Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can I Be Angry With God?

Mad as Hell; And Still a Christian

I recently had a friend send me a message seeking some advice and words on a myriad of subjects.  They were all tied to the fact that she recently experienced a great loss. They were all interrelated. And, they were all very heart-wrenching to read and difficult to answer.  There is one question, however, that is quietly universal. And, I coin it as such because it is a question that almost all of us have asked at some point in our lives. But it relates to an action that very few of us are willing to admit to having.  She simply asked "Does God understand my anger?".  What she wanted to know was if God knew that she was angry with God and if God understood why she was angry.

What a powerful question. What a hard place to exist. What an awe filled moment; that time when you come face to face with the fact that you are mad as hell with the God that you love.  And, because I know that others have been there, I thought I would devote some time to this question.

For those of you who know the story, I want you to think back to Mary and Martha when their brother died.  (For those of you who do not know the story, here is a link:  I want you to focus on what Mary and Martha say to Jesus when he finally shows up. I want you to look at what Jesus asks them to do in response to their comments about "if you had been here". And, I want you to think about how you would have felt if you were them.  For this moment only, forget that Lazarus is a part of the story other than the fact that he is the source of their pain and grief.

OK! Now, let's deal with the quiet question as to whether God understands our anger.  The short answer is "YES!".  At this point, many of you can navigate away from this page and move on with your lives.  For those of you who elect to stay, there is more.  

Let's start by understanding that Mary and Martha were both angry with Jesus. They are not calm people who come out and say in a nice manner, "if you had been here, he would be alive.  But, it's alright. We understand".  They were upset that he did not come in time. They were upset that he was not doing anything and still did not come. They were upset that he was supposed to be their friend and still he did not do anything. They had did all that they could to help Jesus and his ministry. They were friends of Jesus. They were believers. And, despite all of this, when they needed him the most he did not show up in time.  They were hurt. They were sad. They were disappointed. They were human. They were angry.  They still believed in the Resurrection. (Just look at what the one sister says about believing that her brother will rise again at the second coming.) But they were angry and HURT. This is a normal response to unfortunate things that occur outside of our ability to reason with or explain away those things; innocent people who are hurt or killed by senseless violence, hurricanes that kill thousands, and children being taken from us for "no reason at all".  

It is normal to be angry.  It does not make you evil or different. You get to have that moment or moments.  You get to be angry and hurt. And there is not a time limit on that. And at this time, you get to go to your God and talk to that God.  Mary and Martha say "if you had been here", and they are hurt and angry. But look at what Jesus asks them to do.  He doesn't say "you better not be mad at me, I am all powerful".  He says to them, "Take me to the place where you laid him". He is asking them to take him "to the place where you are hurting". Take me to the place where you gave up and thought all was lost. Take me to the moment you gave up on me and thought all was lost.  God wants you to take him to your tomb and to be honest with him about where it is.  Take him to your place of hurt and be honest with him about it. Tell him what hurts you and stop trying to mask it under the cover of "I am a good christian. And, good Christians don't get angry with God". Be honest with God about where you are and where your hurt is. The brother cannot be raised, if the sisters are not honest about where the brother lies.  You cannot be healed as long as you lie about where your hurt is, or if there is even a need to be healed.  Stop allowing people to convince you that you don't have a right to be whatever you are in terms of dealing with your burden or pain.  

Now, when you get there, you need to be prepared to work a little.  Have a strong community around you. You will need help with some of this work. Don't be afraid to seek professional help, the guidance of your elders,  or the loving embraces of your friends and family.  There will be a lot of stones to roll away.  And, for starters, you will need to roll the stone of pretense away. Be prepared for the hurt that will come while trying to work through this process. And be assured that whereas this process will not bring loved ones back (as was the case with Lazarus), your savior can and will raise your life again. But first you have to be honest and OK with the fact that this is not fair.  Be honest that this was not what you wanted. Be brave enough to say that this was not GOOD for your life. And, even though you know it will work for the good, right now it stinks.

So, be mad with God. But, continue to seek God. Be hurt, because that is normal for humans and Christians alike. Be honest with yourself and others. Be prepared to work. Be prepared to receive your resurrection. And, above all, be blessed in the God of all things.

I love you,