Yesterday at church, my pastor decided to do a Q&A instead of an actual organized message. Every once in a while he gets the urge to do this and to me, it really demonstrates his leadership and teaching abilities.
During this service you can send a text message about any spiritual or Biblical question that you may have, which may or may not be picked as one to be answered by our pastor on the spot.
Yesterday, someone asked a question that peaked my interest and made me sad all at the same time. The question was
“During rough times is it OK to yell at God and be angry with him?”
The question was handled appropriately by my pastor, who has the most genuine heart for God and for people, that I have ever seen in any other spiritual leader that I have ever met. In a nutshell, his answer was one that reflected his reverence and love of God.
My pastor, Rob Shepherd, said that yelling at God shouldn’t be your goal. God is deserving of our respect and our honor at all times. However, if you are experiencing an unbearable hardship, and you end up yelling at God, He is big enough to handle your emotions. He isn’t going to love you any less. But you should have a relationship with God in which you can respectfully approach Him in any situation.
(Check Rob’s blog out by clicking here. It is enlightening, entertaining, and educational.)
Here is what I think:
God is worthy of our praise at all times, even in the face of death and destruction, heartbreak and anguish.
Does that mean we will never be angry? Of course not. As my pastor pointed out during our last series, anger is an emotion that was given to us by God. But, as he also pointed out, even in our anger, we must not sin.
I want to unpack this question a little more. I really feel that what we as Christ followers have come to believe about having a relationship with God, is He is our “pal” or our “partner-in-crime”.
I think this is where we as Christ followers have missed the boat. I know we believe we have “a friend in Jesus”, but I think the use of the word “friend” here means we have somewhere we can always go to seek a God who has a listening ear and who cares for us, just as a human friend should.
I think that if in your anger, you want to yell at God, then you can’t possibly understand just how deep and wide His love for you is.
If you want to yell at God, then maybe you don’t really have a relationship with Him to begin with.
I want to start with the human element of a loving relationship. I love my wife, Karen.
I absolutely love her.
I love her on days when things are great. I love her on days when things could be a whole lot better. I love her when she is doing everything she can to make me happy. And, I love her when she is putting herself first, even though it might be inconvenient for me.
I think God desires that kind of relationship with us. I think in the story of Hosea and Gomer, God demonstrates a love that is unimaginable for us as humans. In order to get through this blog without having to set aside the rest of your day, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version.
Hosea is a prophet of God to the Israelites. The Israelites are stuck in this cycle of worshiping God, and then setting Him on the back-burner. This is heart-breaking to God. He so desperately wishes to have a relationship with His people. In the story, He tells Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer (I know. Sexy name right?). Gomer betrays Hosea’s love over and over again. They have children together. Hosea treats Gomer well. But Gomer continues to sleep with other men. She continuously leaves Hosea’s home to have relationships with others. Hosea always pursues her. With love and honor, Hosea brings her back home over and over and over.
This is a love that is unfathomable for modern day Americans. Hosea married a woman who he was told to marry, but loved her regardless of her actions. As Americans, we choose who we want to marry, even doing so, at times, knowing the other person can’t be trusted, isn’t faithful, or is not also in love with us. At the first sign of turbulence, we have the attorneys on speed-dial. We get divorced in a heartbeat.
The story of Hosea is a story of how obsessed God is with having a relationship with the very humans that He created. Imagine this: when you have a child, you absolutely love that child. No matter what your child does you always want to have a relationship with your child. Even when others see the worst in your child, you see the best. This is how Jesus feels about us!
In his book Pursued, Jud Wilhite says, “The gospel of Hosea is this: no matter what we do, no matter how sinful we are, God pursues us, romances us, stalks us, and stakes us out in a radical grace based on himself. When we run away from him, God still pursues us. He comes after us. He calls us. And even when we are full of pain and hurt, he can still find us and heal us.”
Because of my love for my wife, I would NEVER yell at her if I was hurt or if something went wrong in my life. I have a relationship with her. I have that relationship when things are great. I have that relationship when things aren’t so great. If I experience a loss, I know I will be comforted by her as I cry on her shoulder. If something amazing happens, I know she will celebrate it with me. She is the very best human friend that I have.
