Friday, May 8, 2009


Is it Okay to Get Angry at God?
I was always taught that it is wrong to get angry at God. Such behavior was labeled arrogant, ungrateful and irreverent -- it was also considered dangerous since God can punish it with who-knows-what sort of retribution. So it was thought best to just be quiet and gratefully accept whatever the Almighty decides to dish out to you.
When you think about it, however, this is a pretty problematic view of God and of spirituality. The worst thing about it is that it keeps me from having a personal relationship with the Lord.

A Personal Relationship With God

If "spirituality" is a personal relationship with God, then I ought to be able to learn something (perhaps a lot) about my own spirituality by looking at the way I act in my relationships with other people, especially people I'm very close to. Do I tend to be I trusting? Open? Do I have a tendency to try to control others? What does it take for me to leave myself vulnerable to another person? The answers to questions like these can give me a good idea of how to think of my relationship with God.

Hanging out together
One of the best ways of fostering intimacy, the psychologists tell us, is simply spending time together. This certainly seems to apply to my relationship with God: simply "hanging out" with God in quiet times of prayer or by talking to the Lord whenever and wherever I feel like it is an important dimension of my spiritual life.

Saying it out loud

We often hear people say that it's important to them that the other person tell them out loud "I love you." Because we are bodily creatures, physical signs of saying and hearing and touching are naturally important. That's also why prayer takes on its various forms such as raising our voices in vocal prayer, praying in community, or silently telling God our troubles or asking for help. It doesn't do to say, "Well, why bother saying these things? God already knows that I'm scared" or "God already knows what I need, or "Jesus already knows that I love him." I am a human being and in my relationships, if they are genuine, I need to say things out loud and let the other know my feelings.

But What About Getting Angry?

Some of us were taught that the most important thing in relating with others is to "be nice." This implies hiding your real feelings, allowing other people to do what they want even if it is hurtful to you. At all costs we must "make nice."

Maybe this is part of what's behind the prohibition against getting angry with God -- because it's "not nice" to get angry with anybody!

It might be wise to remember that anger, like any other emotion, is neither right nor wrong, it simply IS. The issue of right or wrong comes up only when I decide to do something in reaction to the emotion. There is nothing wrong with the sudden urge to whack this sophomore with my Religion textbook; following through on the urge, however, has a moral dimension - the action may be good or bad, but the emotion is neither.

So this brings us to the experience of being angry with God. It seems to me that any human relationship is going to involve at some point getting impatient, fed up or even angry because of something the other person has done. It's a normal and healthy response. Am I to believe that in the most important relationship in my life, my relationship with the Lord, I am not allowed to be real? I am not allowed to tell my beloved Savior what I'm really feeling?

Spirituality: Do You Want "Nice" or Do You Want "Real?"

When I show up for prayer, I need to be my real self, the one who Jesus died to save, not some un-real self who Jesus never even heard of. If it's true that, as the rabbi put it, "God is not nice," then why should I have to be "nice" when God's doing the "earthquake" routine? If I feel angry at God, I better be real about it and tell the Lord what I'm feeling, confident that God is wise and loving enough to put up with my emotional outburst. When I've done this myself I've always found that my relationship with God has grown stronger, and has become more real and honest afterward.

A spirituality for troubled times will have to include a relationship with the Almighty which is honest, sincere and real.

1 comment:

  1. Of course it's okay to express anger, or hurt, or disappointment in our conversations with God. To do otherwise is to foster resentment and choke on our own feelings, which never resolves anything and only leads to deeper feelings of bitterness. Any loving relationship (with a spouse, a parent, a child or a good friend) should be open to those "sore subjects" that simply have to be addressed and settled in some way. Of course, since those relationships are between imperfect mortals, I should be tactful and open to the feelings and point of view of the other party and not simply hurl invective and accusations. Since God is perfect love, I think I can be freer with expressing my feelings; after all, he's heard it all before, he's got big shoulders and he can take it. At the same time, I can't presume on his benevolence and mouth off like an unruly child, or assume that I know better than he does what the problem is or how it should be resolved. Like Job, I have to accept that God understands all this better than I do and that I'm approaching him for help and guidance. I won't get anywhere by telling him to "shape up or else I'll find another God who can do the job right."