In the Bible, one of the first, if not the first, stories of anger against God is a story that ends very badly. In Genesis 4:1-8 we read:Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” Then she also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of a flock, but Cain cultivated the land. In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering] —some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
There are three things we should note about anger against God:
- It is more than a feeling.
- It is sinful.
- It is dangerous.
Why is anger more than a feeling? Some feelings truly are morally neutral. An example is the instinctive fight-or-flight response that gets activated in the moment of crisis. But anger is different--anger is a feeling with a target. When that target is God, it implies that God has done something wrong--that God has sinned. That is why anger against God is more than a feeling, and that is why it is wrong to be angry with God.
Anger against God is also dangerous. In the story, we see that it was anger against God that drove Cain to kill his brother Abel. Anger against God can kill other things. It can kill your relationship with God. At the very time that you need to be drawing near to God, it pushes God away.
As I say this, I realize that I am going against what many grief counselors are saying. Many of them are saying that it is okay to be angry with God. Often they give these three reasons:
- God forgives.
- God understands our emotions.
- If you suppress your feelings of anger against God, you will get depressed.
They say that God forgives. But what does God forgive--He forgives sins. So if God forgives those who are angry with Him, then it must be wrong to be angry with God. Otherwise, there would be nothing for God to forgive.
They say that God understands our emotions. Well, God understands our emotions very well, so well, that He recognizes that our sinful outbursts are the result of a sinful heart.
They say that if you suppress your feelings of anger against God, you will get depressed. The Bible does not tell us to suppress anything; it tells us to confess our anger. If you are angry with people, where possible, you need to seek to resolve your differences. And if you are angry with God, you need to confess your anger to Him, humble yourself before Him, and repent.
In the story about Cain and Abel, Cain had two choices. He could humble himself before God and do what was right, or he could exalt himself against God and do what was wrong. He chose the latter, and the consequences were disasterous.
The articles below explore in greater depth the problems with being angry with God. The two articles by John Piper are short reflections on this subject. The third article is about thirteen pages. If you are angry with God, I pray that these articles will encourage you to be reconciled to Him.
- It is Never Right to be Angry with God, by John Piper, (2000)
Piper discusses whether feelings are morally neutral.
- Is it Ever Right to be Angry with God?, by John Piper, (2002)
Piper distinguishes between confessing anger to God and being angry with God.
- From Bitterness to Repentance: The Story of the Thief who was Angry with God
When calamity strikes, people want to put God on trial. But we are the ones on trial; we are the ones who are being tested.
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