I once had a writing teacher who, when we’d complain of having writer’s block, insisted, “Write what you can’t get out of your mind.” I do plan to continue writing more in the Letters in Tragedy series (you can read the first two here and here), but what I cannot get out of my mind today is the idea of being angry and frustrated with God.
I have been deeply angry and frustrated with God. My guess is that at times you have felt the same.
Often in Christian communities there is a legalistic response to feelings of disappointment, anger and impatience with God. Who are you to be angry at God or frustrated with the ways in which He is working? You shouldn’t feel that way. It’s a legalistic response. Pull yourself together. Put on a happy face no matter what comes your way in order to appease the Lord, despite what you may feel on the inside.
They may as well tell you to stop feeling lonely or scared or even hungry.
There is a trend within modern Western Christianity to dismiss the Old Testament, if not outright at least in practice, and focus solely on the stories within the New Testament. Of course, you cannot understand the New Testament without knowing the Old Testament, but also in doing so Christians miss out on so many incredible accounts of the compassionate and miraculous hand of God moving in the lives of the faithful during their moments of desperation.
One of my favorite books in the Old Testament is Habakkuk. It’s a short book (only 3 chapters).
We don’t know much at all about the prophet Habbakuk other than that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah. But unlike other prophetic writings, Habakkuk issues no oracle to Israel. It is an account of the prophet wresting with God. Habakkuk is overwhelmed with the rampant wickedness and oppression in Judah and frustrated that God seems to do nothing about it.
The book opens with Habakkuk asking, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (1:2). Further on he presses, “O Lord, are you not from everlasting?…Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:12, 13b).
At times it is uncomfortable to read how far the prophet goes in questioning God’s goodness and demanding an explanation. In no way does Habakkuk’s wrestling with God resemble the legalistic appeasement many Christians insist we emulate. It is raw and desperate and he is immensely frustrated with what seems a lack of response from God.
The very presence of this book within the canon and other accounts like it (Job and many of the Psalms for example) tells us that God understands what we think and how we feel when we are miserable in our sorrow. He is not surprised by those feelings nor does He love us any less for experiencing them. And through the book of Habakkuk, God offers us an example of how a deeply faithful man wrestled with the same anger and frustration we experience.
The greatest verses of the entire book come at its conclusion.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.”
In his anger, Habakkuk didn’t throw up his arms and insist he’d have nothing more to do with God just because he was angry and couldn’t understand how God was good in the midst of the terrible oppression he witnessed. Rather he openly wrestled with God and in the end he bowed down and worshiped Him, even though he still did not understand. Habakkuk placed his faith in God’s goodness.
I hope that you will take the time to read the book of Habakkuk—it shouldn’t take you long! And I hope that as you do you will find the courage to approach God with your own anger and frustration. He will not respond with anger or disappointment, but only with patience and love. He cannot heal and transform what you do not give to Him. Trust Him and do not be afraid.