For quite some time, there’s a popular notion going around in Christian circles that it’s not only OK to give full-vent of one’s anger towards God, but that it’s also […]
For quite some time, there’s a popular notion going around in Christian circles that it’s not only OK to give full-vent of one’s anger towards God, but that it’s also psychologically beneficial to do. This is more than simply expressing one’s deep hurt and frustration, but doing so in a way that has no moral boundaries. Hence, abusive speech such as swearing and cursing directed at God are excused since He is, “big enough to take it”.
In practice, though, this is emotionally unhelpful at best, and spiritually destructive at worst. The Psalms are obviously filled with expressions of the full range of emotions. Everything from joy to despair (e.g. Psalm 13). But the important thing to notice is that nowhere do we find David—or any of the other writers—expressing how they feel towards God in an ungodly way. A pertinent passage in this regard is Psalm 4:4:
‘In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.’
It’s important to note how being angry in and of itself is not a sin. Indeed, the apostle Paul picks up on precisely the same spiritual truth in Ephesians 4:26-27 where he adds that we must not let the sun go down on our anger, and in so doing give the Devil a foothold. This is because anger that is not expressed in an appropriate way actually fuels further grievance.
The challenge then is to
a) not sin when we are angry through either cursing or physical violence, but also
b) not minimise our anger by not addressing the person who has caused the offence. Both reactions are wrong. Psalm 4 challenges us to especially curtail our speech in such situations, even if it’s in private (see Luke 12:1-3). The challenge is to demonstrate the personal self-control so as to express our disappointment and hurt either to God or another person in constructive and helpful ways.
When we give full-vent to our anger, we are only exacerbating the problem. And we are not only using the situation as an excuse to express our own sin, but we are also making things worse with the other person. And this can also have a negative impact on our fellowship with God.
Significantly, it was Job’s wife who dismissed her husband’s righteousness in this regard by saying:
‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ (Job 2:9)
The rest of the book of Job is a thorough examination of the inner turmoil one goes through whenever they are suffering. And yet, for all of Job’s words in questioning God as to why this might be happening to him, the book begins and ends with his vindication. That he never sinned against God by charging Him with wrongdoing (See Job 1:22; 42:8). In comparison, the LORD tells Job’s three ‘friends’ that He is angry with them and that they are to ask Job to make significant sacrifices of atonement for their sin, as well as prayerful intercession (Job 42:7-8).
This is a much-needed corrective for the church today. We live in a time where an individual’s ego is viewed as being the highest good. But the Bible teaches that there is One who rules over all. Who alone is the creator and therefore does not need to explain to one of His creatures why He has chosen to do what He does.
In the book of Job, for instance, the LORD never reveals to His servant the discussion that occurred in the heavenly realms as recorded in chapters 1 and 2. Job is never informed that he was the subject of God’s boasting before Satan and that there had been a kind of heavenly test as to whether Job would continue to worship God if everything were taken away (Job 1:6-12). Instead, the only answer that Job is given in the climatic chapters of 38 to 42 is that God is God and Job is not.
When I was studying as an undergraduate at a Lutheran university in the United States, there was a poster that used to be on the wall of the administration building. It said, “There two truths about the universe. 1. There is a God. 2. You are not Him!”
Hence, when we are angry—and we often will be—we should be ever careful that we do not sin. Instead, we should pray for the God-given restraint to lie on our beds and be silent. To pour out our hearts to the LORD yes, knowing that He loves and cares for us. But to also show Him the reverence and respect that He truly deserves.
– Mark Powell