The anger of God's child
The recent Sunday morning service at Emmanuel on the Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13) got the church family thinking about anger, as well as murder. It took me back to a project I did on anger when I was at Bible College ten years ago. At that time we were expecting Alexander – our wonderful and severely disabled son – and life was very, very bleak. I remember finding the anger project very difficult and yet liberating as we studied and talked. Some of you may remember my puppet Barney - we used him in our project for a mock counselling session on anger!
In his book ‘The Angry Christian’, Andrew Lester examines a verse that I have always found particularly helpful, Ephesians 4:26. The NIV translation is "In your anger do not sin……” but I have always found the ESV translation more akin to the original Greek: “Be angry and do not sin…..” Lester helpfully contends, having examined this verse earlier in his book, that ‘anger in and of itself is not sin.’ His book unpacks the theology of that contention more fully than I can write about here, but I agree with that and so my confession has to be that most of the time, I sin in my anger. Boy, did I sin in my anger at the time of Alexander’s arrival, and yet we have a gracious and compassionate God! We know from the story of Job that he tore into God, for example: ‘Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul’ (Job 7:11).
Yet I’ve always been struck by God’s verdict at the end of the book as he rebuke’s Job’s friends: ‘I am angry with you….because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’ I don’t interpret this as meaning that we have carte blanche to sinfully express our anger to God as we wish. But it does demonstrate that God can handle anger from his own children who are in the depths, and are being honest with him.
As part of my anger project I wrote the following poem. I do hope that you will excuse the depth of emotion in it. For me, it was a step towards the restoration of my relationship with God. I hope, however imperfectly, that when I see Him face-to-face, He will say ‘at least you were honest with me’:
Poem: The anger of God’s child
Why am I so cross with you when I know your word well?
The Scriptures; Israel’s his-tory; these stories that you tell…
…should teach me, reassure me that you’re good and I should trust
And yet right here and now it feels my faith’s crumbling to dust
I’ve godly brothers, sisters who have suffered more than I
And yet serenely they accept your will and don’t scream ‘WHY?!’
What am I missing? Is it only me that questions you?
I just want other Christians to be real about doubts too
I know this is a fallen world and many say ‘that’s life’
But when your finger-prints are on my world – feels like a knife
I feel betrayed – this stuff that says ‘you’re with me’ sounds so hollow
What will you allow next? Is it a tyrant that I follow?
I didn’t ask to be born and I’d much rather come home
Deep in my heart there is an ache and I feel so alone
I do love you for saving me but I so much hate you
For dumping more than I can bear – it’s hard to think you’re true
Ang-ry at a mere concept? No….you must-be-real, Lord
Anger confirms relationship – puts ‘no hope’ to the sword
I’ve nowhere else to go – I have no choice but stick with you
I’ve served you – I want my reward – I pray that you’ll come through