4 “Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled;
clap your hand over your mouth.
6 When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here.)
I saw a post in the Progressive Christians group I’m a part of on Facebook a few days ago that just broke my heart. The writer said they had left Christianity in their youth, and spent a lot of time very angry at God, openly mocking the religion, Jesus, and God Xyrself. The writer was worried that, even though they had returned to Christianity, they may have said things that were irredeemable, and that God would not welcome them back into the fold.
This is the damage that overbearing, fire-and-brimstone, purity-culture churches do to people. These churches manage to obscure and pervert the most consistent messages of the Bible: God’s unending forgiveness, God’s bottomless love. God so wanted us to be with Xyr that Xe sent Xyr only son to earth to make that happen. (Perhaps the two most important blog posts I’ve ever written, you can read why this happened, and why I now believe in universal reconciliation, here and here.) This love does not come with a bunch of conditions, or is offered to only a few, it is freely offered to anyone, even those who have committed the most heinous of sins. So yes, God will still love the writer mentioned above even after their words of anger, because God loves us when we’re angry.
I mention this story because Job is clearly angry in today’s reading. And not just vaguely angry – angry at God. Everybody makes such a big deal about Job never cursing God through all his trials, but he comes pretty damn close in this passage when he says: “It is said, ‘God stores up a man’s punishment for his sons.’ Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it!” In other words, “What the fuck, God?” Basically all of verses 17-21 are a rhetorical challenge to God on his dealings with wicked men (and their innocent children). Job is clearly wrestling with the idea that God is a just judge when so many wicked men prosper at the same time an innocent man, such as himself, is so heavily burdened.
Job speaks truth when he says “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” It is dissatisfying to say the least, but we don’t know the whole picture, as God does. Perhaps sometime in the afterlife it will “all make sense,” but I must admit that’s pretty weak comfort right now. I did, however, come across an analogy that may help it be a little easier to bear (I’m sorry I can’t remember where! Contact me and I’ll happily credit it!): Imagine two men are sentenced to breaking rocks (a là prison yard work) for a year. It’s hard, hot, dusty, monotonous work. Yet one man knows he’s getting a million dollars at the end of his year, the other man just thinks the drudgery will finally be over. The work isn’t any different for the two men, but their attitudes are going to be markedly different. Having faith in God doesn’t make the bad things go away, or mean we don’t have to do the hard things, but it helps us put them in perspective, and hopefully make them a little easier to bear.
That being said, we’re still going to get angry, it’s in our nature. We may even get angry at God. But if we view God as our parent, as we are taught to do over and over by Jesus and other passages in the Bible, then we know that God will continue to love us even when we are angry. My youngest is almost three, and she gets angry at me all the time. Sometimes I get angry back (especially if she’s trying to hit me or bite me), but most of the time I’m understanding because I know she’s just tired, or frustrated, or has more feels than her little toddler self can handle. And in those times that I do get angry back at her, I don’t stop loving her, and I’m always ready to forgive her and give her a snuggle when she cools down. Imagine all of that, but raised to the magnitude of God.
I hope you’re not angry with God, but I certainly understand if you are. And I apologize, on behalf of the broadest definition of Christianity, if the faith traditions you were raised in have anything to do with you being angry with God. At the risk of annoying you further, please know that God loves you, as you are. God wants you to heal and turn back to Xyr (however you may now comprehend the idea of “God”), but do it at your own pace. If there’s a third truth we can learn from the Bible today, God is never one to rush things, even if we wish Xe did. God will not rush you, but will always be there, waiting for you, because God loves you, exactly as you are right now.
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