Spiritual

Is it Okay to Be Angry at God?

is it okay to be angry at god

We Can Ask at Church — Is it Okay to Be Angry at God?

But it’s not only our families that form our understanding of emotions; our faith communities can have just as profound an impact. Whether your church is highly expressive, rigidly deadpan, or somewhere in between, chances are there are expectations around emotions. And the message we tend to hear in those expectations is that what we are feeling is direct evidence of our faith or lack thereof.

In high school a youth leader asked me how my Easter was. I explained that I had felt kind of sad and told her why. She responded with, “Well, was Jesus there? That’s all that matters.” The rule I learned: if Jesus is there, we can’t feel sad.

I can’t tell you the number of stories I’ve heard from people who have squelched their own grief because they believed God wanted them to only be joyful. One young woman told me that she had believed her mother’s death was God’s will, so she never gave herself permission to grieve. And how many women have I met who experience fear, but hesitate to talk about it because they think it shows a lack of faith.

Or what about when we realize that the anger we carry is anger toward God? Is it okay to tell God how angry we are?

Courtesy of juliannegilchrist.com

Here’s what I think: we struggle as the church when it comes to healthy expressions of emotions in general, but we fail royally when it comes to pain, anger, and grief. We just don’t seem to know what to do with those hard emotions. We over-spiritualize, we ignore, we shame, we move on, we gloss-over. But rarely do we just let ourselves and each other feel what we’re feeling, inviting God into the dark spaces of our pain. Rarely do we, as faith communities, sit together, alongside each other, in the ashes of grief. Instead, we become Job’s friends, convinced that we know the source of the pain and the solution.

As the Church, we have to do better.

If the book of Psalms tells us anything, it’s that the whole range of human emotions—anger, sadness, joy, fear—can be expressed to God. The Psalms can be our prayerbook, our words when we have none. They can help us unlearn the unhealthy rules about emotions we’ve internalized all these years.

Could it be that our emotions are one of the ways that God speaks to us?

Julianne Gilchrist
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Julianne Gilchrist is a spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and mom to three. She loves creating space for others to slow down and (re)connect with God. She and her husband run a small business designed to help those in ministry rest, reflect, and grow. She spends her free time exploring the outdoors with her family, trying not to fall off her paddleboard, or taking her dog for long walks by the river. You can find her on Instagram at gilchrist_coaching or online at gilchristcoaching.com.

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