By: Dn Ng Zhiwen
I am finding it more and more a common occurence amongst people these days that they talk about being angry with God.
Being angry with God.
Can you imagine what that’s like?
God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; of whom the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy”, has men shaking their fists in rage at Him? And He doesn’t straightaway strike them down.
<<which brings out the incredible tension of God’s character – that He’s high enough to be worshipped, and yet relational enough for one to be angry with>>.
It’s as if God would be a facebook user trying to add you as a friend, but you reject His request.
Actually, it may be more accurate to picture the situation as God being your parent, and you as the child cold-warring your dad because of something he had done or said.
Have you felt angry with God before? Have you ever dared to feel angry with God? Or to express such violent emotions before Him?
Much to my surprise, I discovered that the Bible records people who were angry with God. And they weren’t exactly God’s enemies!
Let’s look at 3 of these people…
3 ANGRY MEN
Case #1 – PETER
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
Peter had some cheek! He scolded Jesus (although to no effect), when Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed, and be raised the third day. (see 16:21)
Peter could neither understand nor accept why his Master should say such unpleasant things. (This might resonate especially well with Chinese people who are particularly sensitive about uttering inauspicious things such as death).
Why was Peter upset? I can think of a few reasons. Perhaps he was sensitive to the impact of Jesus’ words on the morale of the disciples. Or perhaps he couldn’t accept that a Man he had come to adore and to worship would face the prospect of humiliation and death (the death of his hero) – that just can’t square with his idea of a Messiah.
I wonder also if there was an element of pride… Moments before this episode, Peter had made a confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (16:16) – Jesus responded with commendation (v. 17-19). Peter may well have felt pretty good about himself. I wonder if it all started to get into Peter’s head, thinking that he was quite something. Did he start to become more confident in his own opinion of things? Did he start to become more presumptive?
Well… whatever it was, it was enough to get Peter to pull Jesus aside and give Him a (mild?) tongue-lashing.
But Jesus turned and said to Peter – “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (16:23).
Peter’s scolding did not get its intended effect. In fact, in the thick of his emotion, Jesus turned the tables round on him and gave Peter a stern rebuke! He went on to deliver an all-important teaching that turned the teaching of the world on its head – that whoever wanted to come after Him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him (v.24).
Peter was not mindful. He had acted without reflecting.
<tragically, he would act without thinking again later on when he would deny Jesus three times>.
Peter had been angry with Jesus for speaking and acting in a way that did not suit his idea of Messiah.
But Jesus would go on to demonstrate that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Well, let’s now look at a slightly different case of anger with God…
Case #2 – JONAH
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry…
… And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
Jonah 3:10, 4:1, 4:9
Jonah’s story is filled with irony. You could say that he was a prophet with one of the most powerful ministries ever recorded in human history. He walked through the city of Nineveh and spoke just 8 words (“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”) – and he soon had the WHOLE CITY of a few hundred thousand people – from the king all the way down to the herds and flocks – fasting and in sackcloth, pleading for God’s mercy. <God would spare the city from destruction for another 160 or so years>.
And yet, Jonah was furious.
He was furious that God spared the Ninevites – who in Jonah’s eyes were sworn enemies of the Israelites. He knew that God could very well show mercy to the Ninevites (Jonah 4:2) – he just couldn’t accept it. He was unconcerned for the fate of the Ninevites.
What I find most interesting is that God attempted to reason with Jonah. He did it by preparing a plant to grow and provide shade for Jonah (as he sat on the east side of the city of nineveh, under the sun). Jonah was grateful for the plant (4:6). But when God caused the plant to wither, leaving Jonah’s head exposed to the sun, Jonah was angry that the plant was gone (4:9).
Can you see the contrast? Jonah was angry that God spared the ninevites. Jonah was angry that God did not spare the plant.
What was common in both situations? God revealed to Jonah that the one thing that was motivating him was plain self-interest. He did not care about the Ninevites (or the fact that they were doomed under God’s judgment, unless they repented) because he cared more for his people’s interest. He cared about the plant because the plant had “taken care” of him.
He cared according to what suited him… but God showed him that Jonah had no right to be angry, and that mercy triumphed over judgment. God showed that His heart was larger than Jonahs’.
Case #3 – JOB
“I will give free course to my complaint,
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?’ …
‘Are not my days few? Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort, before I go to the place from which I shall not return, to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death, where even the light is like darkness.’
Job had it all. In a matter of days, he lost it all. (You can read of this in Job 1 and 2.)
Did he deserve it?
Not in the way you would expect. As the reader, we are given a special glimpse behind the curtains to find out what was really going on – you will read of this again in Job 1 and 2, as Satan had made a wager with God that innocent Job would curse God if what he had was taken away from him. There were things at stake here that Job could not begin to comprehend… all he knew, in the midst of his suffering, was his innocence in the face of untold suffering. And in that suffering, he half-wanted to be left alone in his misery and half-wanted to have his “day in court” and be acquitted of any wrongdoing. He came awfully close to cursing God, and implying that He was unjust. But he stuck to his faith and yearned to meet God (Job 19:25-27).
All of that was resolved when God did meet him, and Job finally got the audience with God that he had sought (You must read Job 38 – 41). Job was silenced. Job was restored.
I would recommend you to read his story for yourself.
But how about you?
Are you angry with God? Why? What brought you to that place of anger?
I would not be surprised if you had asked God repeatedly to remove, or to deliver you from the situation that is provoking your anger. And the last thing that I would desire to do is to belittle whatever you have gone through. I truly want to be most sensitive to what you may have experienced.
What I am asking is this… God did respond to Peter, Jonah, and Job. What would God say to you in your anger? Has He spoken already? Have you listened?
It is no accident that God let these stories of angry men be included in scripture. How would their stories speak to you?
Oh I pray that you may take these things straight up with God. Dear one, do not ignore Him. For your own sake, don’t leave Him.
I wish to conclude this long email by noting that just as God has had to deal with the anger of men, He has also had to deal with His anger toward us – because of sin. He has dealt with it already… on a cross. Like Job (but even worse), He bore untold suffering – for our sakes.