Angry with God? (Anger at God)
There is a trend within Christian circles to casually accept the concept of being angry with God. Pastors and church leaders will often say, “It’s okay to yell at God and tell Him how you feel. He’s a big God. He can take it.”
While there is no doubt that God is big and can take it, the Bible does not encourage such a reckless course.
Cain was Angry with God
“The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it’” (Gen. 4:6-7).
When we are angry with God, sin is always crouching at the door. Our face can only look in one direction at a time: To the Lord with faith and trust, or away from Him with distrust and accusation. When we look away from Him, we may begin to move away from Him as well.
Jonah was Angry with God
“Jonah, however, was greatly displeased, and he became angry. So, he prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD, is this not what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I was so quick to flee toward Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion—One who relents from sending disaster. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live’ But the LORD replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’” (Jonah 4:1-4, BSB).
I deal with both of these scenarios, and the questions God asked them: “Why are you angry?” and “Do You Have a Right to be Angry?” in my book, Questions God Asks: Unlocking the Wisdom of Eternity.
In both cases, God insisted that the problem was not in Himself, but in Cain and Jonah. The Bible frequently records occasions where people expressed anger toward God. It is a common human action. But we must remember that the Bible does not approve of everything that it records.
The Root of Sin
There are several core elements of all sin:
Pride, selfishness (self-love), rebellion (a desire to be our own little god) and unbelief (distrust of God).
When we are angry with God, we are exhibiting all these sins at once. Because life did not go the way we thought it should, we declare distrust of God’s nature and character. We say that He was wrong to not orchestrate life the way we thought it should go. We are insinuating that God is not just and righteous. He did not do right by us (or someone else). To do this is to arrogantly make ourselves into a little judge (a god), who rules over God and dictates policy to Him. It is a violation of the First Commandment:
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
It demonstrates that we are not primarily concerned with putting first Christ’s Kingdom and seeing His purposes advanced on the earth (even as it is in Heaven) (see Matt. 6:33 & 6:10). We are more concerned with our little kingdom and everything going according to our plan.
Blaming God is an accusation that either God doesn’t know what is going on (He is not omniscient or omnipresent) is not powerful enough to intervene and stop calamity from happening in the first place (He is not omnipotent), or that He is unloving and cruel. The Bible categorically denies all of these false claims:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6, NIV).
Is God Unrighteous?
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:12-13, emphasis added).
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Rom. 9:14).
People often talk about the rawness of the Psalms and how the writers pour out their laments before God. This is true, but the Psalmist in chapter 92 rightly declares: “The LORD is upright; He is my rock, and in Him there is no unrighteousness.” And also: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Ps. 5:4).
There is a vast difference between telling God about your pain and suffering (which the Psalmists did) and accusing God of evil (which the Psalmists did NOT do). Job poured out his anguish to God. There is a place for this in Christian theology. In fact, we have an entire book in the Bible called, “Lamentations,” (which means to cry out with grief). The Bible does not advocate emotional stoicism where we act like we aren’t in pain or deny that we are hurting. But even in Job’s immense suffering, we are told: “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22).
In fact, Job said to his wife when she suggested he should just curse God and die: “’You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Do you see how the text indicates that foolishly accusing God is a sin we commit with our lips? It reflects a lack of a proper fear of the Lord.
The Fear of the Lord
Job had thought he could contend with God. He thought they could stand face to face, have a chat and Job could make his appeal to God. When he finally had his chance and actually encountered God, he was so overwhelmed by his own inadequacy, he declared:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).
If any human in history had a reason to be angry with God, we would surely say Job did. Yet his response was to acknowledge there was only one God in the room, and it wasn’t him. He responded ultimately by turning his face toward God in awe and reverence, rather than away from Him in bitterness and anger.
Was Jesus Angry with God?
I have heard people say that Jesus’ cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was an expression of His own anger toward God and His fairness. I don’t believe anything could be farther from the truth. Most Christians have never studied the historical context of that statement. I have an entire chapter on it in my book, Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity. This was in no way the out of control rantings of a dying man. They were instead, the laser-like focus of Jesus fulfilling Biblical prophesy (Psalm 22), and declaring Himself to be the Messiah, and accomplishing the Father’s will right down to the very last.
