Are you mad at God?
Did things not turn out the way that you thought would be best for your own life?
Do you feel like He must not want you because the circumstances you have encountered? Maybe your childhood seemed unfair, or your spouse left you? Maybe you got passed over for the promotion at work that you were so deserving of? Maybe you seem to be quick to blame God for whatever ails you – physical or otherwise?
Or, perhaps you just feel like He’s abandoned you? The God who once spoke so clearly to you now seems hauntingly quiet. Maybe your ministry work or church efforts aren’t going as you anticipated, and you’re giving all this effort for God’s Kingdom and mad that He hasn’t seemed to have rewarded that effort?
Whatever the case and cause, people get mad at God. Anger is a normal emotion that so many us of struggle with. And when you catch a case of the “itsnotfairisms” anger is the first to rear its ugly head.
Consider Martha, Mary and Lazarus if you will. The Bible tells us all three were known to Jesus, John 11:5 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus“. They were known and loved by Jesus himself, so when the sisters sent word to Jesus who was travelling that Lazarus was sick, they expected Jesus to return at once and heal him.
Instead, much to their sorrow and despair, Jesus returns too late, and Lazarus dies. Imagine their anger. They knew Jesus was able to heal their brother, and they trusted that when word of his illness reached Jesus, he would come and help! They expected to God to show up, and He didn’t. Imagine how helpless and angry they must have been.
By the time we get to John 11:14, Jesus tells those he’s with that Lazarus is dead and he must return to Judea. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died. He surely must have known how upset Martha and Mary would be, but he also knew how God could be most glorified.
So what does Martha do? It would be easy for her to stew in her anger, to walk away from God, and to blame him for the circumstances that have caused her grief. This type of thing is what so many of us do in our anger. This situation didn’t work exactly as I had wanted to, therefore God must be blamed, as though he is some sort of cosmic Santa Claus promising each of us exactly what we wanted.
But Martha doesn’t do that. Instead, she goes to meet Jesus and air her grievances. Mary stayed home, quite possibly overwhelmed with sadness and anger having felt betrayed at Jesus not returning to heal her brother quickly one can imagine. Martha hears that Jesus is returning and heads out to meet him, and John 11:21 says “ “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
If Jesus knew without returning that Lazarus was dead, surely he knew Martha was angry. God always knows, so why not tell Him? Martha did exactly that, she approached God with all of her feelings and aired them out, almost as though she was holding Jesus accountable. God already knows our hearts and our internal struggles, we don’t have to hide them! What good would it have done Martha to say “Hey Jesus, Lazarus is dead but I’m okay” like so many of us do when we pray and try to hide our anger from God.
God is the God of the universe, He can handle your anger. Go ahead and tell Him. Tell Him why you’re angry. Tell Him why you feel betrayed. Tell Him why your upset and let Him work through that. You will never resolve anything by hiding the truth from God.
Perhaps in these prayer moments, you will get an answer. Maybe He will call you to action in the situation you feel is unfair because He knows you have the courage to make changes or advocate for others going through the same trial? Maybe He will just assure you that the end is not yet here and to be patient. Or maybe you won’t get an answer, but you will feel better having been honest with God and let it all out. There is a huge benefit to getting the anger out instead of allowing it to grow and harden your heart. Trust me, God can take it. He can handle your anger, He can handle your tears, your frustrations, your doubts. And He can work through them too.
The amazing part is though Martha and Mary’s situation looked bleak, and they felt angry that Jesus didn’t come to heal their brother before he died, the story doesn’t end there. Jesus assures Martha that her brother will again rise, which she believes alludes to the resurrection at the last day. He calls for Mary, and she immediately comes and basically tells him the same thing Martha did, in John 11:32(b) “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Both sisters were able to air their anger and disappointment.
Jesus does not get mad at them for this. He doesn’t call them ungrateful for doubting in him. He doesn’t accuse them of placing blame where it shouldn’t be. Instead, John 11:33 says: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Jesus sees her weeping and was deeply moved! We need to rest assured that the same stands true for us, even today.
When Jesus sees our sadness, our anger at things not going right, our resentment for the trials we face, he doesn’t sigh and roll his eyes and think “there they go again moaning and groaning, those ungrateful heathens.” No, the very opposite: He is moved and deeply troubled.
His love for us is far greater than we can imagine, we need to allow Jesus space to comfort us. How? Ask him! Ask for God’s comfort, often. He will provide it. Wouldn’t you rather be healed and comforted than hide your anger and act like everything is fine? We have not because we ask not sometimes, so ask away! In Verse 35, we see that “Jesus wept.” He cried with those mourning. He never blamed Martha or Mary for seemingly rebuking him and he wept with them.
Jesus eventually reminds them that if they believe, they will see God’s glory. He enters the tomb four days after Lazarus has passed away, prays to His Heavenly Father, and calls Lazarus to come out. Much to everyone’s amazement, out walks Lazarus.
Had Jesus shown up and healed Lazarus when he was ill, he would have been glorified, yes. But, by waiting and letting the situation play out as it did, he was able to provide us with an example of how to handle our own anger through Martha and Mary, to show his own compassion and then was able to be glorified to many others. Think of how many people would have heard Lazarus’ testimony of being healed, versus how many who had heard he had died and four days later heard he was healed, even from death.
John 11 reminds us that God is worthy to be trusted. When He doesn’t show up as we think He should, we can take our anger to Him for our healing and also trust that our story isn’t over yet, or the wholeness of our situation hasn’t yet been revealed. Regardless of how our stories play out, we know that God loves us, he longs to comfort us, and he can be glorified through even our anger, pain and grief just as he was through Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
Ultimately we know that God is God, and we are people. We are not all-knowing and omniscient, so even when things work out the opposite way we want them to we can trust that God knows better and has better planned. We can tell Him our disappointment and trust that He will be able to work through our honest and heart wrenching prayers. We can trust that even when it doesn’t seem so, God does know better than we do:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.