You Don’t Need All the Answers to Stop Being Angry at God

You Don’t Need All the Answers to Stop Being Angry at God March 4, 2013

Welcome to readers from the Catalyst Space blog. Privileged to have a guest post with Catalyst Leadership today entitled 12 Questions Every New Leader Should Ask. Based out of Atlanta, GA, Catalyst is the premier trainer of the next generation of  “change agents” for the Kingdom of God. Feel free to download a free copy of my latest e-book Finding the Curve: The Secret to Explosive Personal Growth.

It’s not easy, is it? To admit that we are angry at God.

As Christ-followers, we know better. We know God is sovereign. We know He is working all things for good for those who love Him. So complaining is out of the question right? Yet I suspect all of us have experienced times when we didn’t have all the answers. When we didn’t know why. When we wondered if, in fact, God had brought us out into the wilderness to let us die.

Been there. Done that. They were out of t-shirts.

Of course.

We’ve been on a walk of faith for the last year or so in which very little has gone according to our plans. They got left behind somewhere with our empty canteens under a cactus somewhere some time ago. As far as we can tell, we truly want to put our strengths to work for God’s Kingdom. And yet we have, on occasion, come to places where I must confess that I don’t not have the answers I want. Places where I wonder what the __ [insert approved Christaneze exclamation word here]___ God is doing.

And I’m not always happy about it. It’s taken some time to come to terms with it, but truth be told, sometimes I’m angry at God.

At Least We’re Not Like Them

Now, I know, we all tend to throw a lot of excuses at our anger to conceal the true object. Well, I know I do. We find ways to disguise our complaints as prayer requests. We conceal our frustration in pious language. We direct it at others. Or we just hide it inside. After all, we know what happened to this faithless morons in the wilderness when they complained too much, right?

Instead of admitting our anger at God, we say we’re frustrated at all kinds of things — all of which ultimately point back to the One who governs all things.

We are not alone. I find some twisted comfort in hearing the complaints of the Israelites as they left the captivity of Egypt. If ever there was a good example of God’s people getting angry at Him for their not having all the answers, it would be them. God miraculously delivered them from Egypt, miraculously saved their first-born from death, and miraculously led them out by pillars of cloud and fire — and still they got angry at God the first time things didn’t turn out they way they expected.

I mean, seriously, an impassable body of water in front of them, the world’s most potent army behind them, nowhere to go — what was there to be angry about?

So glad we’re not like them. What a bunch of losers!

If you’ve never been angry at God, you’ve likely never truly tried to walk by faith.

Maybe one reason we don’t step out by faith is that we’re afraid God just might not be there. Or it might not turn out the way we expect. Based on my own experience, I can almost guarantee it won’t. But that’s because it’s not our story. It’s God’s.

“There is one hero in the Bible and it ain’t you.” ~ Mark Spansel

We tend to think that we are the main characters in this tale. But what I am learning is that walking by faith requires that our expectations be stripped away, leaving us utterly humbled — and bewildered — before Him. So that only He can save us. So that only He can deliver us. So that He can then place us where He wants us in His story.

But that doesn’t mean we like it.

It’s All about Control

Control, I give up control

I can’t carry this alone

I’ve tried, for so  long I’ve tried

To make it on my own

Now dreams are scattered on the  ground

And now I’m on my knees. [Lyrics from]

I fear falling. It’s kind of weird actually. But if I am ever somewhere high, like at the top of lighthouse or scenic overlook, I actually will put away anything that might accidentally blow over the edge. My Disney cap, for example. Not because I love the hat, but I fear that it might blow away and I — in my stupidity — may lunge to catch it — and go tumbling over the edge. And as I’m falling — completely out of control — I’ll have just enough time to think about what an idiot I was to allow things to get so out of my control.  I think my last emotion in life would be anger for being such a dolt.

So I guess it’s not surprising that I would be tempted to get angry at God when life is clearly out of my control. Was I foolish to have trusted Him? Did I miss a sign somewhere? Was I supposed to get off at the last exit? I thought He had this one.

I tend to think that my own lack of control is clear evidence of a mistake by God when, in fact, it may just be the greatest evidence that He — and not me — is at work. My ignorance of God’s plans is not evidence of God’s failure. [Tweet this!] It’s when I think it is that I tend to get angry at God.

So What’s the Point?

I tend to get the most angry at God when I just don’t get it, when I don’t have all the answers. Just like those complaining Israelites (such sinful folk!), I want to go back to a time when I felt as if life were safe, secure, and predictable. Yet the Bible indicates that God is up to something in us when we feel angry at God. We can learn if we listen. He was up to something with the Israelites. What exactly?

