Permission to Feel

“I think you need to forgive God.”  Those were the words that one of my therapist-friends spoke to me as I sat in her office with tears meeting under my chin.  “What does she mean by that? I’m not mad at God!” were my thoughts as I looked at her with one eyebrow raised and my head tilted to the side like a dog trying to make sense of what’s in front of her.  How could I possibly forgive God when He is sovereign?

Who’s Angry?

Like so many others who grew up in church, I learned the message that you do not question God’s action or inaction in your life, and you must be grateful for everything that happens because “all things work together for the good of them that love Him” (Rom. 8:28a, KJV).  Furthermore, I thought, being angry with God just might invoke His wrath and cause lightening to strike me! The truth that I was stumbling upon is that sometimes our experiences are further and unnecessarily complicated by bad theology. That’s right, I said it:  the religious stuff that we believe are sometimes the very chains that keep us imprisoned in our pain.  The unfortunate result is that a lot of hurting people unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) hurt other people – a phenomenon I call “the spiritual perpetuation of pain.” 

“Am I really holding a grudge against God? Am I really angry?” I wrestled with this concept for weeks. All the while, I refused to pray or pick up a bible. I would not go to church, and hated the sound of one note or lyric of a Christian song. If someone tried to quote a scripture to me, I kindly asked them not to and walked away. I cringed if someone asked me to preach for a service, pray for them, or offer words of encouragement.  And yet I thought, “I’m not angry with God.”  I was in a terrible state of denial!

Confronting the Divine

I finally gave in and engaged the beast.  Nothing was working to ease my pain otherwise. I began confessing how I felt to some of my most trusted and spiritually liberated friends who weren’t offended by my ranting. I began writing in journals, some of which I probably need to burn before I die. And one final but major step was that I locked my door, laid on my floor, and fussed God out (literally).  In “sistah-gurl” fashion, I began to tell God how angry I was with Him, how things in my life had never been fair, and how I found it hard to believe that He loved me when He allowed so many horrible things to happen to me. I expressed my disappointment in Him. For about an hour, I let Him have it.  Yes, it took that long to get out all the years of pinned up emotions. With that, I ended with the words:   “…I know You could take me out like a sniper right now. I don’t question Your power, but I do question Your love. I want to forgive you, but I don’t know if I can.”  And just like that, a huge calm came over me. Silence. I laid on the floor waiting for lightening to strike or my heart to stop beating. I realized that I was still alive. And then I heard in a quiet voice say, “Okay, good. And now we can begin…”

Why do we try to hide how we feel from God? 

Sometimes we experience major blows in life that we simply cannot shout, speak in tongues, fall out in the Spirit, or sing over. Despite what some preachers (including me) may say when we “get happy,” in those moments scriptures don’t seem to touch the pain, prayer doesn’t seem to fix it, and faith doesn’t always heal it.  As a therapist, minister, and all-out human being who is trying to serve God, I can honestly say that there are some things that will not begin to heal until we ACKNOWLEDGE and GIVE OURSELVES PERMISSION TO FEEL HOW WE FEEL.  I had to learn through both my academic training and life circumstances that no matter how deeply we bury memories of negative experiences, hurt, disappointment, anger, etc. they will find a way to creep to the surface time and time again until we actually deal with them. This includes feelings of hurt, disappointment and anger with the Divine.

Why do we try to hide how we feel from God?  I figure if God is as sovereign and all powerful as I believe, then He already knows how I feel. Why not take off my mask and get real with Him?  I often tell people that God is big enough to handle my tantrums, my tears, my fears, and my circumstances. Besides, doesn’t the bible say that God will give us help when we feel these things?  By being honest with God about what is happening in our hearts, we are “[approaching] the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb.  4:16, CSB).

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