You may or may not know that when I started off this career (early 2004), I asked a small group of faithful friends to pray for me. This became The Writing Prayer Circle. They’ve grown from a handful to over 75 folks across the world who lift me up when things are difficult (seems like a lot lately), and encourage me, call me to account, and share truth in love. I’m where I am today because of this dedicated group of prayer folk.
Last week, I sent them this request:
I’m not sure if this is a prayer request or just a State of Mary Address. Maybe both.
The Lord nudged me recently about my lack of reading the Word and praying. I do it, of course, but I’ve not been consistent. But instead of hearing His voice and yelling at myself for being “bad,” I decided to examine why.
I think I’m mad at God.
Not raging mad, not bitter mad, just generally mad. It’s sad to admit. But I think the general state of my career (after so much effort) and the straying of a relationship from Jesus has combined to make me pretty introspective and a little mad. Of course I know God didn’t cause a failed career, nor did He make a loved one turn from Him, but nonetheless that is where we are, and I have disappointment left in the aftermath.
Have you ever felt this way? I have a feeling I’m not alone.
So prayers appreciated as I work through this. Pray I would walk through this and gain wisdom. Pray my zeal for Jesus would return, and that He would be the lifter of my head.
What am I doing to work through this disappointment? Or what can be done? I don’t want to stay in this place forever. Just as it’s uncomfortable to be in an on-earth relationship where animosity exists, life feels off kilter when I nurse anger toward God. As I’ve prayed about it, here are three things for me (and you) to try.
One. Share your disappointment with God directly.
He already knows you’re angry. He already discerns the deepest disappointments you hold to yourself. It’s not a mystery to Him. What He wants? Relationship with you. A conversation. Give yourself the freedom to express your anger in whatever way that works for you. Take a walk in nature. Grab a pen and journal every single expectation you felt He shattered. Sing a song that captures your sadness. Paint your angst. Cry. Rant. Holler. Get it out. His shoulders are big enough to hold your wrath.
If this is not working for you, add someone to the mix. For me, it helps when I tell a friend (or my spouse) how I’m feeling. And as a verbal processor, I really don’t know how I feel until I verbalize it. And having another person there really helps because they can ask good questions, bear the burden, and commit to pray for you.
In sharing, you are allowing someone the privilege of holding your pain. (Aren’t you flattered/grateful when a friend entrusts his/her heart with you? That’s what you’re doing when you share you anger at God with someone.) Be brave, friend. Dare to entrust your disappointment with a friend.
Two. Reconcile with someone.
I’ve had two very vivid dreams the last two nights, both involving ancient pains in difficult past relationships. The Scriptures says that as far as it depends on us, we need to live at peace with all people. (See Romans 12:18). The greatest commandment is to love God, then love others. If our “loving others” is broken, there’s a strong chance that our “loving God” muscle has atrophied. They are linked. And often, we are angry at God because of what another person has done to us.
This is a risky, painful step, but I believe it will help us clear the air and leave room for God to heal a breach. Today, as I type this, my simple step is to forgive a friend who abandoned, to choose to assign positive intent to her, and let her out of the prison I’ve placed her (in my mind). So, ________, right now I actively let go of my animosity toward you. I forgive you. I pray you’ll forgive me too. And as I remember you, I’ll pray for you.
Sometimes relational pain takes up so much space in our hearts that we can think of nothing else. When I worked through an issue with a friend several months ago, all the angst and wrestling left me quite suddenly. With the issue resolved, I was freer to hear from God, to stop blaming him for my friend’s reaction, and to develop my empathy muscle.
It also helps that doing this step is humbling for me because inevitably, I HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG, and I have to confess and humble myself. This reminds me afresh that I am human and desperately need the grace Jesus offers.
Three. Let God Be Unique.
A lot of my anger with God has to do with dashed expectations. I expect Him to subscribe to my agenda for things. And yet, He doesn’t obey me! (Thankfully!) He has a varied, creative, surprising plan. But I don’t want any of that, if I’m honest with you. I want Him to see how brilliant my plan is. I want Him to take me down safe paths that I prescribe. Oh vanilla, how I love thee!
Except that makes me the deity, and diminishes His power. He is God. I am not. Isaiah 43:18-19 mitigates against my awesome plans:
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Perhaps my clinging to the way I want God to work is blinding me to the way He actually wants to work. Maybe my disappointment with career has more to do with MY plans gone awry than His faithful, patient, diligent plotting behind the scenes.
And for those of you loving a wayward friend, maybe God doesn’t need you to make that person obey. Maybe His plan is utterly perfect for your loved one. Maybe just maybe God’s plan is fantastically brilliant and wildly different than your preconceived notions of what it should be. It may not unfold right now, but it will, in mysterious timing.
I need to let God be unique today, to do things beyond my expectations. And I also need to lay down those expectations (and they are many) at the feet of the cross like worship. This Christian life is a great letting go. So let’s stay low, shall we? And in that low place, we are more apt to welcome God’s mysteries.
Besides, where will we go?
God can bear the weight of our anger. He shoulders our disappointments and dreams dashed. If we stay mad forever, where will we go? How will we navigate further pain without the One who bled and died on the cross? I wonder what Jesus must’ve felt when His Father turned away in that awful, dark moment? He experienced the abandonment we will NEVER have to feel all so He could come alongside us when we despair.
Where will we go without Jesus?
I don’t want to stay in this place of anger forever. I want to want to reconcile, to work through my pain, and re-embrace under the cross’s shadow. I do. So watch this space as I work through, pray, struggle, and hope for a time where joy replaces anger.
And if you’re there with me, know this. You are loved. You are dear. You are light. You are worth affection. I’m sorry, so sorry, that you’re walking through this dark season. It’s normal. All the saints pass through a dark night of the soul from time to time. I’m sorry things haven’t been sorted, or that God seems capricious or cruel while you wait for deliverance. I can’t explain it. And He may never explain it. But He is there, waiting in the wings, arms open wide.
Won’t you take one step toward Him today?