If you know anything about what Jesus said about His relationship with the Father, you would know that He was not accusing God of injustice. In fact, the very words He cried out on the cross were the words His Father told Him to say: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:49-50, emphasis added). Jesus was speaking those words out of submission and obedience, not rebellion and anger.
Asking God Questions
Having written books on the Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks, I have learned that God is far more concerned with asking us probing questions than He is in answering ours.
Lamentations 3 is a good example of a lament that seeks answers in an inquisitive (seeking) way, and not an accusative way. I encourage you to carefully read and study that book. It is filled with grief and anguish that isn’t sugar-coated in any way, but also some of the most beautiful expressions of hope in the entire Bible. I’m not advocating that we go around wearing masks, pretending that everything is fine when we are hurting inside. Pouring out our hearts before God is healthy and encouraged in the Bible. God created us with the capacity to experience the whole gamut of human emotions. It is natural for us to feel all of them at some point in our life. But we must be careful we do not cross a line into placing ourselves as judge over God. That is a dangerous position to take.
God Does Not Owe Us Anything
The only way we can possibly be angry with God in a just way is if God actually owes us something. The fact is, God, as our Creator, was not obligated to give any of us life. When people “die early” (from our perspective), we sometimes rail at God and ask “why?!”. The more proper question is why did God decide to grant us any life and breath to begin with? He wasn’t obligated to. Any amount of time that God gives us on this earth is a demonstration of His kindness and grace.
If I buy my child a game and allow him to play a game for 30 minutes, what will he likely do when his time is up? He will probably selfishly tell me he wants to keep playing. In his mind, he feels he is entitled to play for an hour or more. The game was a gift that was neither earned nor deserved. It reflected my love for him. But isn’t that what we are like toward God? We feel that He owes us something. Whatever it was that He gave us wasn’t good enough. We wanted more. What puny little gods we are. How selfish and demanding. In reality, anything other than burning in Hell for eternity for our rebellion, anger, bitterness, selfishness, unbelief (distrust) and arrogance is a staggering display of God’s kindness and mercy. If we understood what we (the created) truly deserve in the face of our defiance of our Creator, we would fall on our face and repent in dust and ashes just as Job did.
I truly believe we respond the way we do to suffering and calamity mainly because we don’t truly know God in an adequate way. We have been taught in American Christian circles to be too casual with God. We act like He is our little brother sometimes. He isn’t. He is the almighty Sovereign King and Ruler of everything. Yet, we are also told in Scripture that everything He allows into our lives is ultimately an act of love (“for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose”) (see Romans 8:28). He is far more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. Any pain or suffering He allows is for His glory, our ultimate good and the good of others. We may not be able to see how that could be at the moment when we are suffering. But we know it to be true.
What to Do if You Are Angry with God
If you are angry with God, He already knows it. Tell Him about it. Even though the accusation that He has been unjust is a sin, God sees all our sins. What are we to do with our sins?
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10).
Let’s not keep deceiving ourselves about our sin. We need to confess it and repent of it. He will forgive us and cleanse us. We do not make good gods. When we say Jesus is our Lord, what do we truly mean? Do we mean He is our King and is in charge as long as life goes well for us, and nothing bad ever happens? If that is our position, Jesus is not our Lord at all. He is either Lord over all, or not Lord at all. We need to settle this in our own hearts. Who is going to rule on the throne of our lives, us or Jesus?
God could never express His love toward us, or His wrath against evil, more intensely than in Jesus’ suffering on the cross. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). ”
If you want to come to know God and Jesus better, I would encourage you to read my Questions God Asks / Questions Jesus Asks books. I believe you grow far more spiritually by considering the questions God asks of you, than brooding over the questions you have for Him.
More good resources on this topic:
R.C. Sproul: https://youtu.be/QFrD9XHdJ54
R.C. Sproul: https://youtu.be/-SlnotLHqGY
Knowing God – by J. I. Packer
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker. He is the founder of Family Renewal, and the Site Editor for ChristianWordlview.net.
(All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, is from the English Standard Version [ESV].)