A Beef with God

I listened this last weekend to a podcast from a respected Christian author. He’s often told of how God has a way of getting his by disrupting his fishing trips. (I suspect this would get the attention of many a man.) The fishing was terrible until finally the man, having learned to look for God in the small things, asked, “God, what are you saying? What is this about?” He felt God’s reply was, Your hatred of me.

I suspect many of us have a beef with God over something. Lingering disappointment. Heartrending tragedy. The state of the world.

There are answers for all this, theologically. But it doesn’t always reach our hearts, our emotional fault lines.

I would know this. I’ve taken unexpected blows, like my family’s collapse, that God neither stopped nor undid. And every once in a while, some resentment towards God reveals itself in my soul, like a Rottweiler peeking out from a garbage pile. (I saw that on a pizza run this last week and it seemed to work here as a metaphor.)

On that pizza run, I prayed something like this.

Lord, forgive me for my bitterness towards you. I have no right to be angry with you. Not after the cross. Not after the empty tomb. Please give me strength to put aside my resentment towards you. Help me forgive you. 

I know that the idea of “forgiving God” sounds theologically scandalous, since God is incapable of wrong. But if you think about it, you can stand in need to forgive someone whether they committed wrong or not. You can be bitter towards a hiring manager who turned you down years ago for a badly needed position simply because you weren’t the most qualified. You can hold a grudge towards another driver who slid on impossible ice and hit your car. Bitterness is a funny thing; it doesn’t actually require moral wrong. It just requires someone…or Someone…who had an agenda different from yours.

So I prayed for strength to release my simmering resentment of his agenda in my life. And I prayed for new revelations of his love.

They came.

Like the spray of a waterfall after a thirty-mile desert hike, they came. In the same quirky, personal ways God shows his love to me, they came. Once the resentment was out of the way, they came.

I have no delusions that the garbage-clearing is over. It will likely be a layered, ongoing event.

But on the days when your beef with God arises, clear it out. Release him from your resentment. You will know his love again in fresh ways.

17 thoughts on “A Beef with God

  1. Love this!

    When we’re honest enough to share anger directed at God–with God–we will not be struck by lightning. In fact, I get the visual of God (if we’re seen to be theologically scandalous, let’s go all out) after I’ve stomped my foot and shared my honest feelings. I see him pushing up his sleeves, smiling, and saying to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, “Now, THIS is someone I can work with.”

    Thanks, Brandon. You never disappoint this reader.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amen, Brandon! This is awesome. Clear the air, tell the Lord how you really feel! He already knows anyway. We can’t surprise God. When we get angry or resentful we tend to pull back which puts a crimp in our own hose, which stops that living water from flowing our way.

    I’m always “wrong” when I get mad at God, I’m usually just frustrated and confused, but He is always gracious to help me sort it out. 🙂

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  3. “Release him from your resentment. You will know his love again in fresh ways.”

    I wish I had that luxury. The way things have gone with God the last three years, I feel as if I’m on the receiving end of His anger or of some sick version of His love.

    Every time I try to surrender my heart to Him and love Him with all I am, I don’t get reminders or revelations of His love. Instead, I’m continuously bombarded by disturbing Bible verses, bad breaks, chronic disappointments, and other things that threaten my love and increase my resentment. If this is what His love looks like, how can I stop resenting Him? What’s a guy to do in my predicament?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Well, it’s hard to know what’s going on without knowing you better.

      I would definitely urge you to remember God’s promises in Scripture of his love for his people. Our feelings can lie to us. They lied to me for a long time. I had to reformat them based on Scripture’s truth, and that took a while and a lot of mental work. Luke 15 has great stories of how God delights in finding just one person coming home, and how he treats them.

      I’ve still got circumstances I wish would change. Slowly, I learned that God’s love can give us bulletproof peace even in the middle of that. But first, I think, we must clear the air between us and God, regardless of what has happened.

      I’m going to pray for you today, John.

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      • Thanks, man. I need it.

        I know I made a weighty comment, so let me give you a nutshell summary of the last three years.

        I’ve struggled with literal fears of God for 20 years now, and being an Aspie doesn’t help. This crisis of faith has been the three worst years of those fear battles.

        It all started when the theology of Narnia was reinforced with Scripture. Up until then, I had started to think God was kind, gentle, intimate and approachable—as opposed to being dangerous and terrifying. Narnia overturned that view.

