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

  1. a soulful life 21st June, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    I am angry at the darkness that creates evil and injustice in the world, but I’m not angry at God.
    I think that sometimes we can get confused when we imagine that God creates evil or harmful, or just unfair things.
    I saw a documentary about this little 9 year old girl in Zimbabwe, her mother was dying and she had to take care of her and her baby sister, her only family.
    If I thought God was responsible for this little girl’s situation, I would be an athiest.
    I would have to be. I couldn’t serve a God like that.
    But I see it as the darkness that our sin has allowed into the world through our selfishness, greed etc… That is the cause of the little girl’s suffering.
    So I think sometimes it’s just anger misdirected.
    Thought provoking post 🙂

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      This is a really interesting point. For a further discussion on this – do check out my post ‘Get angry at God: Job did’ and particularly Alastair’s comments below – I think he has some really helpful insights on this issue.

  2. Diana 21st June, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    To justify my anger with God I like to think He is so gracious He prefers me to get angry at Him than with others and ruin the chance of being a good witness and pointing them to Him. When my ‘rant’ is over I always feel calmer and then can say sorry for my anger, praise Him for listening and loving Him for His faithfulness – all in all it’s an honest relationship. God loves us so much He sent His son to die for us – I have a feeling He can bear a little displaced anger. However, in return if He shows us a resolution for our anger would we be obedient to follow – that’s the bigger question. Yes give God your anger but then be prepared for Him to transform you in something you weren’t expecting!

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing something of your relationship with God. I find it really freeing to hear of people that rant at God! The process you describe sounds so much like that which we see in the psalms – it’s so much better to take it to Him.

  3. brian miller 21st June, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    depending on the church, i think we try to keep emotion out of the equation in many ways with religeon…i dont see a problem with being angry at god…here is the thing…its like saying you never got angry at your spouse….it just doesnt happen…you can try to hide it and pretend but most likely if you hvae a relationship that is engaging in any way and not just some sterile proximity you will get angry at them at some point…anger is one of our emotions…to deny it is to deny ourselves…and deny who god made us to be as well…

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      It’s important to be honest, isn’t it? Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Emily 21st June, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Hmm, really interesting post! I won’t just repeat all the great comments that have already been given – but here are some of my questions instead: what is anger? (in your post you hinted at two sorts of definitions – Jerry Bridges ‘moral judgement’ and your ’emotional response to injustice’ – I’m wondering if both shed light on what anger is?)
    And the other ones, much harder (for me, for everyone!) to answer are: who am I angry with? And why am I angry with them? I know that sometimes I feel anger, but misdirected- I get angry about the wrong thing, or attribute blame where it doesn’t belong. Trivial example being the other day I get really frustrated about a kitchen utensil being left unwashed next to the kettle (yes, that really was enough to make me angry, sadly!) and I internally blamed the person I thought responsible, and later on complained about it to someone else, who then sheepishly admitted that they were the ones who’d left it there!
    Problems were that I was angry with the wrong person, and more fundamentally than that, why was I angry anyway? It doesn’t do me any great harm to wash up a spatula!! But underneath all that I felt like someone owed me something, or that I deserved to be treated a certain way, and disregard (or apparent disregard!) of that offended me, wounded my pride and made me think about myself more than I thought about serving those around me, and what I could do for them. Ouch, all that it took for my sinful heart to reach this point was a piece of kitchen equipment.
    I wonder if the times when I’m angry with God would sometimes (I’m not saying always – I’ve not thought enough about this to make a sweeping statement!) be dealt with better by asking myself those kinds of questions.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing – these are great questions, really helpful – thank you.

  5. Cara @ WhimsySmitten 21st June, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Tough question, for sure. I don’t know that I have an answer, but I do feel that there is a distinct purpose for all the Scriptural evidence of anger at God and not always in a rebuking light. When I am suffering with anger, I find comfort in seeing how He has redeemed the stories of those in the Word and it makes the depth of redemption so much more real to me to be taken to those angry places. Whether it’s a sin or not… I don’t know, but I know it’s something we all experience and that ultimately, He uses it for good.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi – great to see you on here. Yes – I am so thankful for Scripture and all the stories of those who have walked the road before us! Redemption makes a big difference too… Thanks for your comment.

