Theology Thursday: Is It Okay To Be Angry at God

By Dr. Jeff McAffee, MDiv

student angry at God while taking test

Pastor David lay crumpled on the floor, weeping and exhausted. Across the room rests a somewhat mangled chair, having come to rest on its side after being hurled against the wall. The drywall is marred and pocked up and the picture from their vacation last summer at the beach is ruined. Broken glass shards and a busted frame are all that’s left.

God was to blame for this, he was certain of that. This should have never happened! It’s not right. I shake my fist at you, he prayed accusingly. His wife’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis came out of nowhere. One day she was fine, the next she was blind and being admitted to the hospital for a long series of painful tests. They didn’t deserve this. Pastor David was angry at God.

Has Pastor David crossed a line? Was his prayer a sin? Has he gone too far with his outburst of emotion? Is he allowed to show anger toward God like this? Where does one draw the line with emotions as a Christian and what is the line between right or wrong?

Does God Have Emotions?

God has emotions. The Bible says that God hates things, and that Jesus wept and the Holy Spirit can be grieved. So, yes, God has emotions. Humanity is created in God’s image. This means emotions are part of what it means to be humans manifesting God’s image.

There are some major differences, however, between God’s emotions and humanity’s emotions. First, God does not have any triggers. There are no outside people or events that cause God to experience emotions against his will. So, when God experiences emotion He does so by divine intention. Humans, however, do have triggers. People and events stir them unexpectedly, many times beyond one’s control. Sometimes they’re accompanied with force so irresistible that they manifest in laughter, tears, anger, sadness and other expressions.

Second, God’s emotions are perfect. They are righteous, measured and they flow out of his holy character. God isn’t triggered to feel empathy for Pastor David’s struggle, but he willingly chooses to suffer with him out of his love. Human emotions, on the other hand, are broken, unreliable and they flow out of a flawed body and soul. They have damaged triggers that respond without permission of will. They can’t be trusted.

How to Have Orthodox Emotions

How can Christians know if their emotions are in check? The best emotional profile is one in alignment with the emotions of God. What are the things that God hates? What are the things that please God? Proverbs 6 reveals a few things God hates. They include haughty eyes (pride), lying tongues, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that devise wicked plans and feet that run to sinful activities. He hates false witnesses and people who sow discord among brothers. Christians can join in the righteous disdain of heaven against these things. Hatred of them is not only allowed; it’s preferred. These are holy emotions.

What are things that invite Jesus to cry? Jesus wept when Lazarus died. The people said, “Oh, how he loved him.” Of course he did. Of course he wept. Jesus also lamented over Jerusalem and longed for her come to God like chicks to their mother hen. Joining in communal sorrow, longing for the lost to be found. These are holy emotions.

What about the occasions where the Holy Spirit might be grieved? That is easy. Sin. Any sin causes the Spirit of God to grieve the loss of relationship between God and the person. Christians are supposed to grieve over the sin they experience in their own lives and in the lives of the people they love. Holy devastation is the Christian norm here.

A New Trigger

These kinds of emotions, experienced in divine calibration with God, are orthodox emotions, and Christians can wholeheartedly engage.

Experiencing emotions in this way changes the trigger for humanity. Walking in the Spirit allows Christians to experience and interpret reality through the lens of heaven. Within this sacred alignment, human emotions never have to be questioned. The balance is the Spirit. Confirmation takes place through our human spirit.

Is It a Sin to Be Angry at God?

No. Pastor David’s expressed anger to God was not a sin. However, how that anger is acted out can potentially cause problems. An element of the Fruit of the Spirit is self-control, a marker of spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:23). For example, Psalm 4:4 states, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah,” (NKJV).

Think of Job. Job went through the same thing when he was confused and angry and wanting an explanation from God. He lashed out. Job’s expression of emotion is a picture of what it means to worship in spirit and truth. God knew the truth about Job’s emotions. God knew the truth that Job wanted an explanation. God addresses Job’s outburst by causing him to look to God’s goodness and not just Job’s personal pain.

These kinds of emotionally laden lamentations to God are highly appropriate. Ask Jeremiah. Ask King David. Ask Jesus. Jeremiah has an entire book in the Bible of these kinds of emotional expressions. King David wrote several Psalms crying out to God for protection and deliverance. Jesus cried out to God as he hung on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

The answer to orthodox emotions is a pneumatological one. Are we walking in the Spirit? If so, then we can rest assured that our emotions are in sync with the emotions of God.

Read more Theology Thursday blogs and learn about theology and ministry degree programs offered by GCU's College of Theology today. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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