Angry with God

Q. Is it a sin to be angry with God?

A:  An early twentieth-century post-World War I German novel tells the story of a man whose dreams were dashed in later life. He ended his days in humiliation and bitterness, “railing against the world, against authority, and against God.” Anger against God is not an uncommon human emotion, often taking the form of a simmering resentment.

Our Lutheran confessional writings, when speaking about original sin, include “being angry with God” among the many “more serious defects of human nature” (Ap II 8). They speak, for example, of “being angry with the judgment of God” and “being indignant that God does not rescue us immediately from afflictions.” And they add that even “devout people acknowledge that these things are present in them as the Psalms and prophets declare” (42–43).

In his commentary on Genesis 3, Dr. Martin Luther describes how deeply, by successive steps, the devil led Adam and Eve into sin: (1) disobedience, (2) excuse and defense of sin, and finally, (3) accusation and condemnation of God. “This is the last step of sin, to insult God and to charge Him with being the originator of sin” (Luther’s Works, 1:179). As Dr. Luther put it elsewhere, “The deepest temptation is that in which God himself becomes my enemy” (Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, 205).

In our daily struggle against our sinful nature, we Christians know that hostility or animosity toward God is no stranger to the human heart. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,” writes St. Paul in Rom. 8:7 (see also James 4:4). We, too, are sometimes tempted to feel that God has not dealt with us fairly and that the blame should be placed at His doorstep. When we suffer misfortune, illness, the loss of a loved one, or some other human tragedy, we may even have moments of doubt that we have a gracious God.

During the season of Lent especially, we hear our gracious Lord’s call to repentance. He summons us to confess also the deep-seated sins of our heart and to cling to His mercy (1 John 1:8–9). In moments of doubt and despair, the Scriptures teach us that we must “flee away—right to the shining face of the Father who is revealed in Christ” (Bayer, 213). St. Paul assures us, “For God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). In Christ, God has revealed Himself as a dear loving Father, not as an angry judge who is vindictive, unjust or cruel toward His creatures.

As we yearn for God’s help in dire straits, we need not be afraid to lay our problems before Him, even though in our distress we may be asking the agonizing question, “Why, Lord?” In many of the Psalms of lament, such a cry is heard. But these prayers of the psalmist typically end with an expression of confidence that God will send help. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Ps 44:5).

Let quiet confidence in the Lord’s mercy and love toward us rule our hearts, not animosity or antagonism toward Him.

> For more Psalms of lament, see Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.

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February 2011


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