As Christians in America, and especially the PCA, are still reeling and grieving with our brothers and sisters at Covenant Presbyterian Church and the Covenant School in Nashville, there is an understandable and appropriate righteous indignation that we have all felt welling up inside of us in these recent weeks. Six precious images bearers of God were gunned down in cold blood in what can only be described as a brazen act of terror. Many are angered by the LGBTQ+ movement and its radicalization of this young woman who identified as a transgender-man. Others have voiced their opposition to President Biden’s appalling decision to declare March 31st Transgender Day of Visibility within mere days of the shooting. And, in numbers that I could not have possibly imagined, the mainstream media’s spinning the narrative in such a way as to make Audrey Hale the victim and Covenant School the villain has shocked and angered us all. While I completely understand and share the same indignation over these matters, I cannot join in with those who teach that believers should also be mad at God himself.
In a recent article published by Christianity Today titled, “Go Ahead. Get Mad at God for the Nashville Shooting,” PCA Pastor Scott Sauls argues that it is appropriate to be angry at God when Christians are visited by calamitous acts of providence like what took place in Nashville. Citing Martha’s words to Jesus upon the death of her brother, Lazarus, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died,” Sauls asks, “Do we dare speak this way to our maker? Do we dare confront him for abandoning us in our times of greatest need? Do we dare give voice to the feeling that he did not show up, even when we cried out to him in our fear and despair? Do we dare challenge God for not doing things we know he is supposed to do as one who protects, defends, and upholds the weak?” These questions prompt a bigger question that the church must address, especially in dark times such as these—does the Bible actually encourage believers be angry with God?
To be sure, there are countless places in the psalter where we hear desperate cries of grief and dismay, where the Psalmist asks, “O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 88:14). Likewise, one can find multiple places where righteous Job struggles to understand why God has singled him out to suffer though he committed no wrong.
For he crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; but he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness…I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint I will speak the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked? Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees?” (Job 10:1-4).
The language of anger is there, but is it there for us to emulate? Is the sharp language of Job 10:1-4 descriptive or prescriptive for the believer? Is it right and healthy for believers to get angry with God when they do not receive answers to their many “why” questions? I would argue, no, it is not. We are never free to be angry with God.
As I say this, please do not misunderstand me—grief, sorrow, lament, and even dismay are only appropriate when we encounter tremendous evil like that displayed in Nashville. It would be strange not feel these emotions. The cursed consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin should not leave a dry eye among us. Paul did not tell the Thessalonians “Don’t grieve.” He told them, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). So in no way am I telling anyone in Nashville to “move on,” “get over it,” or to “put on a brave face” because God means this for good. While this is certainly true, it does not take the pain away. God has promised that one day he will wipe away every tear, but today is not that day. This is a time for grief, but grief coupled with hope, not anger as Saul advocates.
Stephen Spinnenweber | “Please Don’t Get Mad At God” | April 24, 2023
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