Get Angry at God (It’s Ok)

Over the course of the last year, my family has endured so much; everyone reading this blog knows that, and I’m sure there is an understandable “Seaford Fatigue”–(look, I don’t blame you- please don’t feel guilty).  But nevertheless, it’s our story and our journey and, for better or for worse, it’s the reality for which I’m situated and the lens for which I am interpreting the world (at least for the moment).   Kristan will have her own story to tell with its unique perspective,  but in this blog I can only share my experiences.

Most of the days I am bolstered by the amazing provision of God.  God has blessed our family beyond deserving and I am deeply humbled and grateful for this. Even after a year, I remain inspired by the amazing way God has worked through the hands, feet, and hearts of so many around us, wrapping us in God’s loving care and comfort.

However, there are still days where we feel as if we are barely treading water; where the heaviness feels like too much to endure, and the day-to-day details too heartbreaking to take.  In these times, I’vet tried to dive into Scripture for solace, and lift up my prayers to Jesus, trusting in his promises and relying on his intercession. I’ve sought friends and loved ones for comfort and prayer.

But this past weekend, I had had enough.

Not to bore you with the details, but I have invested so much, emotionally, in the prosthetic hands my wife uses on a day-to-day basis.  In those dark nights when we awaited the inevitable amputations, I clung to the promise of these fancy, expensive, state-of-the-art hands and all the freedom they offered.  (Perhaps that was my first mistake; I was clinging to the wrong promise, but I digress).  Nevertheless, I put everything into those hands.  They were going to be the panacea I hoped and prayed for.  Any shortcoming my wife’s new life would present, these hands would fill, making all things possible.

But the reality is, they are merely tools; electronic devices just like any other tool lying about your house.   They break.  And when the wearer is a determined, take-no-prisoners, relentless champion like my wife, they break A LOT.

So on Saturday morning when I learned the the van’s battery was dead for the 19th time (thanks to middle-of-the-night lovey searches in which the explorer neglects to switch off the cabin lights after their finds), and that the refrigerator water dispenser was flowing water onto the kitchen floor, my Kristan approached me crestfallen, holding out her hands which again, inexplicably, had stopped working, I had reached my breaking point.

For whatever reason, these events prompted a “snap” in me, vaulting me to a very angry and negative place.  What were seemingly normal (albeit frustrating) things had blossomed into something much more.  Not only was I angry, but I was now angry at God.  In fact, I was furious.  After over a year of giving it my all in terms of staying faithful and controlled, I had had it. How could a loving God allow this struggle to persist?  How much more could we take? How could this faithful woman endure these persistent setbacks?  Despite the glorious blessings, we were still encountering, in my view, more than our fair share of hardship.  And I was DONE, as they say.

The anger only snowballed.  I was sick of defending God.  And please understand, I am studying and training to become a Lutheran pastor; I feel a calling to the vocation of shepherding people in their lives of faith, teaching of God’s promises, and counseling those in pain.   This was by no means a comfortable place for me.  I was experiencing this hurricane of anger and guilt, all at once.  I even admitted at one point, that all of this harsh talk actually felt GOOD, which was troubling.  It felt awful and good, all at the same time.  It was paradoxical.

But over the course of the day, something important and wonderful happened.  I was able to go somewhere much deeper spiritually; a place I had never gone before.  A spiritual movement had occurred within me. In some ways, I had “wrestled with God” as Jacob had done (Genesis 32:22-31). I had shaken my fist at the Creator of the Universe (Psalm 22). In doing so, I pushed through so many layers and arrived at a more authentic faith.  The light had truly, and in a very real way, overcome the darkness.

At some point in our faith journey, we will all, most likely,  arrive at a place where we question the reason to continue.  We might feel compelled to say “the hell with” all of it.  Rather than resist this urge to get angry with God, I invite you to allow it.  It will not be comfortable.  It will feel heretical and simply awful.  But our God is big enough to take our human suffering.  In Christ, God did this very thing, taking on all of our pains, sufferings, and yes, even our anger and resentment, and carried it away.  Oftentimes, people will ask me what exactly I believed “happened” on the cross.   This is what I believe happened.  Our God became flesh in order to share in our hurt and shame and to bear it all for us.  We have been redeemed and, thanks to Christ, our slates are clean.

I don’t know what you’ve been through, what you’re going through, or what you will go through.  But trust in those enduring promises of our faith.  But don’t believe it will always feel good and don’t expect as much.  But trust in a faith that allows you to get angry.  You might be surprised at the higher place it leads you.  Amen.

Good for the Soul

If you’re like me, your mind is always in hyper-drive, bouncing around from thought to thought, idea to idea, and it never seems to pause or take a break, let alone close down.  This is not entirely a negative thing; I am able to accomplish a lot in terms of multi-tasking, and I find myself quite productive. However, there are times when the mind (and body) needs to quiet down in order to more mindfully experience the world around you or, better yet, hear the voice of God.  There are many tips to help in this effort, from meditation and prayer, to journaling and devotional reading.  Even exercise, such as running or walking can be transformed into a meaningful, meditative act.

Whatever method you choose, I implore you to choose one, or several for that matter.  Make “spiritual exercise” a part of your daily routine.  We often set goals for our physical health, passionately making our gym appointments and workouts non-negotiable entries on our calendar, but we often neglect our spiritual health. Many struggle to know how to get started, so I wanted to share some ideas:

  • Put a meditation app on your phone or tablet.  There are many to choose from, and range in cost from free to $3-$5.  Simply search for “Guided Meditation” apps and choose one.  What is terrific about these apps is they offer a range of options, from a 5-minute breathing exercise, to a full-body relaxation, lasting 20 minutes.  All at the ease of your device.
  • Whatever your faith, select a good devotional book and keep it handy.  I am of the Christian faith, so some of my favorite devotional books are “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young, and others by writers such as St. Ignatius, Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr.  Vietnamese Buddhist, and renown Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific writer on the subject of mindfulness.  His book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation” is a good primer for meditation.
  • Schedule it in your calendar.  If you are intentional about scheduling these mental and spiritual breaks, you are more likely to do them.  You might want to experiment with times, but the important thing is to make it a priority.
  • Cut off the noise.  If you are a commuter, don’t be afraid to shut off the radio and enjoy some silence, either on your way to or from work.  You might be surprised at the life-giving energy derived with just some peace and quiet.
  • Purchase a new journal.  Or, download the journaling app (Day One, available on iTunes).  Like a new pair of shoes to a runner, nothing prompts action like a clean slate.

There are countless strategies for integrating mental and spiritual breaks into your life.  Never forget that God works through the day-to-day of life, yet we often miss God’s voice because of our chaotic, noisy lifestyles.  Intentionally carving out time to listen for God’s voice is a solid investment. You have nothing to lose.  Peace and blessings on your journey.