Who can claim they never get angry? All of us get angry at some time towards someone or something. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) can be angry at the perpetrator who violated their body and personhood. Survivors can also be angry about the long-term effects of the CSA that they must endure. Spouses of survivors can also be angry at the perpetrator and how they, as spouses, feel affected by the survivor’s long-term effects of CSA.
Some people are slow to admit their anger. They might say, “I feel robbed,” “I feel cheated,” or “I’ve been given a rotten lot in life.” But beneath their perceived injustice is anger.
A question for us is, “Is it ok to be angry at God?” For example, is it ok to be angry at God that the abuse happened?
Is it ok to be angry at God?
Here are steps that will help you answer that question.
1. Run to God with your anger; be honest with God.
Authors Dan Green and Russ Pope define the emotion of anger as: “The feeling that something is wrong and not the way it ought to be” (p. 406). Numerous examples in the Bible reveal people venting to God about how things were not how they ought to have been.
- Job 21:4 “My complaint is with God, not with people.
I have good reason to be so impatient.
- Psalm 44:23-24 Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
- Job 21:4 “My complaint is with God, not with people.
The account of Jonah in Jonah 4 is different. Whereas Job and David ran to God, Jonah ran from God. In fact, he ran as far from God as possible. Whereas Job and David wanted to release their anger and anxiety, Jonah seemed to harbor it.
Running to God with our complaint is part of lament, of which many examples in Scripture exist. I’ll say more about this in a moment.
2. Redirect your anger toward the injustice.
Anger towards the sexual perpetrator may seem natural, even rational. But is it ultimately healthy? Harmful effects occur when we harbor anger toward the perpetrator. Our anger will eventually consume us.
Eventually, our rage at the offender for their actions must be redirected to outrage at the offense for how it has wounded the survivor. In so doing, we direct our anger toward injustice: “something is wrong and not the way it ought to be.” God is angry at the injustice too.
Sexual abuse is wrong, and it violates how God designed things to be. Therefore, sexual abuse is an injustice. It’s ok to be angry about sexual abuse.
3. Be open to what God wants to do.
It is ok to bring our anger to God. Running to God with our anger is an act of trust.
It is ok to be angry at injustice. God is angry, too, when injustice occurs.
It is not ok to harbor anger toward God and turn away from Him.
However, God does not turn away from us when we are angry at Him. He is ready to engage with us, as demonstrated in His engagement with Jonah. God invites us to work through our anger with Him and to be open to what He wants to do in us. Jonah seemed to miss that invitation.
God does not turn away from us when we are angry at Him.
God invites us to work through our anger with Him and to be open to what He wants to do in us.
Here are some steps toward being open to God’s invitation.
1. Decide to work through your anger; this is a process.
When anger comes up, do not deny it. And don’t harbor anger by setting up camp outside the city and dwelling there like Jonah. Instead, we can choose to work through anger by being open to what God wants to do in us.
We can choose to work through our anger by being open to what God wants to do in us.
This is a process and will take some time. We will know God more deeply and ourselves more honestly during the process. Knowing God and knowing ourselves are intertwined.
2. Enter into lament.
As I’ve noted, running to God and admitting our anger is the first step of lament. Mark Vroegop masterfully outlines and explains lament in Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. Here’s a summary.
- Turn to God. Turning to God with our anger can be a step toward trust.
- Complain to God. This is not self-pity. Instead, it is mourning how things are not as they ought to be. Job and David model this in the verses above.
- Ask God. “. . . in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
- Trust God. This is holding to what we know to be true about God even though our circumstances might say otherwise.
3. Accept that God is God and you are not.
How foolish can you be?
He is the Potter and certainly greater than you, the clay!
Should the created thing say of the one who made it,
“He didn’t make me”?
Does a jar ever say,
“The potter who made me is stupid”?
Isaiah 29:16 (New Living Translation)
It is foolish to conclude that God is wrong and I am right.
It is foolish to conclude that God needs to adjust to me, not me to God.
Consider a 4-year-old child who, when told it is time to come in the house from playing, cries as though the world has ended and tells you as the parent, “I’m angry at you.”
I realize some parents would respond with harsh words to their child. But wise is the parent who recognizes the child’s lack of understanding and lovingly helps them back into the reality that their world has not ended.
I believe God recognizes our lack of understanding and guides us through the storm as we trust Him.
Invite God to do what He wants to do in you. As our Redeeming God, God always looks for ways to do something new, especially in our hearts.
Green, D., & Pope, R. (2010). Connection and Healing: A 200-Day Journey into Recovery. Gentle Path Press.
Vroegop, M. (2019). Dark Clouds Deep Mercy. Crossway.
Good article Bill! It’s exactly what I needed to hear today.