When my second cousin was four years old and he would get upset, he would pout and furrow his forehead the best he could and say, “I am mad-at-you-sad-at-you.” I would try my best to take him seriously and validate his feelings by not smiling or laughing.
Today, I am definitely not smiling or laughing because I feel like saying the same thing: I am mad at and sad at God.
I do not like God. I am angry at Him. Truth be told, I have been for much longer than I care to admit.
In my “pissed-offedness” (which I define as the state of being, not just angry, but pissed off) at God, I decided to write this post as catharsis. In fact, this was supposed to be a journal entry for my long-neglected journal, but it ended up turning into a blog post. Writing is one of the safe, healthy ways I use to do some emotional purging, but, much like vomit, I know that not everyone needs to see the vomitus. I’m still trying to figure out when publishing my catharsis is appropriate… More about that later. Truth be told, if we take this Jesus thing seriously, many of us have grievances with God.
In her book, Angry Conversations with God, Susan E. Isaacs goes to see a marriage counsellor and hashes it out with God. I’ve decided to write instead. As is the case with many of my posts, I wondered about transparency, but, again as is the case with the events of this year, I shrugged and moved forward.
I’m not typically an angry person, so this is all so very puzzling. I think I’ve reached the apex of my anger, the pinnacle of pain… or perhaps it’s more resentment than anger…
I’ve never been this upset in my whole entire life. In fact, the reason why I can’t sleep is no longer because of anxiety, but because I’m upset. I’m often so upset that I cannot fall sleep. Usually when I’m upset, I cry, but now I’m so upset I can’t cry. I’m too upset to cry. I’ve discovered new levels to my anger (or sadness, since they are two sides of the same coin) that I never knew existed. And the one and only way I know to relieve my “upsetness” — prayer — is also the very thing that causes me to be upset.
Those closest to me know that I have been struggling with prayer. I’m at the point where I cannot pray. I do not have enough faith to pray. One of the issues is that I know enough about God to know that He responds to faith more than mere passion (Matt 8:13, 9:29, James 1:6, and the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:43-48), and because I don’t have faith (or not nearly enough), I feel prayer is a waste of my time and His. I come to Him already doubting. My prayers seem self-defeating. The second issue is that I can no longer be vulnerable and open with Someone who has repeatedly dealt what feels like a sucker-punch in the gut.
I feel teased. I feel toyed with. I feel taken for granted. I feel ignored. I am pissed.
I’m vexed. I’m annoyed. I’m frustrated. I’m tired.
I’m trying to figure out why I’m so upset, but I can’t pinpoint it to just one element or event in particular. Everything compounded makes me bitter. It’s everything really, but 2015 most particularly. 2015 will go down in history as the worst year of my life to date. I must admit that, what with Syrian children in refugee camps and toddlers trafficked into the sex trade, if 2015 is the worst year of my life, then I have a pretty okay life. But this year definitely was not nice, and was, and continues to be downright difficult. 2015 sucked over all, so far, but I think failing the bar exam was the coup de grâce, the straw that finally broke this faithful camel’s back. Last week when I couldn’t sleep, I wrote two pages worth (double-sided) of things that bother me. In the journal entry associated with today’s post, I listed twenty items.
Of course I blame God. He makes a great scapegoat (not unlike Lev. 16:8). I don’t blame Satan, because what use is there in blaming Satan? What do I expect Satan to do if I blame him – change his ways? I know sin exists in our world and our world is knocked off-kilter, and now things happen that are not part of God’s will, yada, yada, yada. I don’t have a relationship with Satan, so I don’t talk to Satan. But I have a relationship with God (or, at least, I think I have one). I expected Satan to make life worse; I expected God to make life better. I depended on God. I fully depended on God. I did my part. I’ve been doing my part – but what do I have to show for it? I did what I could, which I admit wasn’t much, but it was what I could do. So whose fault is it? Fault implies wrongdoing. Did I do something wrong? Noo. I prayed. I tried. And as much as I struggle with thinking I didn’t do enough, I did my part. I absolve myself of all liability. Did Satan do something wrong? Arguably yes, but Satan is just being Satan. Did God do something wrong? I want to say yes – God should have and could have stopped Satan. God could have provided more help, more leadership, more guidance, more everything — but the truth is, just like Satan is just being Satan, God is just being God.
