Get angry at God: Job did

Satan, Job and his friends Photo Credit - Andrevanb

A Biblical basis for expressing anger at God

 
Last week I posed this question, ‘If anger is the correct emotional response to injustice, surely being angry at God is calling God unjust. Therefore, is it a sin to be angry with God?

 
I was really grateful for your answers, which were all thoughtful and thought-provoking. They were so good that I collated some into 6 Top Tips for dealing  with Anger at God.
 

I have been thinking about how I might approach answering that question from the Bible, and I immediately thought of Job.

 
I have spent the past month or so looking in detail at Job. After my extensive study I have come to the conclusion that Job and I could honestly be BFFs. So often he says exactly what I am thinking, and I find myself cheering him on in his speeches. I look forward to having a good catch up with him in heaven.
 

What is Job about?

 Job 1 starts with a cosmic wager: Satan bets God that Job, the most righteous man on earth, will not remain righteous if he undergoes great suffering. So God allows Job to undergo great suffering, without any sort of explanation.
 

His friends, on the other hand, have plenty of explanations, which centre around ‘God only punishes those who have grievously sinned, so you need to repent of whatever it is you’ve done wrong.’ Poor Job knows he hasn’t done anything wrong and is baffled, and desperate to be vindicated.
 

This is the big question of Job: will Job curse God and turn his back on God? Or will he prove God right, that it is possible to undergo great suffering and remain righteous?

 living bible museum

1. Does Job charge God with wrongdoing?

 Job 1 says that Job’s initial response was to respond in worship and acceptance, and in v 22 we get the important statement, ‘Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.’ This would imply that it is indeed a sin to be angry at God, and certainly wrong to question his morality.

 
The funny thing is, though, throughout the rest of the book, Job spends much of his time telling his friends that God has got it wrong and that God is being unfair. Although he doesn’t ‘curse God and die’, as his wife suggests, he does question God.

 
His speeches are raw and passionate, and they say the things that we dare not voice aloud to God ourselves. Here are a few quotes. As you read them, ask yourself,

  • Does he sound like he is angry with God?
  • Does it sound like he is questioning God’s morality?

“Does it please you [God] to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?” Job 10:3

 
“Surely, O God, you have worn me out;
you have devastated my entire household.” Job 16:7

 
“He [God] throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.” Job 30:19-20

 
“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defence – let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.” Job 31:35

 
“As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul…” Job 27:1

 
“…then know that God has wronged me
and drawn his net around me.
Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response;
though I call for help, there is no justice.” Job 19:6-7

It sounds very much like Job is both angry at God and questioning his morality. This isn’t just the ‘I’m-feeling-angry-right-now-but-I-know-deep-down-that’s-wrong-because-you’re-a-good-God’ kind of anger but the “God!-this-isn’t-fair!-you’ve-got-it-wrong-this-time” anger.

Me Screaming

 

2. Are Job’s angry words sinful? 
With most other books of the Bible, like when Jonah gets angry with God (‘I am angry enough to die!’) we aren’t directly told whether what they said was sinful. God doesn’t condemn Jonah for his anger, but then again, Jonah isn’t what you would call an exemplary saint –  he ran away because didn’t want the Ninevites to be forgiven and when they repented he had a massive sulk.

 

The book of Job is unusual in that we do get to discover God’s verdict, which comes at the end.

 

Throughout the book, Job is crying out for an encounter with God, so that he can justify himself to God. Yet when God finally does speak, far from starting in on his justification, Job repents of his hasty words. He is just thankful to have had an encounter with the living God:

“My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42: 5-6

 

Because he repents, this could suggest that his angry words were sinful.

 

However, God’s verdict on Job’s words comes just a verse later to challenge this perception. God’s proclamation is astonishing:

 

“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7, ESV).

 

That’s right – the pious-sounding ‘God never punishes righteous people and He is entirely good and not to be questioned’ friends’ speeches are declared wrong.

 

Remarkably, angsty, angry, questioning Job is the one who is declared righteous and has spoken of God rightly. And this is not just at the beginning of the book, before his speeches, but at the end as well.

"The Lord also accepted Job" - Photo credit Mike Legend

 

*********

 

What do we conclude from Job?

 

We end up with two paradoxes:
1. Job initially ‘did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing’ – but then spends 30-odd chapters seemingly doing just that.
2. God declares Job and his words righteous, but Job repents anyway.

 

*******

 

There are some who will say, ‘it’s fine to be angry at God, and we can be as angry as we like.’ There are others (like Jerry Bridges) who will say, ‘it is never fine to be angry with God and it is a sin.’

 

The book of Job contradicts both of these bald statements with a more nuanced approach. I like Job’s paradoxes better, these contradictory statements held in tension.

