formation friday: when we’re mad at God

kathyescobar faith shifts, formation friday, healing 10 Comments

blog formation friday when we're mad at God

* formation friday has kind of become formation saturday. or now maybe even sunday. that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  i decided this one is maybe perfect for sunday–a day when some aren’t in church because we’re mad at God or are sitting in church feeling some of these things with nowhere to say it. this one will be the last formation friday post for a few weeks because i am leaving for israel/palestine learning trip this thursday!  i am going with my mom as part of a lifelong dream. i have a few posts this week before i leave (martin luther king day is one of my favorite holidays) but then i’ll be on a little break while i’m there. usually when i go out of town i don’t share much but this trip will be a learning one & i definitely plan to blog about it. 

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” o Lord, how long will you forget me? forever?  how long will you look the other way? how long must i struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” – psalm 13:1-2

when we are in conflict with someone, we all have a default pattern that we resort to.  some of us are fighters.  we actively engage in conflict and it’s not hard for us. others of us freeze or flee. we protect ourselves from the dissonant feelings by retreating or closing down.  my experience has been that fighters have it better than flee-ers or freez-ers on the whole because at least they are trying to engage, even if it’s often not in the best way.

my first reaction when i am hurt or angry with my husband, jose, is to flee.  i will want to get out of the room as soon as possible. i will want to find a way of escape in some way, shape, or form that will shut down the hard feelings–for the moment. i am learning to change that pattern. it’s not that i need to engage in that exact moment (sometimes it is good to get a little space and figure out what’s going on) but it means that i need to try to stay in instead of run.

when it comes to God, some of the same things apply. we either tend to flee or fight and often don’t end up in a better place.

for many of us, our narrow faith experience would not allow us to be mad at God–or even be angry at all.  we weren’t supposed to question or challenge God in any way. we were supposed to tuck our emotions under and respect God properly.  the problem for some, though, is that when we started to get more honest, we realized just how mad we are at God for all kinds of reasons:

why does God allow such cruddy things to continually happen? is he powerless to help or what in the $*#!&!&! is he thinking, just stand by watching us hurt?

where are you, God when we cry out to you?  why does it feel like no one’s listening?

why do some people get breaks in this world and others never seem to?

am i ever going to feel less lonely or passionately connected to God again? 

i have asked and prayed and begged and nothing seems to change.  why bother?

some of you might not connect with any of these thoughts, but i know i feel them often and know others who do.

on top of just regular hard life stuff, when we throw in our church experiences the anger can get even stronger:

how could we give our lives to God for so many years and end up here?

how can God allow such injustice in his name, so much ugliness in the place that’s supposed to most accurately reflect Christ’s image?

a lot of people have reasons to be mad at God, and i believe it’s a natural part of any relationship.

but what are we really supposed to do about it?

i don’t think hardening our heart and running away is going to help, although sometimes we need to do that for a season.

i also don’t think continually shaking our fists for years and years is going to help, either, although i do think God can hack our anger.

for me, when it comes to my relationships with people, it seems like the very first step in dealing with my anger is acknowledging it.  saying it loud.  accepting “i’m really mad about…”  and “here’s what this situation triggers in me…” (usually for me, a lot has to do with abandonment and feeling like it’s all up to me).

then the next step is to hear from the other person, to listen to their perspective, to strain to understand with new eyes.  i am getting a lot better at dong this with jose and my friends.

when it comes to God, this is tricky because God is usually not sitting across the table from us looking us in the eye.  but i wonder if maybe this is a place to start to connect with God in a new way, bring the realities of our anger to the table and ask for some revelation about it in some way, shape, or form. a few years ago, i had this huge movement-in-my-spirit about bad theology i had been taught and it helped me let God off the hook and released a lot of my anger.

for this formation friday (um, sunday), i wanted to take a little time to address that all this talk about God and spiritual formation can sometimes be really rough when the bottom line is that we are actually just mad at God for all kinds of real & valid reasons.

what’s the way out?

i think there are a few questions that are worth asking:

is this anger really toward people and i’m connecting it to God because ultimately it feels like his fault for letting it happen?

what am i getting out of staying angry with God?  (i don’t have to feel, i don’t have to let in the good, i don’t have to make myself vulnerable, i don’t have to move forward into the unknown).

what do i need to forgive God for?  what do i need to forgive others for?  what do i need to forgive myself for? (sometimes they are all tied together, and i always think it’s good to look at each. yes, i know these are huge questions!) 

how can i maybe soften my heart and unclench my fists to engage with God more tenderly?  

anger really is the prelude to courage.  it takes guts (and time) to let it go and make peace.  

this all looks so different for each of us, but my hope is that we’d keep trying to stay in and figure out what’s going on instead of running away or raging forever because with those two options we never seem to find any peace or healing or acceptance or connection.

God, it’s so hard to know what to do with some of our feelings about you.  we could really use a little help to let go of some of this anger and find our way toward peace.