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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57 Responses to Get angry at God: Job did

  1. Frank 24th March, 2016 at 12:35 am #

    It could be really easy to get angry with God and Satan placing a wager on Job and myself as I feel like sometimes. I don’t know how many times I’ve felt like they’re placing a wager on me; and I fail every time, because I’m tired of it all. It is a sin to wager. I’ve heard it many times. “Playing – the – Lotto – is – a – sin – because – it’s – gambling – it’s- parallel – to – a – wager.” So if God and Satan place a wager on Job, how is it that God is still righteous? They gambled on a mans life and his entire family was wiped out and all he had was taken from him, not to mention boils were put on him. I know what this feels like and believe me I’m pissed at them both (God and Satan), yet I’m the sinner. It makes it difficult to believe in such a dogmas that would place a bet on a soul. It’s human nature to get angry for any injustice no matter who causes it. You don’t know my circumstances, but if you did you would probably say, yes you have the right to get angry with God, but my anger doesn’t end with him it continues with the enemy that provoked him to place such a bet, and those in my life that continue to plague me with their poor treatment of me and making me feel like their servant or slave, while continually feeling sick with a crippling disease. God is no respecter of man and nether are people. Why should anyone respect God for an injustice of plaguing people with a life time of ills? I have a really hard time with worshiping that kind of dogma. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome. But believe me once my anger has subsided and I’ve had time to rest on my situation. I’ll be back at apologizing to God and worshiping Him again, despite the fact I know this kind of treatment will continue in my life until I die; especially, when I least expect it, like today. So I say get Angry with HIM it’s not like you can do much more than that. If it’s a sin oh well. Who started it? We all have the right to get angry and question God.

  2. david zaitzeff 29th November, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

    I dialogue with an LDS friend or friendly acquaintance. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that at times he expressed an unreasonable and unbiblical understanding of faith in God or a relationship with God. I think he has recently implied that a true believer would not have accused God of wrongdoing–and what is more than that, if a person has accused God of wrongdoing, he never was a proper believer. At least, these things seem to me to be a fair inference from the “teachings” of Kevin.

    So I went searching on the Net on the topic of Job accusing God and your page came up.

    I have studied the views on the book of Job in the past and there seem to be dozens or perhaps even hundreds of differing views. I think we can even find an occasional college professor who writes a new book or article with some new-fangled view explaining away one or the other of these things as not having happened. I quoted you briefly to my friendly acquaintance Kevin, because it seems to me you have it right or mostly right. Job accused God of misconduct and God either overlooks that or considers it reasonable or worth forgetting or something . . .

    The conclusion of the book seems to be a nonconclusion, theologically speaking, because Job has accused God and then God says God approves of Job and these things seem to not fit well together. The conclusion seems wrong to “us” . . .
    david zaitzeff recently posted…David is insane–ha!My Profile

  3. Soul Collector 3rd September, 2015 at 3:02 am #

    Actually the point was that Job said he spoke things he did not understand and God said he spoke well because he saw his fault. Meanwhile his other friends said nothing who were partially right in judgement of the wicked but wrong to say Job was had sinned. If you want to argue with God than go ahead and answer the questions God spoke. It seems whoever wrote the article didnt read and understand what happened in the book.

    • Tanya 3rd September, 2015 at 8:43 am #

      Hi, I’m Tanya, the person who wrote the article. I’m interested that you interpret it differently. I guess the question the book of Job poses is, ‘was Job sinful when he got angry with God, or was he righteous despite being angry with God?’ Job’s friends seem to think he was sinful when he got angry with God. Does God agree with their verdict? You seem to argue that he did, ‘spoke well because he saw his fault.’ Why, then, were his friends wrong to say that Job had sinned, if Job had indeed sinned? Best wishes.

      • Soulcollector 14th September, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

        When I said fault it did not mean sin but fault as in lacking which God showed he did lack much or had fault.As in understanding,and in power he lacked those things.He was blameless and righteous in that he did not curse God when everything was going wrong.

      • david zaitzeff 29th November, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

        I think the two of you are focusing on slightly different parts of the book and asking somewhat different questions . . .

        I think that the book portrays Job’s anger as somewhat reasonable in the circumstances, but not in the long run . . .
        david zaitzeff recently posted…upcoming caning todayMy Profile

  4. anonymous 5th April, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    I am mad at god due to being homeless nearly 2 years. I have no family their all deceased and my friends are turning out to be a joke.
    I am now living out of my car in the cold. Last night I see that this other gal I know who is homeless as well and has a car, is now living nice and warm in some ladys place. She isn’t even a Christian! Ive been a Christian 22 years and this is what serving god gets me?
    I am mad at god and to the point of finding some other form of worship or entity.
    Enough is enough I am 52 woman and all alone in this world.Ive put up with enough and its time for my life to get better. If god cant do this then I need to find someone or thing that can.
    I’m tired and worn out, and tired of being cold. I want a home one of my very own and to have a normal happy life again. tired of being jealous of all these people that have homes. tired of all the Christians that have a spare room they could let me use even a spare couch, but they rather leave me outside in the cold.. so much for Christian love.
    ” I will be praying for you” thanks a lot you have a home and a warm bed to sleep in. And don’t give me anymore scriptures to read those scriptures don’t keep you warm when your trying to sleep in a cold car.
    A loving god wouldn’t do this to a person, so I have a hard time see him as a loving kind entity right now.
    I want a home one of my own a warm one that’s nice and clean and just for me, I want to be happy and live a normal life and have enough money to never to be in need ever again. is this too much to ask for.
    And if your wondering, I cant get a job,lost my last one nearly 2 years ago alone with my apartment. I’ve put in hundreds of applications and resumes and no one will hire me, went to a career counselor to try and figure out what’s wrong, and they say my resumes fine its just the economy.
    hard to believe that god loves me not after all I’ve been through.