 

Although Job got angry and said that God wasn’t being fair, God still proclaims Job as righteous and to have spoken rightly.

 

Job is praised for his righteousness, for his questions, for his truthfulness. God wins his wager. For all his anger and questioning of God, he is the one who really knew God and sought after him. He clamoured for an audience with God.

 

Conversely, although Job is not rebuked for his anger, Job still feels sorrow. He repents even though he doesn’t need to.

 

Why? Because he met with God.

Job asked for two things; for his suffering to be taken away, and to be given an audience with God (Job 13:20-22). Then, when he did have an audience with God, he didn’t plead his case, and he didn’t beg for the suffering to end.

 

This is why Job is praiseworthy. In the end, the desire to be vindicated was not as strong as his desire to meet with God. Once he had had an encounter with God, his anger disappeared. It was enough to know God and to have been heard by Him. When you meet with God and are confronted by his majesty and goodness, your heart is changed, your knees wobble, your pride falls, the things you were so desperately clinging to fall away. The questions may still be there but they are asked with a different tone.

 

There is an anger that leads to a renewed relationship – and there is an anger that distances ourselves from God. It is my conviction that the kind of red hot, passionate, dialoguing anger of Job’s is not sinful but an essential part of the process and conversation with God when we are faced with things that we don’t understand. Don’t worry about the red hot anger, worry when it solidifies into a cold resentment,a bitter silence that pushes us further from God and communion with Him.

 

Pastorally, I don’t think we should be telling people that their anger with God is a sin. We should be reading Job with them. We should be feeling with them the sorrow and confusion and fear. We should be praying for the only thing that has the power to take away that anger: that God meets them in midst of their questions and speaks to them out of the storm.

Over to you:

  • Which of Job’s words most surprised or struck you?
  • Do you agree that these paradoxes are a more helpful way of approaching the question of whether anger with God is sinful?

If you are angry at God at the moment, ask:

  • Is my desire to be vindicated stronger than my desire to meet with God?
  • How can I ensure that my anger is ‘red hot’ rather than ‘cool bitterness’?

Linking with Women Living Well, Imperfect Prose, Intentional Me, Joy in this Journey

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62 Responses to Get angry at God: Job did

  1. Bobbie Cole 4th June, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    I got really angry at God when I had cancer. It built up as I went through Job-like setbacks. I tried to save my breast and failed. I tried to get the best reconstruction I could and that failed. I got a lesser reconstruction that was inadequate and required further surgery… It went on and on, until I raged.
    The cancer brought my marriage to its knees. Alone, I raged on. I was Mrs. Angry.
    Then He claimed me in a Christian church in Jerusalem, where I was not supposed to be – I was only accompanying a Christian friend who’d graciously come to synagogue with me the previous Friday.
    As I accepted God, He began to bless me. He gave me a new husband of faith.
    He turned everything around for me.
    Here’s my point: We cannot see the stars’ dazzle except for the dark sky.
    Job could not have understood blessing or God’s love without the dark days. God allowed Satin to take him and test him. Ultimately, his faith was strengthened through the experience.

    • Sheri 4th June, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      That is an amazingly beautiful example of how the redemptive work of our YHVH works!
      We have to have something to be redeemed FROM and TO!
      May He continue to bless you and make His face shine upon you!

      • Tanya 5th June, 2013 at 11:56 am #

        Thank you, Sheri!

    • Tanya 5th June, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! Amazing stuff!

    • Jessica Sideways 1st May, 2014 at 2:23 am #

      This comment was offensive and has been deleted.

  2. Sheri 9th March, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Yes please notify me of any follow up responses etc. : )

  3. Sheri 9th March, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    I am looking for answers.

    I am ministering to a diseased and infirmed 86 year woman who is born again but wants to die because she has very little quality of life due to pain. I would say that is true. I have been her caregiver for 5+ years.

    God showed me recently that she has “nursed” a grudge against Him all her life for the premature deaths of her mother (age 15) and her husband (at age 60).

    I would definitely say that her initial anger at God turned to cold bitterness and to her own hurt. Its been difficult to cause her to see and understand this. Three weeks ago, she repented of her grudge against God and there was an immediate drop in her pain levels to zero!

    But old habits die hard apparently and she still voices about why God would take two such good people prematurely. Yes, some pain has returned!
    Ugh! Such breakthrough and then to go back!
    I’ve spent almost 6 years building trust and now this! I’m disappointed and frustrated, but not giving up!

    Just thought I’d vent a little here!
    I was actually looking for articles about forgiving God. Wanting to know if there is scriptural basis for it because someone suggested it for her.
    I am a literalist regarding the Word of God. I can’t see exactly where someone forgave God for doing something.
    No sense doing something unscriptural because I believe it opens the door to the enemy. This lady’s door has been wide open to him since she was 15 years old!
    No sense doing something unscriptural thereby giving him more legal rights as a “squatter” on her Land (body)!