Great expectations can breed great disappointment. I had great expectations of God, and rightly so. We are called to expect great things of God. But here’s the problem which I will explain in legal terms. In the law of contracts, we have the concept of reliance. When a contract is formed and the contract is such that the person who accepts relies on the work of the offerer and would be severely prejudiced if the offerer does not perform, we call that reliance. When a party fails to fulfill their obligation, the other party can sue for damages. I find myself confronted by a God who has induced my reliance – what with His grandiose promises in the Bible. I feel like He had and still has an obligation to perform, but for some reason He hasn’t. Perhaps I need to check my expectations…
Since I am experiencing that disappointment right now, I would hazard a guess that those who are disappointed with God the most are those who love and loved Him the best (e.g. Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus). That disappointment in and with God is not a mark of faithlessness but rather denotes great faith. I then think that perhaps the many atheists who were former Christians are not ignorant fools but rather people who really loved Him and really trusted Him but were subsequently hurt by Him. Perhaps among the ranks of atheist devotees are some of the formerly most religiously devout. I have no plans of turning to atheism, and I don’t think I could ever be an atheist, but I have always been sympathetic to and non-judgmental of agnostics and atheists because, like many of them, I struggle with the existence and attributes of God too.
I think 2015 was the final blow to whatever faith I had or had managed to salvage over years. For my own sake, for my own faith, I was always trying to vindicate God, to justify His actions, to defend them, to reconcile them… but now I come up short.
I have run out. I have run out begrudgingly and disappointingly. I never wanted to run out. I never thought I would. I didn’t want to. I had hoped that I wouldn’t. But I have run out. I have run out of energy, since prayer and the works that faith demands are exhausting. On that note, I have run out of faith. Faith has often been described as a muscle that needs resistance in order to be strengthened. But I have also thought of faith as the gas that keeps the car running. We don’t see it, but it’s there. We jump into our cars because of faith. We press the gas pedal because we believe that we have enough faith/gas to take us to our destination. Perhaps my analogy is faulty but the fact still remains I have run out of gas. The car that is Simone Samuels has sputtered to a halt. Among other things I have run out of, I have run out of things to say to Him. There is nothing else left to say, unless I wish to repeat requests for the umpteenth time. That is too frustrating an exercise. From time to time I am able to tell Him thanks for (what I perceive to be) small mercies. I even tell Him thanks for my circumstances and situation… and its length, and its weight, and its impact…although the gratitude seems somewhat inauthentic. I have run out of patience. I have run out of ways to explain away inconsistencies and irreconcilable differences. While I cannot shake the knowledge that there is, in Aristotelian terms, an Unmoved Mover who the many call God, I can’t bring myself to serve a God who, while unmoved by the laws of nature, is even still unmoved by my melancholy and unfettered by my frustration.
It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.
I go through the motions. I will say that the ordinances of a Christian life have become taxing. Sometimes I wonder if I was wrong, if I was serving a figment of my imagination all along, if He doesn’t exist after all… I quickly banish the thought though. There is a God. I know this. And yet, insofar as He exists, I am still unconvinced that He is a rewarder of them who seek Him.
Blog posts are supposed to bring some kind of value to its readers. I thought that this post – as personal as it is — may not be able to attend to that aim. I wondered about the value in being so transparent, other than invoking the pity of my readers and having them view this post as a cry for help and request for prayer (prayer is always appreciated!). But I crave authentic relationships – even with you, my unknown readers – and we can’t be authentic and genuine unless we are brave enough to be vulnerable. Writing is ultimately about sharing, and the sharing is about reinforcing the truth and reminding ourselves of the fact that we are never alone in our joys and our sorrows.
So here’s the value of my vulnerability to you: if you, like me, do not like God at present or you are angry at Him or you are disappointed with God, that’s okay. It’s okay. It’s perfectly fine. It’s good even. It shows that you had a relationship to begin with, which is a good sign. Deeper intimacy heightens the risk of being hurt more deeply. The deeper the relationship, the deeper the disappointment and anger. All relationships have their rough patches. It shows that you and God were close. It shows that your relationship is genuine, and part of the fullness (and brokenness, but brokenness can still be part of the fullness) of life is having authentic, sometimes (seemingly) disappointing relationships with ourselves, with others and with God. Disappointment and anger helps us question, evaluate and take stock of the relationship. It can help the relationship grow. It stretches it, but unlike a rubber band, the stretching makes it stronger, not weaker. And if the relationship caused so much pain, that means that there was a lot of love to begin with. And if there is a lot of love, then maybe the relationship is redeemable. Maybe the relationship can survive the disappointment, disillusionment, anger, distrust…whatever. And instead of this rough patch being a sign of irreverence or doubt, perhaps it is an indication – an affirmation – of true faith.