[Y]ou shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.   [Deut. 8:2-4 emphasis mine]

Oh, so that’s it. Humility. I was afraid of that.

Nothing quite so humbling as being in a tight spot with zero options. Like falling from the top of a lighthouse. Talk about out of control. No wonder I get angry at God when life goes tumbling over the edge. I desperately try to clutch to my plans and pride instead of surrendering to whatever it is He has planned. Hopefully it’s not falling from a lighthouse, but I think you get the idea.

One thing I’m learning from the Israelites and my own faith journey: God brings humility to you so He can do great things through you. [Tweet this!]

Tomorrow: How exactly we can let go but not let up?

Does a lack of control ever move you to get angry at God? Would you be willing to admit it if it did? Leave a comment with a click here to help us all grow with more abundant faith.

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  • Y

    I wish more people would put their anger toward God onto God instead of onto each other. God’s shoulders are immense; mine are not.

  • rumitoid

    Expectations are fathomless well for anger and resentment. If I do “the right thing,” the result should be blessings. But instead the house burns down. Learning to take the acion and letting go of the result has helped me ennormously with my hissy-fits over not getting things my way. As I have come to see it, any expectation is unreasonable, even those concerning God. Instead, I am coming to trust with greater conviction that all things work for good for those who love God. The expectation that I should have all the answers or at least a workable one is, for me, all about image and nothing to do with God. Vanity.

    I don’t remember ever being angry with God, which means, I guess, that I have never tried to walk in faith. Yet I hope that is not the case. It just never has occurred to me to do so. Perhaps because my Irish Catholic heritage put in a think foundation of “unworthy servant.” How dare I even question let alone get angry.

    As you said, “It’s all about control.” Trying to make things safe and predictable, trying to manage the results, trying to make myself a better person, trying, trying, trying…instead of simply trusting. This does not mean do nothing; it means do what I feel directed to do and let go of the results (and any thought of reward).

    • Well said, sir. See, we do agree on some things. Awesome!

      Maybe you have mastered this one more than I. There was time I would have thought I had never been angry with God either. Then the storms came as I got out of the boat. Thinking of Moses and the response he got from both Pharaoh and the Israelites after his first attempt to lead them out of Egypt. Didn’t go so well. I’ll bet he was tempted then also.


      • S Guilford

        I love the verse you quoted (Duet 8:2-4). “Control” has been my greatest struggle in my walk with God. I have had to work intensely through anxiety and anger that arose due to my need of control. I cannot express in words how debilitating it has been, but it effected me emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. It still flares up on occasion; it’s easy to forget where my help comes from. I would say two things helped significantly. C. S. Lewis’ quote in Mere changed my understanding of my relationship with God in a radical way. He says, “Now we cannot…discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this. I can’t.” That last part, the turning towards God and saying “You must do this, I can’t”, was such a relief. I finally understood that God wanted not only my efforts, but a faith that he would take care of me. That he would uphold me regardless of what was lost. My problem was a lack of faith. The second thing that helped (and I don’t think I could have healed without this vital thing) was prayer. I was never a prayerful person. I always felt awkward praying. I didn’t understand the point. This revelation of leaning on God for EVERYTHING led me to such a freedom. I realized how prayer, even when I am afraid or anxious or angry, is the only remedy. I give it to God now. I say, “I cannot do this, you must do this for me”. And soon those prayers became related to my strengths as well, “Let your creation not see me, let them see you”. Prayer was the antidote for me. Every moment is a moment that God can work to humble me. Thank you for your post!

        • S Guilford

          The C.S. Lewis book is “Mere Christianity” (Me and my typos:))

        • Superb thoughts. So appreciate your sharing your own struggles. The word that came to mind as I read was — surrender. But I think that is the sticking point isn’t it? For those who resist Christ, I think it’s all about surrender. We don’t want to surrender the perception that we are in charge. We love the illusuion more than the reality.


  • Does one stand on the shore and shout threats or warnings, or indeed, offer praise and affection for the coming tsunami? While I’ve experienced Abba’s love as tender, intimate, and oh-so-sweet, I know it primarily as overwhelming, engulfing, immovable, inevitable and utterly consumptive. I do love God (and I know He loves me) and sometimes I get angry with God, but who cares? The only thing to do when the wave hits is what you know to do – swim – or drown. With God, either one is a great option.

