One aspect of grief that causes much confusion and anxiety is anger. After all, death is merely the final act, the natural end to the life cycle…you may as well be angry because the sun sets in the evening, or so this line of thinking goes.
If your loved one died due to the willful or careless act of another human being – as in a drunk driving accident, a murder, or a medical mishap, for example – you might feel angry toward the responsible party. Likewise, if death occurred as a result of self-induced harm, such as drug or alcohol abuse or suicide, you may feel angry at your loved one. In such cases, anger is certainly understandable.
But what if you are angry at God? “Angry at God?” you might think. “But I love God!” People who deny their anger because they believe it is wrong or sinful often react in this manner, only to find that denying their anger doesn’t work.
What Anger Is – And What It Isn’t
Anger, in itself, is neither right nor wrong; it is simply a fact. It has nothing to do with logic; you don’t need a reason to be angry. Anger is a complex emotion, secondary to another, primary, emotion. In other words, you might respond with anger when you are hurt, frightened, or threatened. It’s easy to understand, then, how the pain of grief can give rise to anger.
Anger is not hate. Most of us have experienced anger toward someone we love, and being angry with God is no different – it’s a temporary situation, and it doesn’t mean you love your spouse, your best friend, or God any less. Neither should anger be confused with violent or vengeful action. In other words, acting out in anger may be sinful, but the feeling of anger itself is not.
Anger Toward God
To believers, faith is about pursuing a deeper, more personal relationship with God. Like all relationships, this one requires emotional honesty. Rather than indicating a lack of faith or respect, feeling anger toward God is a normal reaction to your hurt and sadness.
How could God allow this to happen to me? Where is God’s love, power, compassion? Is this really God’s will? These questions and others may signal that anger toward God is festering. And, as in human relationships, that anger is poison to your relationship.
Here are five simple steps you can take to ease your anger and ultimately banish it. Keep in mind, however, that “simple” isn’t the same as “easy”; confronting and dealing with your anger may be one of the most difficult and courageous things you’ve done in your life.
- Acknowledge and accept your anger as normal. As long as you deny your anger, you cannot begin to deal with it. As long as you are in denial, you might continue to attend church or say your bedtime prayers, but the cold wall of anger may prevent you from reaping the rewards of a deep, personal relationship with the God of your understanding.
- Don’t limit God. Do you really think God can’t handle your anger? You’ve probably known people who dissolved into tears, threw things, or even stopped speaking to you following an angry confrontation. But God isn’t like that. By definition, God is bigger than we are – more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving. With all our faults and failings, we are God’s creation, and God loves us as we are.
- Express your feelings honestly in prayer. Feelings are neither good nor bad – they are merely facts. Denying your feelings because they aren’t “nice” will only stand in the way of your relationship with God. In his laws for successful prayer, Martin Luther’s number one rule was “Don’t lie to God.” God already knows what you feel, and while you might be able to fool others or even fool yourself, you can’t fool God. Stand naked before God in prayer, and reveal the secrets of your heart. Speak your anger, and feel it subside. God understands.
- Trust God. This one may be the hardest, given the magnitude of your grief. No one ever said faith was easy, and this may be the biggest test your faith has endured. Try to keep in mind that although your understanding is limited to your own experience, God knows the whole, big picture. Look for– times in your life when you thought your world was collapsing around you, yet you survived and even thrived in aftermath. Trust God to carry you through this tragedy as well.
- Let go. Held inside, anger will rule your life – manipulating and limiting you and taking a toll on your health. When you express anger toward God, you make room for God’s love and peace to fill your soul. In time, you’ll begin to realize that it’s time to let go. Your anger, once a defense against your pain, no longer serves any useful purpose. You’ve opened the door to healing by sharing your anger with God, and now it’s time to move on.
Talking About Your Anger
Expressing anger is the best way to ease its hold on you. Have you felt angry toward God or others following the death of a loved one? How did you work through it?