    • Tanya 8th April, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      If I were in your situation I think I would also be railing at the world and at God. I would want to be warm, and in a bed. I would not understand why God would do this to me.

      At this distance, all I can do is pray – and I am reluctant to say that just because I know what you need from Christians is practical provision, not pious prayer – but I am praying anyway.

      I’m glad that my blog was a safe place for you to pour out your heart. Praying for a breakthrough for you.

    • Stephanie 17th June, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Honey, where are you? What city are you in? I too have suffered in many ways and struggled deeply with anger at the Lord, feeling as though He ignores my cry. I don’t want to throw a Scripture at you or tell you cliches. Those who have endured suffering themselves avoid this path. Just please, if you are able to access the internet again, reply to this post. I have no idea how I can help but the body of Christ is meant to help each other! My husband and I don’t have much but I’m sure God can work something out. When your faith is weak, we as a body can be strong for one another to encourage your strength. If you still need help, please respond.

      I’m sorry for all you have been through!

      Stephanie

  5. shey 22nd October, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    i have depression and borderline personality disorder, its affects every area of my life including my relationship with God in a negative way. Every time I tried to get close to God I would be subjected to doubt fear confusion demonic opression depression etc. It got to the point where I decieded I couldnt have a stable relationship with God, I held onto the faith that Jesus died for my sins and I truly believed I was going to heaven but I stopped serving him because i thought if I continued I would lose my faith in him all together. Because of my mental illness and deep depression I decided of this year end of October that I would take my life, but I thought let me give God a chance one last time. I seeked counseling from a pastor who implied that backsliders don’t get saved. He quoted that scripture that even the devil believe in God and they tremble so all that while where I backslide and didn’t seek a relationship with God I was going to hell. It saddened me but I accepted it and continued to seek God through prayer, church bible study, I stopped drinking, sex and smoking etc and now I’m in the same situation that I was back then. I feel condemned by the word I’m constantly confused, I suffer and I don’t get comforted by God instead I get disciplined! Now I’m just angry at God, why does he allow me to continue to suffer, why does he allow me to feel condemned why doesn’t he comfort me and teach me his ways so I don’t get confused. Why didnt he protect me. Why was I on my way to hell even though I earnestly tried so hard to please God. Why doesn’t he take my mental illness away from me even though he knows it affects my faith in him in a bad way even to the point of my losing my salvation! I truly want to understand but I’m susceptible to be lead astray due to my illness. I feel like God has let me down. And no matter how angry I am at him in the end I know that he’s always right and I’m wrong, and then I feel guilty and the cycle continues. Its to the point where I’m considering suicide as my only way out but who knows where I”ll end up, I’m trapped.

    • Tanya 22nd October, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      I’m really sorry to hear all this – it sounds like such a confusing and exhausting spiral. I can understand why you feel frustrated that God won’t take away your illness, and I can also resonate with that feeling of doing your best to serve a god but feeling like God has let you down. Mental illness SUCKS. Big time. I think it’s one of the loneliest things out there.

      For me, I have found that when I have got my depression treated well with drugs or counselling, it really helps my relationship with God. I find that the illness makes my spiritual life suffer, rather than my lack of spiritual life causing my depression. But I know that for others it is hard to get it controlled with drugs or counselling, and so these things are not simple.

      I’m praying for you. Much love.

      • shey 28th October, 2013 at 4:47 am #

        thanks ive started taking my medication again and i seek christian counseling, my relationship with god has improved drastically. i understand that he wants to help me to serve him despite my mental illness and he has showed me and empowered me to do it. I realize that I cant do anything in my own strength but on Gods strength. I had a job experience, with his friends condemning him hating my life everything. I know now that trials bring about character so I’m thankful for my trials even though they do suck lol. thanks for your prayers

        • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 9:21 am #

          I am SO glad to hear of all of this! thanks so much for stopping by, and filling me in on the latest. I will continue to pray.

  6. Sharon 8th June, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    God is teaching me to know be so quick to be bitter and angry with him, because it really doesn’t help

  7. Sharon 8th June, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    I see myself in Job. I have put things before God like Job might have put his children before God bu sacrificing and praying for their sins when they should have been more concerned about themselves, or Job could have been praying more for himself and his relationship with God (there’s a possibility that he did). I am self-righteous at times. One night I had a dream, and I told the Lord look at what all I have given up for you, and he said back to me look what I gave up for you. I remember I was very upset, it’s called “church hurt” when people in the church do you wrong. I was sitting in church thinking about how this person had hurt me, and I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me and he said, “Don’t let it consume you.” Sometimes, o.k. I always try to find the lesson God wants me to learn in every unjust and just situation that has happened to me, and I did my research and I came to this webpage. And now I know the lesson God wants me to learn from Job, (considering my own need for vindication I feel that God has not given me vindication in) is that my need for vindication should not be greater than my relationship with God. God is teaching me to know be so quick to be bitter and angry with him, because he really doesn’t help. I am learning to trust him and build a better relationship with him inspite of not having everything I think I want or need, and when I feel the need to be vindicated from unjust people and sometimes when I feel he can be an unjust God.

    • Tanya 9th June, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and reflect on how Job speaks to you in your journey at the moment. It was a pleasure to read. Thank you.

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