  6. imperfect prose 21st June, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    wow. i love that you addressed this topic. and it’s something i’ve been pondering lately too. i think i will write a post next week about my thoughts on it, but suffice it to say, i think it’s okay. i do think God can handle our anger. i think the key is, not to sin in our anger. not to accuse him, but simply, to be honest with him. and then to let our anger go, trusting him with it. i’m so glad you linked. i loved this post.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      (Sorry – this got stuck in the spam filter for a few days…)

      Thank you SO much for stopping by. It’s really helpful to emphasise not sinning in our anger – to distinguish between emotion and sin. It’s hard to keep sin out of anger, but possible. I’d love to read more of your thoughts on it!

  7. HopeUnbroken 21st June, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    fascinating! i’ve loved reading everyone’s thoughts on this.
    so as i think through this, here are my thoughts: is my anger causing me to turn away from God, or continue to dialogue and draw near to Him?
    here’s one example that came to mind. if i’m angry with my husband, the emotion of anger, itself, is not sinful. it is how i respond to that anger. i can work through it with him, communicate with him, restore a rightful relationship with him. OR, i can allow the anger to drive a wedge between us, thus allowing the anger to result in sin.
    now, obviously God and my husband are two separate beings 🙂 however, God has made us with these emotions. and i don’t think the emotions alone are sinful. it is how we approach God with them. while i might be angry with God, i’m not sure that means i am necessarily sinning until i allow it to drive a wedge in our relationship.
    all that being said, it should be taken very seriously, and i don’t think it should be allowed to “sit” in the relationship for long. it’s one of those things that i would want to deal with as quickly as i could in order to not have it turn into something chronic and sinful.
    and finally, perhaps it depends on each individual situation, and only God really knows when a man is sinning in his anger. i certainly believe it’s possible to be sinfully angry at God. but i also believe it’s possible to be angry at God and very much like a toddler—highly in need of a stronger, steadier hand to guide us through the working out of our emotions, all the while embracing us and reassuring us that there is Someone greater in control.
    well, i don’t know if any of that made any sense. . . and i would probably think of a ton more things. but that’s it for now. you have me thinking!!!
    thanks for sharing this,
    steph

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      ‘is my anger causing me to turn away from God or to dialogue with Him’?
      Profound question – so helpful, and helped shape some of my conclusions on this issue (alongside Job!) Many thanks.

  8. Esther 20th June, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    This has got me thinking about what makes us feel angry, rightly or wrongly. It can be when we feel we have been treated unjustly or unfairly. Perhaps it is when needs or expectations haven’t been met. I can feel angry when I have felt misunderstood or when I asked for something but it wasn’t done.
    I think the reference to the Psalms is an interesting one because sometimes the psalmists are much more honest about their feelings of discontent than I often feel comfortable with.
    There are times when I have felt angry at God or let down by Him. That is a strange conundrum because my head tells me it isn’t right to be angry at a perfect God who doesn’t make mistakes, my fears tell me God will reject me or punish me if I’m angry with Him. The Bible teaches me that God is good all the time, yet my emotions tell me I am hurting. In these times I have felt led to confront the mystery of the things that don’t make sense and to come to God with my honest feelings. He has seen them already so it’s best to come out into the open.
    I think that if we don’t talk out how we feel with God or with our spouse, friends or kids we only act it out anyway so experience has shown me it is best to come to God in those angry times and open up, telling Him where I have felt angry or disappointed and then letting go of that so that peace can come in.
    That has not always felt like a comfortable or safe process, but as I have come to see that God is a kind and forgiving Father, one who reaches out to His children despite their worst rejection, the Father in the prodigal son who runs to the younger son and welcomes him home with kisses reinstating him in his family, then it feels more and more safe to be real before God, telling Him what He has already seen in my heart. It takes courage, particularly when the disappointments have been great but I can testify that coming to God with the good and the bad has only brought fruit.
    Must spend more time in the Psalms!! Thanks Tanya for this post. Very thought provoking.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your experience of walking with God – it felt familiar to my experience, and that’s always a comfort! I think the image of God as Father is a really helpful one for this issue – thank you.

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