“We are not supposed to be angry with God!” she exclaimed, slightly exasperated with my questions.
“Where does it say that in the Bible?” I asked gently.
Pause… “I don’t know, my parents told me it’s not ok, I guess.”
“What do you expect will happen if you express your anger or unhappiness to God?”
Again, pause… “I expect him to punish me….”
“So, what do you do with your anger, especially when he does something that confuses or scares you?”
“I guess I just tell myself he has a plan and then try to ignore my feelings.”
“I see,” I mused. “So, God can’t handle how you really feel, and he expects you to just go along with his plan even when you don’t get it or like it?”
“Yes…” she whispered.
While Sue (not her actual name) wrestled with living up to an impossible standard, down deep, she knew she was not in love with God. She was pretty sure she was supposed to be, but all her efforts to suppress her anger were beginning to fail. She isn’t alone. Scripture is full of stories where dear saints struggled in their relationship with God. Job described his anger saying, “God has turned me over to evil men… all was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me” (Job 16:11-12). Jeremiah similarly cries out, “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath…” (Lamentations 3:1ff). I could list more.
Should we be afraid to let God know exactly how we feel? Does his love depend upon us feeling and acting a certain way? Personally, I can’t get my head around models of sanctification that require certain standards to “please God.” It’s like the contradiction is lost on them. Salvation becomes transactional rather than relational when living by grace is removed from the mix.
So, how does God feel about us in our messy, emotional contrariness? It’s clear (in my way of thinking) from John 3:17 that God’s intent is not to condemn. Additionally, Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom who has gone away for an undetermined amount of time. When the bridegroom returns, and he will, it will be with overflowing love and counterintuitive action. This bridegroom, Jesus, comes back not to be served (as we might expect), but rather, to serve…us. He returns to wait upon those servants who waited upon him. (Luke 12:36-37)
John provides another tangible glimpse in chapter 13 when Jesus, “having loved his own,” shows them (us) the full extent of his love. How? He washes their feet and then goes to the cross. The Master serves and sacrifices. And while the significance of that moment is truly lost on his friends, it’s hard to imagine Jesus upset with them until they finally figure it out. His love cannot be contingent upon response or understanding. Paul picks up this theme in Ephesians 5:25-27 explaining that Jesus loved the church and gave himself for it in order to sanctify and cleanse it. In other words, his love precedes his cleansing action.
Considering God’s passionate love for you, I offer the prayer below for your meditation:
Lord, you look upon me with a gaze of love
Whether I return the look or hide my face
Awake or asleep
Aware or unaware
Anywhere and everywhere
You invite me to meet your gaze
Look into your eyes
So you can fill my heart with love
Till it becomes too much for me
And I turn my eyes away
But you patiently wait till I glance your way again
So you can offer me just a little bit more
Your loving gaze takes many forms
Sometimes I sense your joy
Other times I’m struck by your delight
Or catch you showing favor
And notice when you revel
So each day I will open my eyes
Let your smile shine upon me
Warmed by your love
Surrounded with your care
Upheld with your compassion
Drawn deep into the heart of your love
-by Dale Gish 2020