Anger is one of those emotions we think we’re not supposed to feel. We can be frustrated, annoyed, or exasperated. That’s okay. But anger–raw, honest anger–is something we don’t like to admit to. It’s not socially acceptable.
Especially when you’re mad at God. Because–let’s face it–sometimes we are. We grapple with the questions of why one lives and another dies. We wonder what to do when the angel doesn’t come. We wind up in that painful place where we want to shake our fist at heaven and demand answers for our hurt. Yet it’s easy to shy away from the rawness of our anger. It’s not nice. It’s not polite. You’re not supposed to talk to God like that. But if the Psalms teach us anything, it’s that God never flinches from honest prayer.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,for there our captors asked us for songs,our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
Psalm 137 is not on anyone’s top-ten list of “Most Frequently Preached Psalms.” It’s a song of bitterness and regret sung by a people in exile—a people who long for the same fate to be meted out against their captors that they saw befall their children.
The rawness of their anguish is hard to read, but it’s in the Bible for a reason. What Psalm 137 and the other lament psalms teach us is that we can be honest before God. God is neither surprised by nor threatened by our anger. When we find ourselves consumed by an anguished and angry soul, the best thing we can do is pour out our anger before God. He can take it.
We live in a messy, sin-stained world. Being on the front lines of the battle means we get hit by the shrapnel. It hurts, and sometimes anger is our gut-level response to the pain. Anger at ourselves. Anger at our families. Anger at our churches. Anger at God.
If you find yourself in that place, the worst thing you can do is hide it. Like water on rocks, anger has a way of wearing us down and seeping through the weak places. The solution is not to hide our anger but to let it be healed in him. We can’t do that unless we admit that the anger is there. Pour it out in your journal. Lie on the floor and shake your fist at God. Lay it bare before him—all the anger, all the blame, all the hurt you’ve choked down and left unspoken.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me (Psalm 138:1-3).
Then be silent and wait. The God who refuses to abandon us in the storm whispers peace to us in the silence. For every Psalm 137 there is a Psalm 138. Our God will accomplish his purposes for you. His love is everlasting and he does not forsake the works of his hands.
Wait on the Lord. His grace turns anger into praise.
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