I came across your blog after reading some of your work for Verily (all great stuff, btw!). As you can tell by the header, I'm wondering if you could shed some light on how you deal with anger and frustration with God. I've been a believer all my life, but lately I've been struggling in my conviction that God is really there looking out for me. Over the past couple years there have been some trials and setbacks in my personal life, and I've started to feel like God and I have more of a Charlie Brown and Lucy relationship—He puts the thing I want out in front of me and says, "Trust me," and when I decide to put myself out there and go for it, He yanks it away, and I'm lying face up on the ground with a ringing in my ears. Suffice it to say, it's become difficult for me to choose trusting Him lately. I've started to go to church less and less and have pretty much stopped praying because I feel like there's no point—that He either doesn't listen or doesn't care.
I know it's partly on me because while He is all-powerful, I'm not entitled to anything FROM Him, and yet I can't help but feel upset at Him for placing these desires in my heart and never allowing them to be fulfilled or come to fruition. I'm curious as to if you've ever felt this way and what you've done to deal with it and gain perspective. And in the long term, what made it possible for you to start trusting him again? I'm hoping that in everything you've learned in your journey thus far, you'd have some words of wisdom for a fellow traveler. Thanks!
First of all, thank you for writing. Thank you for having the courage to ask a hard question. I’m encouraged by your desire to turn back to God and trust Him again.
Now… Have I ever felt this way before? Yes, absolutely. Safe to say most if not all of us have felt this way at some point or another on the journey. We get these ideas in our heads of what life is supposed to look like, of how our days are meant to go, and how our plans are surely going to work out the way we envision them. We craft, and we tinker. We create, and we build. We think we know exactly what we need, when we need it, and how it's going to come about perfectly for us. And God gives us free will. He allows us to make decisions and to choose a path when we reach a fork in the road.
But, Michael, I have to tell you: Our plans are not always God's plans.
Anger at God can come on so suddenly. Be it a relationship ending, shattered job hopes, financial insecurity, the onset of illness, death of a loved one, or even the current state of our broken world—these things affect us and can quickly alter our view of God. Our circumstances are always changing. God remains the same—He is a good, good Father regardless of how we feel about Him or the unique situation we find ourselves in.
I have been thinking about your question a lot, Michael. When was I mad at God? I thought about relationships. A time when I felt like God was teasing me. Last year, I was dumped by someone I briefly dated. This man appeared to check off all the boxes as a fellow Believer who seemed to have his life together and who seemed to pursue me honestly. When things ended, it was very clear to me that he was not the right man for me. And yet, the breakup was a test of my faith. Why did God bring this person into my life and give me a sense of hope only to rip it away? Like you said, He put this thing in front of me, and I began to go for it. I allowed myself to open up again. As soon as I did, it was over. I felt foolish. I felt used. And I felt disappointed in God.
I spent time in His Word and in prayer. I journaled so, so much. I think the best thing I did was honestly talk to God. I was open with Him about how I felt. I told him I was upset and sad. I lamented. So tell him how you feel, Michael. Cast your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. He’s not looking at you like, Ha! Sorry Michael, you lost your chance. I dangled this thing in front of you and then took it away from you because you don’t deserve it. I want you to suffer.
God’s job is not to make us suffer.
He doesn’t create suffering. Remember that part of Genesis where God looks out on His creation and calls it good? That still holds true today. His creation is good and for our good. He did not intend for suffering to be a part of this world, but because of the fall in the garden of Eden, it is. We are broken people and we live in a broken environment. That wasn’t God’s intention for us. That’s why we’ll experience disappointment, doubt, fear, and sadness. We’re going to distrust God because of it.
He is still good.
A major turning point in my faith was recognizing that God doesn’t create suffering, but he allows it. That’s so important for us to remember. Suffering is not part of His design. The great news is He uses it to bring us closer to Him and bring glory to His kingdom. Christ suffered to an unthinkable degree—far more than we ever will. Our troubles here on earth are momentary afflictions. We can hope because Christ already came, died, and rose for us.
Before I was a Believer, I went through a time of serious depression and illness. I was caught in the throes of an eating disorder, and I hit rock bottom. By all medical and physical accounts, I should have died. It’s truly a miracle I survived after punishing my body and engaging in such destruction. At that time, though, all I thought was, Why did this happen to me? Why am I suffering like this? I had to withdraw from my first semester of college—totally not part of the plan. I lost many of my friends. My life completely changed. I couldn’t comprehend why God would do that to me.
I can now confidently say He didn’t “do that to me” or want me, His beloved daughter, to endure tragedy. But He used that time to bring me close to Him. That’s the greatest testing of my faith I’ve ever experienced. I wasn’t walking with Him then; He called me closer and closer to Him through the suffering. After my anger subsided, I didn’t know what else to do except to hope in Him.
Today I have an understanding of people and a merciful heart toward those who suffer that I did not have before all that happened. God’s used my experiences to strengthen my faith in Him. He’s showed me what really matters and to keep my eyes fixed on Him. It’s an extreme example, but perhaps you can relate to some part of it. He doesn’t need a near-death experience to fuel our faith; He uses even the smallest things in our lives.
Michael, I was talking about your question with my boyfriend, and he pointed me to Romans, specifically Romans 5. It’s a beautiful passage.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
And that’s why we can trust in Him. That’s why we can believe He sees us, knows us, and cares for us.
No matter how wonderful the desires of our heart are, they do not compare to Christ. We get Him and His plan—it’s better than anything we can envision or long for here on earth. Any suffering we go through now simply doesn’t compare with the glory God has in store for us. Remember that. Keep telling yourself the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it or don’t really believe it. Ask God to pull your heart closer to Him once again—and watch as He does His work.
Praying for you,
If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuff, shoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life.
And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.
Truly, He makes beautiful things.