How do I stop being angry with God?
This is such a big and honest question – I don’t want to pretend that there’s an easy answer. Below are four reflections to help shape your thoughts, but it’s likely that you’re on a pretty complicated journey.
Be kind to yourself and remember to seek support. None of us can tackle the hard things alone.
- State the obvious
Acknowledging the fact that you are angry with God is a really healthy place to start. Anger can take us into some ugly, messy spaces – and most of us feel guilty when we’re experiencing feelings that we think of as negative.
But pretending is pointless. In Psalm 139:1, David confesses, ‘O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.’ God already sees what we’re thinking and feeling. The cross of Jesus is proof that we’re invited into honest intimacy.
- Set a short timer on your phone and write an unedited message to God. Try this starting point: “Thank you that you already know…”
- Repeat daily for a week and notice how your thoughts develop. Don’t edit or judge – just allow yourself permission to speak truthfully.
- Listen to your feelings
For me, anger is often a secondary emotion – to put that another way, it tends to well up as a kind of defence mechanism in response to a deeper feeling. Sometimes, it’s a feeling of betrayal or abandonment. Or it might be a response to fear, insecurity, or injustice.
If you sense that your rage is a reaction, you might need to probe a little deeper to understand what it is that you are reacting against.
- Ask yourself questions to help you notice the wider context – E.g. when, specifically, do you feel angry? What experience(s) do you replay in your mind? Have you started avoiding anything or anyone? Does God feel trustworthy to you – why/why not?
- Consider who you can reach out to for trusted support with underlying issues – friends, family, youth leaders, a teacher. This can include access to mental health specialists if you need them.
- Examine your beliefs
Biblical images and stories can be difficult to get our heads around, but part of their message is that spiritual forces exist and have a real impact in our lives – from Star Wars to the Chronicles of Narnia, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter – stories where good triumphs over evil resonate with us. I believe that’s because they echo something larger.
If we want to understand life through the lens of faith, we need to remember that not everything that happens in the world is God’s doing. God has an enemy. Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; but I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Part of our spiritual growth is learning to spot the difference between God’s work in the world – and that of the thief.
This means we sometimes need to take the time to honestly consider whether God has actually let us down.
God has made specific promises to us. There are also things that God never promised – but we still want to believe. For example, nowhere are we told it will be easy to follow Jesus. In fact, we’re repeatedly warned that the opposite is true. If we’re holding God to things God hasn’t said, we are on shaky ground. In our anger, we can easily slip into accusing God of all kinds of things that are ultimately unfair.
- Make a list of the things you believe about God and the Bible verses/passages that support or contradict your views. Ask other people whose perspectives you value to help, too.
- God is ‘compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love’ (Psalm 103:8). Consider whether you are holding God unfairly responsible for misplaced beliefs. If so, would you feel better after saying sorry? Would you feel more peace if you were to clear the air with him? I want you to know that you are totally loved by him either way.
- Choose your response
Ultimately, I’ve realised that whenever I’m angry with God it’s because I want something from God that I’m not receiving. Usually, it’s an answer – some kind of intervention or explanation or even an apology for making me/the world go through so many struggles.
Often, I don’t get what I want.
Instead, I’m reminded by God that: “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
What do I do with that?!
I choose to trust. I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this. And I follow the examples I see in the Bible and in the lives of Christians around me, around the globe and through history.
Step by step, moment by moment, we can choose to lay down our hopes and fears and struggles and rage – and decide that, in spite of it all, we trust that God’s heart is good.
I don’t stop myself being angry with God… but I choose to also express trust towards God, no matter how fragile it may be. The Holy Spirit can transform the weight of anger and give me something different and more beautiful in exchange.
Through these practical steps we can begin to experience slow-growing acceptance, and gratitude for who God really is, despite the pain and anger we might be feeling.