I feel the same way about Jesus. I know that He loves me and only wants the best for me. I have a relationship with Him. I talk to Him about what I am experiencing in my life. When something bad happens, I don’t yell at Him, I go to cry on His shoulder. He is the great-comforter. When something amazing happens, I go to Him with a thankful heart. I realize that every good thing that happens to me is a gift from God (James 1:17).
I have an amazing relationship with Jesus because He is important to me.
My wife is important to me. For this reason, I spend time with her. I have conversations with her. I show her affection. When she blesses me in some way, I give her the credit for it and tell her how much she means to me. I don’t relegate my conversations with my wife to whatever time I have after I prioritize hanging out with friends, spending time on Facebook, and taking part in other self-centered activities. If I were to treat her this way, I would expect her not to be as caring and loving to me as she is. She loves me, and expects me to love her back in return. She expects me to place a higher value in my relationship with her, than I do in any of my other human relationships.
God expects the same thing. He desires a relationship with us. He desires to spend time with us. He desires to hold our hands along this journey of life. He desires for us to seek His will for our lives in prayer. He desires for us to desire Him and to desire getting to know Him by reading and learning. He desires to have as much importance in our lives as our friends do, as social media does, as our families do, as our hobbies do, as CrossFit does (just throwing that in there because we all know someone who is fanatical about CrossFit).
What we learn in Hosea is that even though we don’t seek that fanatical relationship with Jesus that we should, He still seeks it from us. He is right there…..
Knocking on the door (Revelation 3:20).
Before we start thinking that we have the right to “yell at God” and blame Him for our troubles or our hurt, why don’t we do a self-audit and think about how much of a priority we place on our relationship with Him BEFORE the hurt or pain comes?
He wants us to talk to Him about our struggles and our pain and our selfishness and our hurt and our bad choices. He is still the same Jesus that He was in the gospels. The reason many of us don’t have the relationship with Christ that we want to have, is because of the boundaries WE have set on Him, not the other way around. There is nothing that you can do to make God not want a relationship with you. He is GOD.
In the book Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge provokes us to “open the door”. He goes on to say, “Invite Christ into the whole ugly mess. Jesus doesn’t shy away from getting down in the muck of this world. There isn’t anything you can show him he hasn’t seen before. It’s not like he’s going to be shocked. Or angry. Or disappointed. Jesus loves to come; just open the door to him”.
If you don’t already have a real relationship with God, (which I think is the case for a lot of us self-professed Christ followers), then why on Earth do you think you have the right or the authority to yell at the God of this universe out of anger?
If I didn’t have a relationship with my wife, and she were just any other random person on the street who I treated no better or worse than anyone else, I would expect to be slapped or beat-up if I decided that I would start yelling at her out of anger.
The thing is, when you truly realize who God is, and you truly realize how much…you can’t even realize how much He loves you (which is incomprehensible to us as humans), then you wouldn’t want to yell at Him out of anger. You would want to run to Him.
You wouldn’t expect to use God as a way to get special favors or special treatment. When you have a relationship with God (and when I have that same relationship with God), instead of going to him and saying “why me?”, you will go to him and say “why not me?” Why am I any better than anyone else in this world? Why should Jesus have to bear the pain of the cross because of me, but I shouldn’t experience any pain? Why should I not suffer the consequences of my own actions? Why should life (and death) not happen to me and the people who I care about, but to everyone else?
Instead of yelling at God out of anger, you will want to RUN to Him for His love and for His comfort and His mercy.
In his book It’s Not About Me, Max Lucado says, “when our deepest desire is not the things of God, or a favor from God, but God himself, we cross a threshold.”
When we stop putting God in a box.
When we stop being a Christ follower only in our “free” time or only on Sundays.
When we stop expecting God to just make everything easier for us.
When we stop relegating God to only “certain” parts of our lives that we are comfortable with.
Then we will understand just how much He pursues us.
When we lean on God in the hard times and the easy times.
When we worship Him just as much when there is little as we do when there is plenty.
When we realize God has a love for us that surpasses any love we have for any other human being, including our spouses or children.
Then we will understand, even in our anger, God is still a good God.
Then we will understand, even in our hurt, God loves us and cares for us.
Then we will understand, even when it seems as though the world is collapsing on top of us, God is our safe harbor.
Who would ever want to yell at a God that they have such a beautiful relationship with?
If you don’t feel that way, maybe you need to start working on your relationship with God right now.
He is standing at the door knocking. All you have to do is let Him in.