that there are only two types of anger, sinful and righteous, then by definition there is never a time when anger toward God is justified. If our anger is sinful then of course it isn’t appropriate. And if our anger is righteous then by definition it is in line with the things of God and cannot be directed against God.
Take for example an adolescent who has returned home past his curfew for 3 nights in a row. (Yeah I know, “curfew;” who even knows what that is anymore?!) On the fourth night his parents discipline him by refusing permission to attend an event. Like all adolescents he expresses anger. Does he have cause to be angry with his mother and father? Is it “appropriate” for him to be angry with them? I suspect most of us would say “No, he has no right to be angry with them.” And yet he is… why? Two reasons I suspect. First because he is only concerned with himself and his self-centered desires. And second he is unable/unwilling to see the big picture and the fact that his parents actually care about him. Need I explain that our anger toward God finds its roots in these same two rationales?
I suspect there may be one additional reason we find ourselves angry with “god.” Too many of us worship the god of our own invention. The god whose sole purpose is to make us happy and never allow us pain. When that god is found sleeping on the job and we don’t get what we want… we turn to anger.
I wonder if our willingness/inclination to express anger toward God has any connection with the culture we have been raised in. You may have seen in the news recently the young American woman in Africa (I forget the country) who may be sentenced to 20 years in prison because she said the leader of the country was a “sick man.” Since we have freedoms to say almost anything about our leaders her predicament is FAR from understandable! Or the recent law passed in China that disrespecting the National Anthem can lead to 20 years in prison! (There are not NFL teams in China.) Clearly we have no idea what these things are about in the U.S. Is it possible that we would be hesitant to express our anger toward the King of the Universe if we lived in some of the places just mentioned. I don’t know.
In the end we do one of the following:
- We find ourselves in sin because we express unjustified anger toward the King of the Universe.
- We express anger toward a God that we don’t choose to worship anyway.
- We express anger toward a god that we invent. (So invent another god then!)
- We recognize that God is God and we are not. And that God’s ways are not our ways.
Until we understand that the God of Christianity is beyond our full comprehension… we will not be comfortable in our faith (to the degree that we can ever be comfortable in our faith).