Screaming at God

Psalm 13 has been a very close friend at times when I am going through a rough patch. I find it so refreshing how David screams at God, demanding that he listen and do something about the situation, all in the context of a covenant relationship.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

(Psalm 13, TNIV)

See, the covenant goes two ways. God asks us to love and trust him, and in return he promises life. Not just life in the future, but eternal, fulfilling life, now. There are many days, however, that I get sick of waiting to catch a glimpse of that new life. There are many days when I feel as though the old life has too great a hold to expect anything else. There are days when I sit and look out the window wondering, “Who cares?”

Normally when we talk about the covenant going two ways, we outline our responsibilities toward God. We talk about how we are required to live a life that shows how great our gratitude is for what God has done for us in Jesus.

But what about God’s part? If we trust God’s offer of bringing life, abundant life, to those who follow him, why does crap happen to us?

I guess that is why I love the laments so much. They cry out to God to do what he has promised. To fulfil his end of the deal.

I have a friend who is going through a very difficult time right now. She gives all the good “Christian” responses, like “God will get me through.” and “I am healing.” But there is an undercurrent of anger and doubting which she refuses to acknowledge.

It is this undercurrent that is slowly separating her from God, because she feels she needs to hide more and more of herself from God. 

I asked her how she was with God. She said, “I find it hard to talk to him right now.”

So I said, “Then don’t talk; scream, curse, yell, rail, tell him how you feel, in whatever way you feel.”

I think we have a very small picture of God. We assume that if we get angry with him, he is either going to do something bad to us in retaliation, or he will reject us completely. But God knows how we are feeling. He knows we are pissed at him, and when we come to him with nice words and platitudes, but our hearts are angry he sees the discrepancy and I can’t help but wonder if that hurts him more.

If my kids were angry with me, and yet came to me with nice words I would think they did not trust me enough to share their true selves with me.

God is a big boy, he can handle it.

So if you are stuck. If you are walking the valley and it seems as though God is not there. If you feel like accusing God for what has happened in your life, go ahead.

Your in good company.

Look at Jeremiah:

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? (Jeremiah 15:18)

Or Job:

Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep that you put me under guard? When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning. What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offences and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more. (Job 7:12-21)

Lament, or simply crying out in pain to God, is not an act of distrust, but an act of trust. It doesn't express doubt, it expresses trust. Peter Rollins puts it this way in his book The Orthodox Heretic

Far from being something to condemn or discourage, the idea of fighting with God as part of what it means to express one’s deep abiding faith in God seems to be a unique aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

We need not hide our feelings of anger or betrayal, but we are encouraged to express them. After all, did not Jesus himself cry out in a voice of betrayal from the cross?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The psalms of lament can be powerful allies in times of struggle because they provide the kind of vocabulary that is necessary to express this pain to God. They are also invaluable, because they provide a trusting framework in which the complaint can be registered.