Wednesday, August 13, 2008

God's Open Door Policy

I was visiting with a patient today who recently received some bad news. She has a lung disease, and she was evaluated for a lung transplant. Since she's only in her 50's, she was hopeful that she would be approved and would be placed on a waiting list for a healthy set of lungs. However, due to some co-existing medical conditions, she was told that she would not be eligible for a transplant after all. The doctors felt that the surgery and the recovery process would only weaken her further and detract from her quality of life...possibly hastening her death. At first, she seemed okay with it; she voiced acceptance and said that this was God's plan. She would simply live with it and enjoy whatever time she had left with her family. However, as time has passed and she's had more time to think about it, she is struggling more and more. She was tearful during my visit with her today, and she said she doesn't think that God is listening to her. Then she immediately started to back pedal and said "Not that I would ever question God, of course." What I'm hearing from her is that she's angry at God, and she feels guilty for that. I think she's struggling with her anger and disappointment in God and the subsequent guilt as well.

This got me to thinking more about my own views about God and being angry with Him. My thought is that it's okay to feel angry with God and to express it to Him. He can handle it. He created anger. Jesus became angry when he discovered the temple was being used as a marketplace. God became angry when His Son died. Anger is not sin. It doesn't indicate a lack of faith. Anger is not a sign of disrespect. Anger can result in sin if it is not properly channeled...but anger in and of itself is not sinful.

I think God has an open door policy. If you're angry, then it's okay to talk to Him about it. I think that He wants you to. My relationship with God is no different than my relationship with family and friends. If I'm angry with someone I love, I'm miserable. I don't want to be angry with them. I want to talk about it as soon as possible and fix it. Why shouldn't my approach towards my relationship with God be the same way? I've been in relationships before when I didn't express anger for fear of retribution or fear that the person wouldn't love me as much as they did before. Guess what? My anger didn't fade. It festered. I became resentful, and my relationship suffered. I think the same thing can happen in a relationship with God. If you don't talk to Him and acknowledge your anger (He already knows you're angry, by the way...He's God!), then your anger will fester, too. Your relationship can become strained and broken.

I've been angry with God before, and I approached Him in the same manner that I approach other loved ones. My prayer to Him went something like this: "God, I'm so angry with You right now, and I hate it. I don't know what to do with it, but I know I don't want it to be like this. Please help me to understand what is happening. I can't go on like this...I need You too badly." My anger didn't fade instantaneously. I continued to pray and talk to God about it over the next few days. Eventually, I made peace with God and the issue that angered me. God and I kissed and made up, figuratively speaking. We were okay again. Actually, my bond with Him felt stronger and deeper. It felt more vibrant.

A long time ago, I met a gentleman named R.F Smith, Jr. He was a pastor, and his sister was a patient of mine. He traveled from his home in West Virginia to spend her last days with her, and he and I had several opportunities to talk. As it turns out, he is the author of a book entitled "Sit Down, God...I'm Angry." It is about his own struggle with his anger towards God after his 17-year-old son died in a water skiing accident. He donated an autographed copy to our resource library, and I read it in about two days. It's a phenomenal book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to come to grips with anger towards God, as well as pastors and counselors who may encounter people who are dealing with this strife.

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