By Shawn Tomlin
When was the last time you felt like you were at your wit’s end? Have you felt like you were in a hole that you dug with your own anger, depression, frustration, (insert negative emotion here)? Did you bring that before God in prayer? Sometimes we are so concerned with using the “proper language” and making our situation sound better than what it is, that by the time we pray about it, if we even pray about it at all, what we pray is nothing like how we are actually feeling. Then there are the times we can’t even bring ourselves to prayer because we feel guilty for feeling angry, frustrated, sad, etc. God is our Father and because of Christ we are his children, and sometimes children throw fits. What does a loving father do in that case? The response is love and correction.
Take, for instance, Job chapter 3. Out of pure frustration at his horrible situation, Job wished he had never been born. He despised what was happening to him and he had no problem verbalizing how he felt. Was it the best thing to say? Probably not, but Job’s cries were “poured out like water” (verse 24). He said in verse 26, “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” Job let it all out. As I said earlier, it’s not the best thing to do, questioning God’s wisdom for giving you life, but Job didn’t hesitate to be honest with how he felt in that moment. Psalm 88 and Jeremiah 20:14-15 echo Job’s lament in Job 3. I encourage you to read and compare these passages.
In that feeling of abandonment, David didn’t keep silent, he cried out to God. He expressed in pure honesty how he felt, and you know what? God heard him, as He hears the cries of all his people.
Job lamented out of frustration, but Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, saw the destruction of God’s judgement on his people and it broke him down. Jeremiah said in Lamentations 2:21-22, “You have slaughtered not sparing… and there was no one who escaped or survived.” Verse 11 says, “My eyes fail because of tears, my spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is poured out on the earth because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, when little ones and infants faint.” Even in the midst of all that death, destruction, and pain Jeremiah declares in verse 19 “Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones who are faint because of hunger at the head of every street.” We also can learn from Jeremiah that in dark times in our lives we need to “pour ourselves out” before God.
So Job was frustrated, Jeremiah broken from seeing the destruction of his people, but now we see David in what he felt, abandonment. I’m going to focus on only three psalms, but honestly a good 25% of them ask the questions “What the heck is going on?! Where are you even at God?!” Psalm 6 and Psalm 13 both ask the question “How long, O LORD?” The third psalm is Psalm 22, which was one the Jesus prayed as he hung on the cross, is a more graphic description of our perceived abandonment by the Father. Of course we know that if God has chosen you unto faith in His Son you will not be forsaken, but that’s not always how life feels. I admit that I’ve felt left alone by God, but never lost hope in my Redeemer. In that feeling of abandonment, David didn’t keep silent, he cried out to God. He expressed in pure honesty how he felt, and you know what? God heard him, as He hears the cries of all his people.
The last example I want to bring in to this article is that of Jonah in 4:2-3. Jonah was ordered by God to go proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sin to the people of Nineveh. It’s also important to know that the people of Nineveh were great enemies to Israel. Jonah knew God was compassionate and forgiving and wanted no part of the salvation of his enemies, so he ran (or at least tried to). When God brought him to Nineveh and the message was proclaimed, salvation was granted, and Jonah was ticked! He stood before God and basically in his anger said, “See! This is why I ran! I knew you would show them compassion and forgiveness!”
With these examples, this is the point I’m trying to make: It’s ok to come before God when we are frustrated, saddened, broken by despair, or angry. Perfect, beautiful words aren’t needed. Just honestly bring to God how you feel. From time to time we will experience these emotions, and coming before God in any of those emotional states isn’t a sign of weak faith, but of a full, strong faith. Even if what we are expressing isn’t right, we are still praying to our Father who redeemed us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our hope is still in Him. We come before our God as a child, confident in His mercy, compassion, and grace. He will correct us when we need it, and His lovingkindness will never be far off. We can be sure God will hear our prayers and be with us in our pain and suffering. God knows human pain and suffering on an intimate level because in Christ, He experienced it all for us, so that we might live eternally through faith in Himself. Next time you find yourself angry, upset, sad, etc., don’t be afraid to pray. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 says, “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
“The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”