Is it a sin to be angry at God?

Photo credit: Zero'Skill (creative commons)

This question arose after I read Jerry Bridge’s book ‘Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate’. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it is a thought-provoking book written by a godly man and worth reading. We were discussing it for a book club. 

Jerry Bridges says this: 

Is it okay to be angry toward God? Most pop psychology would answer yes. “Just vent your feelings toward God.” I’ve even read the statement, “It’s okay to be angry at God. He’s a big boy. He can handle it. In my judgment, that is sheer blasphemy.

Let me make a statement loud and clear. It is never okay to be angry at God. Anger is a moral judgment, and in the case of God, it accuses Him of wrongdoing. (Respectable Sins, Chapter Fifteen)

 

I was troubled by this. And yes, ironically enough, it made me a little angry in response. (This, admittedly, was partly because I had spent the last month being mad at God. We were not really on speaking terms at the time.)
 

Of course, in some senses it doesn’t matter that it is a sin, if it is a sin. If we are Christians then we are forgiven, and all our sins are covered by Jesus’ death on the cross.

 

But even if it doesn’t matter on a doctrinal/salvation level, it does matter pastorally. If someone is angry with God, do we need to rebuke them? Do they need to repent of it? Isn’t that just pastorally insensitive? 

So I argued back:

As Christians, we tend to get bothered by anger, but it’s not described as a sin in and of itself. It can lead to sin, that’s why Ephesians says ‘in your anger do not sin’. It is a healthy emotion. Sadness is a healthy emotional response to loss; anger is a healthy emotional response to injustice, either against us or against other people. It’s simplistic to say that you can’t be angry at God. 

We are told to be joyful and rejoice, but that doesn’t mean that the Christian can never be sad or that it’s a sin to be sad. The psalms are full of lament. There are also angry psalms, not the kind of ‘righteous angry-at-the-sin-of-the-world anger’ but the ‘why are you picking on me? Why have you let me down, God?’ anger. They direct their anger to God. It is not pop psychology that tells us to ‘pour out your hearts to God’ but the Bible itself (Ps 62:8).

 

But someone else in the group countered with this:

“Isn’t it still wrong to be directing your anger at God? If anger is a natural emotional reaction to injustice, surely being angry at God is implying that he’s unjust? Isn’t that then accusing God of being morally deficient?”

 

I thought she had a point. Naturally, I didn’t say this, but instead came back with my ‘But the psalms…’ argument again. But I am pondering it.

 

What do you think? I need some input on this one! I shall gather responses and write a follow-up post in a few days.
Over to you:

  • Is it a sin to be angry with God?  

P.S. I am aware that this is a potentially emotive issue.  Please bear this in mind when responding to others’ comments.

Linking up with Joy in this Journey, Imperfect Prose

{You may also want to see the later response I wrote to this and the collated advice from my readers.}

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43 Responses to Is it a sin to be angry at God?

  1. Jo 20th June, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Thought provoking post – have been thinking since I saw it this morning. Not sure I’m any clearer, but here are some thoughts:
    Theoretically we shouldn’t need to get angry with God, because we know what He does is always for our good. But what about the really hard things (some of which have already been mentioned)?
    At the end of the day what is in our hearts & motivating the anger is what God sees. The 2 different types of anger when we argue with our loved ones:
    When we have a barney about probably something insignificant (usually triggered by tiredness or similar), then kiss & make up, and it is quickly forgotten. Then you can laugh about whatever it was that triggered it, if you can even remember!
    When we argue and it is not resolved and we continue to sulk for a period of time afterwards, because we are digging our heels in & entrenching our position – that’s the dangerous one that’s being talked about in ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger’
    And has already been mentioned above the greatest people in the bible got angry with God in the Psalms. Repressed anger is not good so if we can’t be angry with God where do we go & what do we do?
    Still feel there’s more questions than answers, but tea is ready so must go!
    Bless you Tanya

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      So glad it got you thinking! Repressed anger is not good, I agree – we want resolved anger!

  2. Jennifer Richardson 20th June, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    beautiful question, yours.
    i think maybe the fall is to pretend to
    not be angry with God….to cover it up
    and make nice when the feeling
    is really there and the fear tells us it’s too
    risky or unrighteous
    to be real.
    to think that anytime we enter into real relationship
    with anyone, God included, we will feel angry.
    Maybe because we completely misunderstand or
    see things through a gimpy perspective, but we’re still
    going to feel it, the disappointment that turns dark
    and crispy around the edges.
    I’m grateful He is strong enough to take it:)
    And Love enough to comfort and heal.
    grateful for this inspire,
    Jennifer

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      Yes – this is about real relationship – I think that is the key. Great insights – thank you.

  3. Jackie 20th June, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi Tanya, great post. My jaw dropped when I saw the title. Am struggling with various loses at the mo. My mum thinks I shoudn’t be angry, that I have the tools to deal with it and am not using them. I don’t agree with her but amn’t sure what my position is! Your post has made me think (even though I don’t want to think about it!)

