Losing your temper with another human is disconcerting, but what if your rage over a disappointment, a serious illness or another misfortune is directed at the Almighty? This week’s clergy discuss how to approach being angry with God if you lack the patience of Job.
Practitioner, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Patchogue
Usually, when we’re angry, we feel we’ve been wronged or separated from good. God is another name for good. The Bible tells us that God is love. As we feel at one with love and good, anger begins to dissipate. It takes stillness and listening, qualities that are sadly lacking in so many conversations these days. This stillness and listening are the “still small voice” of God. These qualities, along with looking to find what we are grateful for, are important spiritual tools. We may have to honestly ask ourselves, “Do I want the mental freedom to let go of anger?” When it’s an individual, we must try to see them as a creation of a loving God. Knowing that God is our father-mother makes everyone our brothers and sisters. In music you can’t have harmony with one note alone. It takes a variety of notes. That is true in relationships too. Seeing others as children of God helps us to see their specialness and viewpoint. If we think of God in terms of spiritual laws and principle, we can find the footsteps we need to follow those laws and gain our freedom from the mental prison of anger. God never abandons us. His grace is constantly surrounding us. When we listen to that guidance step by step, we can gain the strength for the freedom and peace we’re truly yearning for. “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings.” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” The Christian Science Publishing Society)
Rabbi Eli Laufer
Scholar in residence, The Chai Center, Dix Hills
Judaism has a fascinating and revolutionary approach to being angry with God. When one is disappointed for a justified reason, God enjoys it. When an ostensibly undeserved misfortune hits a fellow human, a moral person is rightfully outraged. God can see past the anger and appreciates both the deep empathy his creations have for each other, as well as the validation that he is in control. While humans might see this person as a heretic, God sees an individual who cares for his fellow man. To the untrained eye it may seem like blasphemy, but to God, it’s the ultimate sign of reverence. During the time the Greeks ruled Israel, a young girl named Miriam fell in love with a Greek soldier, and abandoned her religion. When the Greeks went in to desecrate the temple, she went in with them. She struck the altar with her sandal, and in reference to God, said: “Fox! How long will you stand by and not help your people in their time of need?” (Talmud tractate Sukkah 56b) At first glance, one might conclude that this girl is young, rebellious, arrogant and obviously a heretic. But if you look deeper into this girl’s heart you can see frustration and despair. She was begging God to help his nation. She was looking to the ultimate power of her world, and was acting out of deep hurt for her people. Notwithstanding her very public disengagement from her nation and its traditions, when push came to shove, she showed God where her true loyalties stood. Under her seemingly negative actions, we can find a deep care for her nation, as well as an unshaken belief that God is in charge.
The Rev. Christopher Ballard
Rector, Trinity St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hewlett
He can take it. It’s both natural and normal to be angry with God at some point in your faith journey. With any relationship, you can become angry with somebody. For so many people who become angry with God, it’s because the relationship isn’t working in some way. So it’s important to keep working at it, through prayer and through patience and dedication, knowing that your life is transformed by this relationship, as with all relationships. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that we often give up on God, but God never gives up on us. You can do whatever you want, you can yell at God, you can shake your fist at God — in the end you are going to want to apologize as you would with anybody. The disappointments that we often attribute to God, are largely our own fault. Job is thought of as the person in the Bible with whom God is playing around. People who are angry at God may feel like Job. They may feel like there’s some cosmic card game being played over them. I don’t believe that’s true. God wants what is best for us, and sometimes what is best for us isn’t what we want.