Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is it okay to be angry with God?

Is it wrong to be mad at God? Have you ever been mad at God? From time to time, I meet people who have had bad experiences with their religious traditions, varying degrees of understanding about God, faith and all of it. Recently, I went to meet a woman on one of my units. After introducing myself and stating my role on the team, she began the interrogation about "who are you with", meaning what tradition did I represent. Was I a student or intern?
[This line of questioning is not new for me. People often want to know what I want, who I'm with,.. define me so they can put in "the box" and determine what/whether they want to talk to me. I get a lot of responses to my introduction. "I'm not religious" to which I usually reply "I'm not either". I usually get a funny look at this point, and then I proceed to explain my understanding of religion vs. spirituality.]
So I tell her I am not a student, that I work here. I'm part of the team.
She says " Well I ask because I am the Reverend (not real name) Jane MacDonald of the ________ Church of Canada."
This surprised me, and I said...ooooh. (I know what you want now.) I'm Reverend Kathryn _______ with the BUWC. " And here we launched in an interesting discussion about ministry and some of the similar issues that we faced as women in ministry. She was in hospital with a significant illness and after talking with me for a while, told me that she was angry with God for the way her life seemed to be going. I was a little surprised when she told me this, as she seemed to be upbeat when talking about her ministry life.

Often when I meet patients who are "angry with God", I do not always know how far our relationship will progress. A lot of people that I meet in my work have major illness, not just one issue, but it is cumulative, meaning there are numerous issues occuring simultaneously or I meet them after they have faced a sucession of progressive health issues. Some are elderly and after their recent admission, it may be determined that they are not deemed safe to return their home where they were once independant and thriving.

So is it okay to be mad at God? Of course it is not a feeling we like, to be angry. But my response is that it is sometimes necessary and healthy to express our discontent, or angry, to God. He can take it. If you read the Psalms, you will see various examples of David's discontent expressed to God. Job was perplexed at his situation, and Jonah was ticked at God for sending him to Nenevah. This story tells us that even after Jonah was expelled from the whale's belly and on dry land, he still sulked outside of the city.
So yes, it is "okay" to be mad at God, but it is my hope and prayer that when that happens that it doesn't last too long.

So, this minister lady tells me a few visits later that my presence has "tinkled her ivories" (use of piano analogy was hers). She said just the fact that I showed up got her thinking about her relationship with God and she has begun the journey of reconciliation with God. Why she was mad isn't really the issue at the moment, but seeing if she can forgive the situation to renew her life with God. I find that when people are mad at God, it is usually related to an illness or death. Something they did not expect to happen. I suppose this is based on an idea that God causes suffering at a sort. Sometimes the anger is directed at God, but it is related to the actions or inactions of people. In particular, within the Christian experience, we are taught to love and care for all persons due to their association with or fact of being a part of God's creation. When humans fail, or when the church fails to minister to the needs of the individual, some times it is so bad that the injured party decides to leave the church and cuts themself off from anything related. I think that sometimes being angry at God is displaced, (not misplaced), as God is often associated with religion. A person may have a problem with structure or suffered a bad experience, and as such they associate that with God. So the anger is displaced.

So to repeat, it is not wrong to be angry with God. But keep talking to Him. When we have a fight with someone, say our spouse or friend, hanging on to anger, even if justified, hurts you more than it hurts the other person. The same thing applies to God. You and God are in a relationship. Not talking to him, holding on to the anger will hurt you more than it hurts Him. I find that anger looses its grip or doesn't seem so intense after a time, but unfortunately a relationship (with humans) is often too far damaged to repair as people move on. The other thing to note about anger is that even when it feels weak, it can actually change shape and hold us at a deeper level, known as bitterness. This was described to me in a psychology class as floating on the water. The longer we hang on to anger, it starts to sink, and then it is ingrained/embedded deeper becoming bitterness. Bitterness is harder to work through than anger.

Okay that's my thoughts for this week.

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