“I don’t know anyone who will read a book about being angry at God,” a family patriarch said.
This is a common response I receive when answering the terrifying question: “So what is your book about?” No one expects to hear a Christian admit to being angry with God, much less write a book about such an ostracizing plight.
There is an anger some of us reserve only for God. We have weighed and measured our lives, and now we find God wanting. Somewhere along this ragged journey, we move beyond our wrestling for faith and become angry about our fight and its circumstances. Encouragements about God’s presence in our sufferings no longer touch our souls’ ache. It hurts to breathe the sacramental air of worship gatherings and faithful songs. Our faith seems to go up in smoke with every furious shout we hurl toward the silent heavens.
If we are indeed “holy temples” of God, then our anger toward Him sets us ablaze. We are burning temples, walking wounded still in the fires of disillusionment. This is no quaint campfire that will be extinguished by small buckets filled with disconnected Bible verses, pithy platitudes, or a logical review in systematic theology. This fire has been seething far too long for such superficial attempts of rescue.
Friends try to share their encouraging experiences of God’s mercy in their suffering. It is nice to know I am not the only anguished soul, but I wondered why God keeps hiding. It feels like playing a glorified game of hide-and-seek with a God who refused to jump out of the Bible He conceals Himself inside. I was on the cusp of finishing seminary and becoming a pastor, but I could not stop bleeding from years of depression, abandonment, and abuse.
The pain hardens into bitterness at the God who tells me He allots my days and establishes the boundaries of my life. The questions pour from my heart like a flood from the sky. Why is God allowing my suffering? Where is the peace He promises? How can He justify Himself in the hurricane of emotional and physical torment death and decay bring? Where is His comfort when everyone seems to leave? These aren’t the sophomoric protest of a misguided college student after his first semester of philosophy and ethics. They are the groans and gasps heard from inside the messy relationships of families and communities ripped apart by fathers who abandon, hands used as weapons, and words that pierce deeper than sunlight knows how to travel.
By the time I collapsed into a counselor’s chair, I feared my suffering and anger would always be the companions who would harass and block my footsteps. Does anyone come back from so far out of the boundaries of belief? However I envisioned healing to come, it traveled a different path. For all of the recitals about my reasons for being angry, I found myself crying out for healing I had been fearfully rejecting.
With the help of a compassionate and skilled professional counselor, I began to move beyond listing my reasons for being angry. Instead I was submerged into the depth of a grieving process I struggled against for years. I slowly began to understand the shaping power that my story exerts in my present life. Deeper still, I experienced Jesus’ absence in all of my “living.” My anger at God, I learned, is my flawed attempt to understand and reconcile a crucified Savior alongside my experience of unending decay. I want justice to be tangible and accountable in the days I walk through. But somehow, somewhere along the way, I expected to find justice somewhere other than inside the wounds of a God Who exposes Himself to harm and shame for the sake of His beloved. In my anger, Jesus is pushed behind some version of God I can throw jabs at without touching His wounds. But as I start grieving the wounds and losses handed down to me, I am again given the gift of the Christ who knows what it means to be an abandoned son, a betrayed friend, and an ignored older brother. Just as He does when we approach the table of bread and wine in remembrance, this Christ carries us to God again and again. We have no choice but be healed, no matter how slow the process, when we find ourselves brought into the presence of a God Who painfully relates to us as a rebuffed father and a cuckold husband.
It will take the rest of my (eternal) life to even begin unpacking what it means for God to both allow Himself to suffer and to heal the suffering of the cosmos He created. What quenches my anger at God is not finding answers to all of my questions. And not all the answers I find are satisfying. There is not enough available logic to escape the mystery and paradox colliding with the pain and loneliness in this life. Even still, hope grows as I find a story larger and more tragically beautiful than my own. It is a tale that enfolds my suffering into the unfolding story of His own anguish being the instrument of reconciliation the world groans toward. I am arrested by how such a suffering God does not refuse me after the blistering contempt and judgment I throw at Him, like smearing salt in His wounds. Instead, what I find is an unclosable door and an unbreakable embrace. Even when my heart throws punches, I am held tighter against the chest of a steadfast Father.
My anger at this unflinching Father is my attempt to find some kind of justice for the pain in my life. Sorrow blinds me from seeing the depth of His experience of suffering. It’s not easy to let go of the need to find someone to blame. But somewhere there has to be the moment where God exchanging His rights and privileges for untold agony and rejection eclipses the preeminence my own experience. He doesn’t minimize or dismiss my suffering even though He experiences the ultimate depths of despair. Instead, His experience is for my healing, even when I burn against Him in anger and mistrust. I can believe in this astonishing God even when trust waivers. More incredibly, I have come to see, His love never ebbs away from me even when mine does. There is an end to my anger, but not to His mercy.
★ ★ ★
That’s the stuff that I stole from his website. Here’s what I have to say: Chad is a fellow cardigan wearer (for the win). He is both humble and humorous and he approaches his faith with complete honesty- he’s the kind of guy you all want to be around. Follow him on the Twitter: @ChadFreeman.