    I welcome any advice and counsel!

    thanks

    • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Hey there

      Thanks for this. It is a tricky situation and I have been pondering it!

      The main thing I think I would say is that it is hard – really hard – to be old and lonely and living in pain. And it is really hard to change old habits, as you say.

      So I guess I’m not that worried that she has returned to her anger. I know it can be frustrating as. A carer and counsellor, but recovery rarely looks like a straight line, before and after thing. More often it looks like a series of wandering circles that go roughly in the right direction, 2 steps forward, one step back. It’s hard to let go of things you have held onto for a long time, even when those things have caused you harm.

      That doesn’t mean you give up, of course, but maybe it means you adjust your expectations slightly? It might be that she needs to talk it through a bit more, and keep practising the letting go as a gradual thing as well as a one-off. I hope that makes sense?

      I think for me personally I would feel more comfortable using the term ‘letting go’ of anger rather than ‘forgiving God’. They may look very similar in practice, but I think the term ‘forgiving God’ is problematic. Whether it’s worth insisting upon this point is a difficult one to call though – requires discernment, I guess.

      One thing that I have found helpful in the past in situations such as these is to write a psalm of lament, an ‘angry psalm’ that voices all the pain and anger in a psalm. And then to discipline myself to write a psalm of praise (perhaps some time later). I then hold the two side by side. I am glad there are both in the Bible!

      Hope this helps!
      Blessings.

      • Sheri 13th March, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

        Thank you so much for your counsel!
        A good reminder that progress is more circular than straight.
        She has back pedaled on some the things that she repented of and the pain has come back worse than before.
        The Lord told me to back off because she is at an impasse with Him. All things are possible with God but He will not violate our will.
        At least this week has been more peaceful in our relationship with God removing me from the “counseling” position with her.
        I’m in agreement about the concept of “forgiving God”. Letting go of anger is a more accurate description of what needs to take place.
        Thank you again for your willingness to help total strangers via the net.

        • Tanya 14th March, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

          Thanks so much for replying! I’m really glad you found it helpful 🙂

  4. Nailah 10th January, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    This has really changed my view, because I thought it was a sin to be angry at God. The reason i was angry at god is because ive been sick for three months ive been reading his word and deep inside my heart i know I will be healed but its taking so long. Its hard when your young and you have to miss a semester out of school because your sick ad doctors cannot find a diagnosis or cause. But i know Gods grace and mercy will never leave me. I know Gods time is the right time and he works everything out for good even when the situation seem impossible.

    • Tanya 14th January, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and engaging so deeply with this. I really feel for you with the uncertainty of it all. Praying for you now. X

  5. Annie Barnett 12th October, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I found your post here through your comment at Seth Haine’s post on the goodness of God. And I just want to say that this speaks so much to me. Learning to live in the paradoxes and tensions has been a huge relief to me, pushed me into more honest relationship with God, quiet the voices of shame and should. Thank you for this.

    • Tanya 12th October, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it. I know what you mean about quieting the voices of shame and should – it’s hard to do…

  6. Melanie Dorsey 1st August, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I used to avoid the book – too messy. But after losing my son, I have found a friend in Job.

    • Tanya 2nd August, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      I was amazed how the book transformed for me when I was suffering, from being an impenetrable rambling book to breathing life back I to me. I’m so glad it helped you as well.

  7. Donna 11th July, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    I came across these posts (and your blog!) when I was in the middle of a fight with God, about prayers I have prayed for over 30yrs about a particular problem that don’t seem to have been answered at all. I can see the damage that problem has done to me and my family – particularly my children. And I cannot see any benefit that has resulted through my prayers not having been answered.
    It is not unheard of for me to ‘rant’ at God – and I have, on occasion, had the disconcerting feeling that He was giggling, just a little, as He listened to me carrying on.
    🙂
    But this is different.
    And I don’t know how to resolve this.
    I do know that I still want and need relationship… but I don’t know how to get past this.

    • Tanya 23rd July, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      Hi Donna. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply to you – I hope you see this.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your honesty in this. I feel your frustration and your confusion at God’s seeming indifference to your situation. It’s a bit of a christian cliche to say that ‘it all works out for good’ – that is what Rom 8 says, but that is not to say that all that happens is good. Some is pure evil, some is messy and unhelpful; sometimes God intervenes and sometimes He is silent. I have been greatly helped by Pete Greig’s book on this topic: ‘God on Mute’. Pete is in charge of an international prayer movement that has seen miraculous answers to prayer and dramatic healings – and yet his ongoing prayers to God to heal his wife’s debilitating epilepsy have not been answered. The book is about how he works this through – it’s thoughtful and in-depth and just brilliant.

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