    “So tell me why I should run for cover
    At the sound of the coming thunder
    When all I hear is the cry of my lover
    Take your shot
    I won’t turn back.
    – Won’t Turn Back, Needtobreathe, The Outsiders

  • Natalie

    God’s control over my life is precisely the reason for my anger. His sovereignty comforts me but the thought of having some freedom even within the realm of His sovereign control makes me feel more human and less like a robot. Yet the circumstances I have been in for almost a decade include God’s heavy hand of control as I never knew existed. I see His working and answers to my prayers not in “yes’es” and blessings but with “no’s” and closed door after closed door. I am angry at my lack of control to improve my life (I just have the apparent freedom to rebel and skrew it up) and I am angry that I now struggle to see God as the loving, gracious Father that He is. He’s now this strict Father who always says no to me and does not allow me the freedoms He does His other children. Surrender is key and I have surrendered so many times but the anger always resurfaces like a tidal wave. I wish a one time surrender would do the trick and I wish I could stop wanting the desires of my heart so that the struggle with anger wouldn’t even be there. Thank you for your wonderful, insightful articles (and for enduring my tirade)!

    • Natalie,

      Thanks for the thanks. I appreciate your own authentic sharing. I would encourage you to seek out someone who can help coach you through this challenging season. Without knowing anything, of course, it’s tough to know how to respond. Perhaps the problem isn’t God being strict or even your surrendering. Maybe what you’re wanting or trying to do isn’t the rigth fit for you. In other words, we often blame our own life results on either God or Satan, depending on our mood, when the problem is our own decision-making. I know that’s true for me many times. Or maybe it would destroy you and God is blessing by delaying or refusing to give you what you think you desire.

      But, you are right, surrender is a process that we must continually engage in. Our natural tendancy is to take back what we have given to Him. If I can be of further help, let me know.

  • C

    I try to love others but I feel worn out. I try to do good but get no sweet reward. I try to read the bible but all I get are standards that I cannot meet.

    I appreciated the CS Lewis quote that was shared, and your own line “If you’ve never been angry at God, you’ve likely never truly tried to walk by faith.”

    I just feel so alone in my struggle. I speak to other Christians about my difficulties having faith and all they tell me is to try harder and just believe. It’s worse hearing that because I feel a failure as a Christian and I think ‘maybe I’m not cut out for Christianity’ which doesn’t even make sense because we are saved and welcomed by God on His grace and not on our effort or worthiness. I just feel stuck. When will the comfort come?

  • ambar

    I Am angry at Him, and when I’m not I’m afraid of Him. I don’t think a loving father puts his children in suffering just to make them obey him, and for that I’m angry. My father loved me and never purposely made me suffer, God in the other hand is doing everything to destroy me, and I’m angry and afraid that he will, eventually destroy me.

    • If I may suggest…. You are assuming two things: 1) God has put you in suffering. 2) He put you there just to make you obey him. Why do you assume those two things?

      But even if true, if obedience to Him meant you could ultimately fulfill your highest possible joy, would it be unkind to cause you to obey? Something to think about.

  • justasip

    My brother is mentally ill and refuses help. It’s the most frustrating thing to watch my brother and my family go through this. I already have an aunt who is scizophrenic and my brother is showing signs as well. I’ve prayed and prayed. I don’t get it. And I don’t see a way out. I’m mad at God. I don’t want to be. I’m just let down and disappointed. I don’t know how things can get better. I see my aunt has lived a sad life. It just doesn’t seem fair. And when we have tried to get help the state always gives my brother a way out. It’s such a long exhausting roller coaster journey. I’m still seeking God. I love my God but I don’t know how to handle it. I have given it over to him. It’s all His….but I’m still mad. Why?

    • A few thoughts — from a distance, so take them for what they are worth.

      You used he word “my” when referring to God. One of the reasons I struggle when I am not content with the path he has permitted for me is that I start thinking of Him as working for me and not me having been created for his glory. To truly be able to say, “Not my will but yours be done — in the middle of great pain and uncertainty — we must trust him and his promises even when they don’t seem to make sense to our finite minds. God seems to delight in allowing us to be moved by the effects of this fallen world to a place where we have no other options but him. Only then can we truly let go of all our plans, pray fervently — fasting even — and cry out for Him to move.

      If I were you, I would seek out promises of God from Scripture that apply to your situation and lay hold of them in diligent prayer until Heaven responds. But be prepared that His ways are not your ways. They’re better.

      Oh, and be honest about your anger with God. He’s already quite familiar with it. 🙂