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      So glad this has made you think! hope the comments and responses help as you process your losses. x

  4. Sipech 20th June, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    I’ve long been of the view that there is a difference between anger and resentment. With regards to God, I do think it is ok to have times when you are angry with It. But I am also aware that this in a minority view. Where I think there is danger is if the anger is allowed to fester and it turns into resentment. The source of our anger may well be that we don’t understand what’s going on why? For example, one of my friends (a young, married father) has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

    I think the Psalms, as you say, contain good examples of people being angry with God. It’s what we do with that anger that’s important.

    The other main consideration is how your anger affects those around you. We probably should be aware that it doesn’t become uncontrolled rage which damages other people in the fallout.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Re: the difference between anger and resentment – yes! and i think that resentment is the more dangerous…

  5. Janice 20th June, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    this is a VERY interesting post. And I think I’m going to be thinking about this a bit, but here’s my gut reaction:

    We have a son who was born with a complex heart defect who only lived for nine weeks. Amid all the other stages of grief we’ve been through in the past four years, anger has certainly had it’s part. I have sometimes been sinfully angry and jealous of women who I see as “unworthy” mothers who have perfectly healthy children, I’ve been angry at doctors, but that never lasts since I know they did their best and we did give them an impossible task. And really, when you are dealing with issues of how a body was created and questions of life and death, who do you direct your anger and questions to besides God?

    If my husband does something to make me angry, whether its ‘legitimate’ anger or not, I think it’s good to tell him about it. Even if I tell him just to explain, tell him I’m sorry and that I’m working to fix it. How is that different from God? If I’m angry at something that only God could be responsible for, do I hide it? Do I lie about how I feel? I shouldn’t exalt my feelings above everything else, but in the relationship we have, it seems that i should be able to tell him, even if I’m telling with an apology and asking for help with it.

    This seems foggy in my head, but I’m going to think about it more. Great post. And your friend at the book club did have a good point. 🙂 Which I would have countered with the Psalms too. 🙂

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your story. It sounds like you had a lot to be angry about… I like your thoughts here – they sound like they are from someone who has thought deeply about suffering and come through it. It’s amazing that you could take all that to God.

  6. Alice 20th June, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    From the top of my head:

    – being angry with God does seem to suggest we think he’s done the wrong thing, which can’t be encouraged or OK.
    – expressing our anger to God is seen again and again in the bible and is a good thing (thank God!!!!)
    – there is lots in the world to make us angry and we wonder why God doesn’t change it. We always hold a tension between God’s goodness and sovereignty and the injustice in the world and the pain and frustrations in our lives.
    – sometimes anger is an expression of our rage at not being the centre of the world. We are not worshiped and served and adored in the way we would like and it makes us angry. We sometimes need to stop and recognise that and confess it and re-view our world with a more godly perspective.
    – sometimes we need to change our words. We are angry about… And we are discouraged that God is allowing it. We are angry because… And we feel unloved by God because of it. We are angry that… And we wonder whether God cares as much as we do? We’re not always actually angry with God when we think we are!
    – its still ok to express our anger in prayer and lay it allllllll out there and ask for his help! When we are angry with God, it’s better to address it and tell him than to go off in a huff!

    Look forward to reading more conclusions! Xxx

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Great stuff here! I thought that the evaluation of our words is especially a fruitful line of enquiry – I think you’re right that sometimes it’s not anger, exactly that we feel. Anger is a real emotion of disguises…

  7. Roz 20th June, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    i wonder if the way forward is in taking our anger to God, even our anger toward Him and engaging Him in understanding our anger and pain which is way the psalms are there I believe. So on one hand God because of who He is is big enough for our anger but we need to sometimes journey and wrestle with Him deeply and honestly to come through anger without sinning or to know His forgiveness when we do sin in anger. We need to do this rather than just hurl our anger at Him with no intention of letting Him speak into the situation. As we journey with Him my prayer would be that He would reveal what painful circumstances don’t reflect immediately, that He does have a plan not to harm us and that He has our deepest need of salvation and restoration at heart. i know my anger toward God in the past is because I don’t know Him well enough and I prefer to be the victim.
    Anger in reaction to genuine injustice especially global atrocities needs to be taken to God, it is right and proper to feel anger then. When the events simply overwhelm us with their size in contrast to our prayers then it is not surprising if God takes the wrap because He claims to be all sovereign but evil still happens. He wants us to be angry, in so doing we help reflect Him to a broken world. A world that needs to know God cares when it can feel like He doesn’t but then we need to ask Him to help us respond as He would, to be His tangible hands and voice, to ensure we don’t sin in our anger and ask Him to help us understand why He seems to be letting evil have its day. So I guess we need to direct our questions that flow out of our anger more than the anger itself at God and let Him speak for Himself. And give Him my anger so that I am free to be His hands and voice in the darkness.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      So much wisdom here! I especially like the point that God wants us to be angry becuase we help reflect Him to a broken world. Thank you!

  8. Lisa 20th June, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I think it is wrong to be angry at God, this dosnt mean to say we will never feel this way as we are only human, anger is a very human reaction, however I feel it is definitely wrong to be angry at god, especially when we stop to think what he did for us

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Probably thinking about what God has done for us is the best antidote for anger at God – good suggestion!

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