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. Bruce Cochrane 18th November, 2018 at 6:25 am #

    Scripture tells us that God himself is slow to anger. This implies to me that it is not easy to anger God. We are told many times in scripture that anger is a bad thing, not a good thing.

    Why would you direct any anger to God anyway? God is not the cause of sin. He does not tempt us to sin. If there is anyone to be angry at it should be the one who tempts is to sin, the one that causes all of the turmoil in the world.

    Anger is a very unhealthy emotion. Anger causes physical health problems and many heart attacks are caused by angry outbursts.

    Psychogists like to say that anger is a healthy expression of our emotions but they also say that lust is normal and that masturbation is normal and good. They say that anger, happiness and every other emotion is evolved over billions of years.

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in the morality lessons from psychologists. They may be right about some things, but with others, things are just as big of a mystery to them as it is to us.

    What were you blaming on God anyway? It is highly unlikely that God was the cause of something bad to you. God may correct us as we go along through life and after we sin, but he isn’t up in Heaven purposely hurting people for some pleasing game.

    I got angry at God once and I regret it. I feel stupid for ever blaming God for anything.

  2. Jana 7th November, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I know this is later than everyone else’s comments, but I came across this while looking up information on a children’s book I’m writing.

    Don’t we all get angry with God? I think we get angry with God because we don’t know who else to get angry with. If it’s because of something that happened that’s totally out of human control, such as the ladies baby, then who else can we direct our anger toward. We cannot pretend that we are not angry, that’s not healthy. We can’t blame our loved ones, that’s not good for relationships. And when people say, “He’s a big boy, he can handle it.” I don’t think it’s meant to be blasphemic, I think it is just saying that our God is a big, big, God and he can handle anything we through at him. Many times when we get angry at someone, they didn’t do anything wrong to begin with. It was our perception of something done or said. God loves us no matter what we say or do. He loves us even if we don’t repent or if we make really stupid mistakes. That’s the beauty of God’s love, mercy and grace. Is it a sin? I don’t think so. He knows when it’s going to happen and he let’s it happen anyway. Why? Because he knows more than we do. Maybe he knows that’s what we need to do at the time to get to where we need to be after. I’m not a pastor or even a religion teacher, so I have nothing theoligical to back up my words. I’m just someone who loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind and I know that He loves me infinitely more than that.

    • Tanya 8th November, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Hey there Jana

      Great to hear from you – I’m glad you stumbled across this! I really love your perspective – and I think you’re right, that it’s good to direct our anger at God, that it is safe to do so. After writing this post, I wrote a follow-up (see the link just above) called ‘Get angry with God: Job did’ where I wrote that my study of Job led me to conclude just as you have that it is not a sin to get angry with God, and it is a safe thing to do.
      Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Blessings!

  3. Tanya 24th June, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    SO many amazing comments here! Thanks so much for all these wise words – I am sifting through them as I think through my response. Brilliant stuff!

  4. Tim Carlisle 23rd June, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    John Piper (Google is my friend) has written something useful though not necessarily helpful to the angry Christian http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/is-it-ever-right-to-be-angry-at-god

    But really challenging – I had always thought like you that the tone of the psalms was anger but I suspect that in some cases it is indignation and in others there is a questioning and a pleading but possibly not the anger that I’d really like there to be?

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks for this Tim – most helpful. Hadn’t read this and it was good to get Piper’s perspective – i think it is probably very similar to Jerry Bridge’s. My only hesitation with his stuff is that he seems to start from a philosophical definition rather than looking at the biblical stuff and determining doctrine from there? I hesitate to say this about the intellectual and biblical might of someone like Piper, but then again, he’s still human! We all have sinful theology – not sure if he’s quite on-the-spot with this issue (in my humble opinion).

  5. Tricia Whittle 22nd June, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Sorry if someone else has said this (I’m too tired to read all the other responses) but Jesus turned over the tables in the temple. Wasn’t that an outburst of anger?
    Jesus NEVER sinned.

    God created us. He knows we are emotional creatures and He knows when we aren’t being honest with him so what’s the point in pretending we aren’t angry with him?

    I wonder if He just waits until we’ve finished (like we do with toddlers) then we are ready to listen to Him.

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      I think the image of toddlers having a tantrum is really helpful! I need to remind myself constantly that God is a father, and I am a child, and that is okay. Thank you for taking the time/energy to share.

  6. GayleO 21st June, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Fantastic article! Very thought provoking – I’m looking forward to your follow-up piece already! ;D
    I think I tend to agree with your friend that to be angry at God suggests that we’re attributing to Him deficiencies or implying that He’s made a wrong decision. But He is always right, is always good, and who are we to question Him and His ways?! At the same time, we are emotive and sentient beings and we experience anger as well as other intense emotions. As has already pointed out, I think anger in some instances is good: there is a righteous anger when we witness injustices, or the negative effects of sin in the world, and in those cases we experience God’s heart for His creation and share in His righteous anger. But there is also anger that we are warned about (Matthew 5), and also to be careful that when angry we don’t allow it to lead us into sin (Ephesians 4). So, I think there are two kinds of anger we are dealing with, righteous anger and (for the purposes of discussion) not-so-righteous anger.
    The psalms show us that it is good for us to talk to God, even when angry, and to vent our feelings to Him. But it’s interesting that aswell as these examples in the Bible, there is also the example of Jonah: he was angry with God for showing compassion to Nineveh and God asked him (rhetorically, I presume..), “Is it right for you to be angry?”. In this case we have a specific example of someone getting angry with God because they disapprove of what He has done, and in response God rebukes them. And when Job got angry and questioned God about his circumstances, his ultimate response was repentance (Job 42). I’m not saying don’t talk to God, to stifle our feelings – God knows our hearts anyway, so we may as well express it verbally to Him! I think the greater challenge is not to hold on to anger, not to let it seep into our heart and let bitterness take root, that is the hardest thing to do. We’ve had some rotten experiences in the last few years, and I’ve been angry (mostly at the Church of England..) and as soon as we moved away I was challenged in my heart to let go – it doesn’t mean I forget the hurt (the experiences have shaped my attitude and affected my levels of trust greatly..) but even though we still don’t know the fuller picture we’ve had glimpses of what God is doing and we rejoice that He’s brought us to this place, even if it meant having to go through difficult circumstances to get here. I don’t know if we women are more emotive and prone to anger (little girls are well known to fall out and not speak to their friends for weeks on end…) but one of the things I love about my husband is that he never holds a grudge – and even more than me he’s had to experience first hand some dire treatment and some exceptionally hard situations. And yet he is always cordial to those he’s had disagreements with, and always treats people with respect. Glad to have a man like that in my life to remind me about that!!

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Thanks Gayle – I think you make your point really well, and is similar to the lines argued by Jerry Bridges and John Piper. I really appreciated your biblical references to keep me rooted in the scripture – was good to think about how Jonah fitted in and whether Job repenting means that he was wrong to get angry. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! 😉

      I also respect you enormously for the way that you both have dealt with the (justifiable) anger you have felt in reaction to the past few years – you are amazing! Much love.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Get angry at God: Job did (Is it a sin to be angry with God? Pt II) « Thorns and Gold - 27th June, 2012

    […]   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?‘ […]

  2. Angry with God? 6 Top Tips from readers « Thorns and Gold - 26th June, 2012

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