I doubt any of us have been spared from experiencing heartache in one form or another. Whether it’s our own condition or someone else’s tragedy, it can rock us to the depth of our souls and make us wonder how something so terrible could happen. We find ourselves endlessly screaming in our heads, if not out loud, why this had to happen. We take out our frustration on God by doubting His love for us or even His existence. Why would He do this to me? If He is real, He must not care about _____ or this wouldn’t have happened to them.
I’ve had my share of heartache about pain that comes to my loved ones, me and people on the other side of the world that I’ll never have the privilege of knowing personally. I didn’t re-question His existence because I’ve never looked back down that road after letting Him reign in my heart as King. The nature of my more tormented prayers consisted of a mix of heartbroken pleas for the pain to go away and angry yelling because it wouldn’t.
First of all, I want to say something that isn’t always made clear in churches today. God can handle your anger. Some would-be believers treat Him like He’s a nice Sunday school idea that is too fragile to hold up to the stresses of real life or the darkness of tragedy…like He must not be questioned for fear that He will break or be proven inadequate. If the god you serve can’t stand up to reality, then he’s not what he claims to be and you are doing yourself a favor by setting yourself free from him. The real God is so much more powerful than we can imagine, yet He is approachable because He desires a relationship with us. That means we can lay out the darkest pieces of our lives and talk to Him about all of them. He can handle our tough questions and hurt emotions.
While I don’t recommend angrily hurling them at Him like projectiles, if you’re in so much pain that’s the only way you can bring yourself to approach Him, it’s better than refusing to engage Him at all. I was so angry and in so much pain that I had to start like that before I could regain my reverence for Him and consult Him about my problems with a what-can-we-do-to-make-this- issue-better attitude. It is best to approach God in a respectful manner but don’t feel like you have to be so polite that you can’t talk with Him about what breaks your heart. He already knows what it is anyway; it’s safe to be honest with Him about how you feel.
A common source of frustration with God is why He would do something so terrible to us. I was so quick to cast blame on Him until one day it occurred to me that I was actually more upset with Him than I was with Satan. That was a wakeup call. Somehow, I’d forgotten to consider the one who’d dedicated himself to feasting on the downfall of mankind. It made little sense to credit God with the sadistic tendencies or heartlessness characteristic of Satan. How does it make more sense that God is inflicting suffering on us as opposed to Satan? The latter has certainly expressed a strong desire to harm us while the former speaks of His plans for our good. I think it’s vitally important to remember Satan is a part of the equation too. He wins when we mistakenly blame God for his actions.
However even after realizing this, we’re still partly mad at God because He let something terrible happen when He could have stopped it. After all, wouldn’t someone be guilty in the eyes of the law for failing to intervene when they could’ve? The problem with this is that in order to prevent all suffering, God would have to take away our free will because the choices we make can hurt other people. Adam and Eve exercised their free will and thus opened the door to earth being corrupted. Even natural disasters are the result of living in a broken world. On my better days, I think about how much more I will be able to appreciate the lack of suffering in Heaven when I get there because of the abundance of suffering here. It doesn’t make me okay with everything going on here, but it reminds me that He will put an end to it someday and give us the peace we crave.
But still…All of this doesn’t satisfy our cries for why He “did” or “let” something terrible happen. This is perhaps the most stinging part of our rage toward God. It took me a long time to realize that the “why” has more to do with placating our emotions than satisfying an intellectual need to know. For some, the pain of their loss has been so enormous that even if they knew why, the explanation would never suffice; it wouldn’t take away their pain or make it worth enduring. I think when we’re shouting “WHY?!” at God, what we’re really saying is, “I DON’T CARE WHY!!!! JUST MAKE IT STOP!” And I wonder if that is precisely why He remains silent.
I believe that God in His mercy sometimes—not always—lets us know “why” later when we are more accepting of what His reasons might be. This could be after we’ve seen the fruits of our labor to overcome tremendous difficulty or after we’ve seen beautiful things rise like phoenixes from the ashes of torment. While typing this post, I was humbled nearly to tears at the thought of how many times my heart has broken for other people who were suffering and how badly I prayed for them to receive help. In my life, a lot of the suffering I’ve gone through has given me the credibility and experience I needed to be more effective in coming alongside others who struggle with similar issues. I think I know why God lets me suffer—it’s an answer to my prayers for someone else not to go through something horrible alone. I can’t be angry with God because He chose to use me as part of the answer to my own prayer.