        Two weeks later, the Bible made things worse: Verses like Hebrews 12:29, Revelation 1:17, and Exodus 3:6 reinforced a literal fear of God.

        After that, I started dealing with rejection by people in my church, struggles in graduate school, disappointments in my life, strains on my closest relationships, and this nagging fear toward God that I just couldn’t shake.

        When Narnia was found to be the culprit, 2017 ended up being the worst year in my faith to date, because I got exposed to more disturbing ideas in both Narnia and the Bible. As of July 2018, I’m reeling from the fears and from being ravaged by mere ideas, and I’m not sure how to move forward.

        (So much for a nutshell.)

        Unfortunately, the notion of God-love is becoming anathema to me.

        I see the gentleness and ferocity of it and wonder: Which side is for me—the gentleness or the ferocity?

        I see the fear of God and wonder: Which part of it is for me—the literal fear, or the reverence and love-borne desire to not offend God?

        I see God terrifying people in Scripture and wonder: Is this how God wants me to regard Him? (How can that be good for me, since a literal fear of God in my life has done me zero good?)

        I’d be happy to focus on the love of God if it weren’t so ugly. I’d be happy to think of God as the father running to the prodigal son if only I had the assurance that He wouldn’t use anger, fear, severity and danger on me (and the Bible doesn’t give me that assurance). I’d love to think that the good times in my walk with God were His way of saying, “This is how I want to relate with you”—and I could do that if only the Bible didn’t present so many disturbing possibilities about how it might otherwise go.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is a very interesting viewpoint, because I’ve always found Aslan to be a very approachable and loving entity in the books, for those who are on his side.

        Our systematic theology says he draws us with love as well as warning:

        “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)

        Romans 5 is also great for this, because it shows how God’s love was initiatory in nature, not something we had to kick off:

        “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!” (Romans 5:8-10)

        You seem like the type to fully stare difficult truth in the face for the sake of self-honesty, to insist on absorbing it so that you know you’re not lying to yourself. This, if I am correct, is why God’s wrath is so front and center for you right now. But the good news is still good news! Don’t let Satan steal it or dismiss it with a “too good to be true” feeling. If we are in Christ, his troubles may afflict us, but our souls are sealed in love.

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      • It’s not just the wrath that bothers me. It’s the fear. Aslan inspired literal fear of God in me, and the Bible seems to be making it worse. Honestly, how can it not? The Bible tells us to fear Him (Luke 12:5), tremble (Psalm 96:9), and stand in awe of Him (Psalm 33:8). What do these even mean? Should the fear be literal?

        This is why I resent God: He seems bent on scaring His subjects—not to mention me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course, I’ve read much more of the Bible than this one verse. Even so, this verse and others like it are a stumbling block. They’re in the Bible for a reason, but what is it? What am I supposed to learn from them?

        If Narnia is any gauge, it means God ought to frighten me. If the Bible interprets itself, it may mean God doesn’t want me to interact fearlessly with Him. It may mean He wants my fear (which has happened)—and He wants to take it away (which hasn’t happened). But I don’t know for sure. Whatever the takeaways are from verses like this are a mystery to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s funny…I’ve always viewed Aslan as the opposite of what you’re describing. Approachable, kind, and most of all, seeing our true hearts. That seems to be the common takeaway in society. His roar was directed at the White Witch and the forces of evil, was it not? And it is directed at your enemies as well, and at mine.

        I believe that includes fear, by the way. I’ve got fear. But I’ve learned that just because Jesus promises something (like the removal of fear) doesn’t mean it automatically happens. God promised Israel the land of Canaan, but they had a role, and that role included battle. They had to fight for what God promised them.

        If I may be so bold, I think you have a battle ahead of you, my friend. I did. A battle against fear. But mine is largely won now and is shifting to other arenas. God is your ally in this battle and is fiercely committed to your restoration and you KNOWING his love. That’s the unmistakeable thrust of Paul’s epistles (Ephesians 3 is great for this).

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  4. Thanks Brandon. I have been there and you say it so well. It really IS scandalous that we should think of forgiving God, but I have a large framed photo on my wall as a constant reminder of my answer to the prayer that came when I had finally forgiven God, and just like the God He is, I was forgiven!! You are speaking for many people. I know! God Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

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