On being mad at God

bartlet-2-cathedralsLast night I spent a little time with a family and lead a brief prayer service at the close of calling hours for a 27 year old son, fiance, and father of three. There was a lot of pain in that room. That, combined with a discussion at UMCommunities, has me thinking, yet again, about being mad at God.

My personal opinion is this: you know that best friend you have? a spouse? a family member? The one you can yell at and scream at even though it’s not their fault, venting until you’re hoarse and red in the face, and the person will *still* hold you and love you and carry on in relationship with you afterward?

God’s like that, but more.

Look at the Psalmists (before we even get to Jesus), who shook their fists at God, wailing, venting, confessing that they were so far removed from the place where they could say thank you and praise you and would much rather say far unkinder things to God. God takes it. If you’ll excuse my uncharacteristically gendered language, he’s a big boy. God weeps–and rages– with us, and understands the depth of our pain and anger because they flow from the depth of our love, love we have because we are first beloved. And the lament, the crying out to God, presupposes trust in a being who could somehow help, and as such is an act of faith (see [especially p. 27-33] Rachel’s Cry, a book from seminary I use all the time, for more on this theme).

There’s an episode* of “The West Wing” where Martin Sheen’s character (who was studying priesthood before he entered politics) paces the National Cathedral in his anger and pain, calling God a ‘sonofabitch’ and a ‘feckless thug,’ because of the senseless loss he has just suffered. In a most non-theological display, Bartlet vents the fear that he is somehow being punished or warned, and gives voice to the cry every person who has lost a child, or one like a child, or watched them suffer, has ever uttered: “That was my [child]! What did I ever do to yours but praise and glorify his name?” West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin was very proud of this scene and thought it would be controversial and shock people of faith everywhere. But no one was shocked. The pain of life is such that we have all called God a feckless thug or a big meanie or an unfair tyrant at some point, and we have all lived through it, and many of us come out the other side with a stronger and deeper relationship with the God who holds us in our pain. Not all of us. Some of us conclude that there is no God, or that God is a monster, and walk away, and I know in my heart of hearts that the God they once clung to clings to them still, even and especially in the depth of that pain.

Emotions, I believe,  just *are*, like the weather. Storms are not good or evil, right or wrong, although they can make life uncomfortable for a time. They are only the result of high and low pressure systems. Our emotions, even the ugly volatile ones like anger and jealousy and pain, are just our bodies’ and souls’ responses to the horrible, crappy, devastating stuff that happens around us, and they are part of how we work all that out and continue to live and function.

So be angry, and know that God is angry alongside you, and God will hold you while you yell, even if you’re yelling at God, even if you’re beating your fists against her chest, and love you until you can breathe again and beyond, until you find peace that passes all understanding.

Yes, no, maybeso?

*For those who (like me) don’t speak Latin, a rough translation of what Barlet says at the end: “Am I to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? To hell with your punishments! I was your servent here on Earth. And I spread your word and I did your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you.”

5 thoughts on “On being mad at God”

    1. I could rack up points pretty easily! that show was *made* to preach about, I think. So many wonderful moments. How I miss it!

      Thanks for commenting!

  1. Thanks for sharing. I expressed similar sentiments in a recent sermon. I told my parishioners that it’s okay to be mad and even yell at God because God can take it. Not only can God take it, but God understands what you’re going through and won’t hold it against you.

    1. Amen to that! Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m sure your congregants and listeners were blessed by your words.

      Peace to you,

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