Is it Okay to be Mad at God?

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During the recent Good Friday service at my church the pastors and a few others, including myself, reflected on the seven final sayings (or words) of Jesus. I had the opportunity to share on, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” I was, honestly, a little excited as Good Friday is always one of my favorite services and this is one of my favorite verses. There’s so much think about in these few words. Having only five minutes, I had to keep it pretty succinct. Here’s the manuscript of what I shared. I hope you are blessed by it.


At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Mark 15:33-34

“Is it okay to be mad at God?”

This was a question asked by my wife Kourtney on our way to San Francisco shortly after discovering we had lost our second child to a miscarriage during the second trimester. Being the seminary trained husband that I am, I felt some pressure in answering the question.

On one hand you have God who is sovereign and in our relationship with Him we are often told that we should accept whatever challenges are thrown our way because God is ultimately in control and working for our good. Like in the hymn It Is Well when we sing, “whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well with my soul.”

But, on the other hand, the scriptures are full of people wrestling (literally and figuratively) with God. Adam blames God for creating Eve, Jonah gets upset when God kills a plant giving him shade, Job and his friends debate the ultimate goodness and justice of God. Here on Good Friday we have Jesus, who only hours before was wrestling with God in prayer, pleading, “if it is possible, let this cup pass over me.” And now he cries out in anguish quoting Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Psalm 22 goes on to say, “Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame. But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.  All who see me mock at me…” The Psalm continues bouncing between cries of anguish and remembering God’s promises.

“Is it okay to be mad at God?”

It can be tempting to look at people who stoically trust in God regardless of what happens in their life and see them as the epitome of faithfulness. Anytime we get upset with God, doubt or question his goodness or cry out can be seen as a weakness in our faith. Yet, over and over in the Bible, we hear from people who cry out and demand God show up and live up to his promises. Job demands that God give an answer for his troubles. The Psalmists are constantly pleading with God to remember his loving-kindness, mercy and promises to previous generations. The prophet Habakkuk is bewildered by the evil in the world and wants God to answer for it. And few would doubt Jesus’ faith as he cries out to God on the cross.

“Is it okay to be mad at God?”

Yes, I told Kourtney. It is. It is in those moments, in our anger, anguish and sadness, when we cry out to God, I feel, we are expressing the deepest faith in God. We go before the throne demanding an answer for our pain. Demanding to know what God is up to. Like the blind and the lepers crying out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” we don’t give up until we have an answer. The important part is that we are not turning away from God, denying that he exists or has any involvement in this life.

We are running towards him, vulnerable, bearing our soul and emotions, hoping he hears us.

Towards the end of Psalm 22 it says, “For He did not scorn, He did not spurn the plea of the lowly; He did not hide His face from him; when he cried out to Him, He listened.” God has not turned his back, God listens. God will hear us. Through whatever emotional, physical or otherwise upsetting excruciating pain you are going through right now…through the excruciating pain of Good Friday, Jesus demonstrates God can take whatever we throw at him.

Scream at God, demand he answer your questions, nail God to the cross, he will still hear you.

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Sunday Prayer

Pymonenko, Mykola. Waiting for the Blessing, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Pymonenko, Mykola. Waiting for the Blessing, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

We praise your abiding guidance, O God,
for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher and Messiah,
to model for us the way of love for the whole universe.
We offer these prayers of love
on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors,
on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures.

Loving God,
open our ears to hear your word
and draw us closer to you,
that the whole world may be one with you
as you are one with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer is from the Revised Common Lectionary provided by the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Sunday Prayer

 

Shishkin, Ivan Ivanovich, 1832-1898. Rain in an Oak Forest, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Shishkin, Ivan Ivanovich, 1832-1898. Rain in an Oak Forest, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

God of faithful surprises,
throughout the ages
you have made known your love and power
in unexpected ways and places.
May we daily perceive
the joy and wonder of your abiding presence
and offer our lives in gratitude
for our redemption. Amen.

Prayer is from the Revised Common Lectionary provided by the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Sunday Prayer

 

Weyden, Rogier van der, 1399 or 1400-1464. Mary's Tears, detail from Descent from the Cross, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Weyden, Rogier van der, 1399 or 1400-1464. Mary’s Tears, detail from Descent from the Cross, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

God of power and justice,
like Jeremiah you weep over those
who wander from you,
turn aside to other gods,
and enter into chaos and destruction.
By your tears and through your mercy,
teach us your ways
and write them on our hearts
so that we may follow faithfully
the path you show us. Amen.

Prayer is from the Revised Common Lectionary provided by the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Sunday Prayer

Biard, Auguste Francois, 1799-1882. Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Biard, Auguste Francois, 1799-1882. Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Friends in Christ,
God invites us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers
as dear to us as our own needs.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves,
we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions
on behalf of the church and the world.

Hear our prayers, God of power,
and through the ministry of your Son
free us from the grip of the tomb,
that we may desire you as the fullness of life
and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world. Amen.

Prayer is from the Revised Common Lectionary provided by the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Sunday Prayer

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Local Woman in a Barley Field, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmoorr/52722248/.

God Eternal,
you inspired Jeremiah to buy a piece of land
when no one could see a future in it.

Grant us such commitment to the future of your people,
that you will always have workers for your vineyard
and harvesters for your fields.

Amen.

Sunday Prayer

When joy is gone and hearts are sick, O God,
you give us Christ as our healing balm.He came in human flesh
that he might give himself as a ransom for our salvation
and anoint us with the Spirit of consolation and joy.

Hear the cry of your people,
that we may rejoice in the richness of your love
and be faithful stewards of your many gifts.

Amen.