It all started at Costco (as many frustrations do). My husband had dropped me off to “run in” and grab a couple of things we needed for an end-of-season hockey party for our oldest son. There was no chance of parking anywhere close to the store, so he told me he was going to get gas and I could call him when I was coming out. We’d come directly from getting me a replacement phone, and I thought it had finished restoring and was functional.
I was wrong.
When I went to call my husband, I realized the phone would not make calls. I thought surely it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out where he’d parked.
Let’s just say I got my exercise in for the day. I must have pushed that basket of groceries up and down every aisle of cars three times. Before then, I’d never realized how many black Ram pickups there are in our town. I prayed the entire time, variations of “Lord, please help me find him!” Then I shifted my prayers to “God, help him look up and notice me!” After a while I thought, “Maybe I need to ask God what to pray for.” So I pushed and walked and sweated and listened.
This went on for about thirty minutes. As I trudged back to the entrance, sweaty and out of breath, I felt anger welling up in me. Surely, surely the God of the Universe could prompt my husband to come and get me. And then a quiet voice in my mind said:
“If he isn’t even powerful enough to answer this small, insignificant prayer, what makes you think he could answer the big ones?”
Have you been there? Maybe your anger with God was over something deeply painful. I’ve been there too. But this was the first time in a long time I’ve had this emotion, this frustration with the Almighty. In reality, this was such a trivial, silly situation. At any given time I could have run in, asked for the phone at customer service and called my husband.
But I think I was actually testing God.
I think deep down, I wanted a miraculous movement of time and space (or at least the movement of our black Ram pickup) in response to my perceived need. I wanted God to be at my beck and call, to do the thing I could see no reason for him not to do. Something I felt was for my best, for my ultimate “good.” But he didn’t.
I went into the store, waited in a Costco-sized line to speak to customer service, and they let me call from their phone. My husband was frustrated. He had been waiting a long time, and had been parked at the old Toys-R-Us next to Costco because he didn’t want to fight the parking lot traffic, which is why I didn’t see him. I got even angrier with God. Not only had he not done what I’d asked (have I mentioned how simple it would have been for him to cause my husband to see me wandering around the parking lot?), but he had caused my husband to be frustrated. How could God do that to me?
I got the groceries loaded up. My husband was in a bad mood because the kids had become restless in the back seat, and I just sat there thinking about the whole thing. And I came to realize that I have absolutely no idea how God works. Why?
Because he is God, and I am not.
I assumed it would have been for my ultimate good to be picked up immediately, or to have spotted the truck across the next parking lot. But I really have no idea what’s good for me. None at all. I have no idea what God is doing in my husband by letting him hang out with the kids for an hour while I flounder in Costco. No idea what he’s doing in me as I have this conversation and “work out my faith” through this mini-caricature of a prayer adventure. I have no idea if this post is reaching someone who is struggling with the same problem on a larger, more relevant scale, who might be encouraged to know that it’s normal to have these thoughts and questions. Maybe we would have caused a seven car pileup had we left when I’d wanted to.
Or maybe God knew I was just fine and had the free will to run in and call my husband at any point in time, and was frankly a little amused at my toddler-like testing.
But back to the person who is going through this on a deeper level. Like the time I prayed with all the faith I could muster that God would heal my mother from early-onset dementia. Or the time I prayed for my friend’s 8-year-old sister to survive being struck by a drunk driver while waiting at her bus stop. In both cases, my prayers were answered with a “no.” Even though I could see no good reason for my mom to endure such a terrible disease so young, or for this sweet little girl to have her life cut short because of a freak accident. The whole “God needed them more than we did” rang hollow. I was confused and angry. And I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. God can handle your anger.
Whether it’s life or death, or finding your car in the parking lot, I really believe that God wants us to acknowledge our disappointments, even when those disappointments are in him. He wants to answer back, maybe not to give pat answers, but to offer comfort and hope and healing through his word and through supernatural insights and revelations - but we have to open ourselves up to him, not run from him or shut him out.
In our interview with Kay Warren recently, she said that when she lost her son she was angry with God, but realized there was no place else to go. She believed he was the One True God, and couldn’t deny his existence. She couldn’t go to another religion or philosophy for comfort. So she turned to him in her disappointment, expressing it freely and looking to him for the peace that the world simply cannot give.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27 (NIV)
So my encouragement for you today is, if you are like me and come to a place in your prayer life where you’re experiencing frustration or even anger, and hearing the quiet voice in your head asking whether God cares about you, or even whether he is real - go to him with your questions. That voice is the Enemy. Listen for the voice of the Shepherd. He will meet you right where you are, because that is his promise:
12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV)
How about you? Have you ever been mad at God? How did you handle it? Share with us in the comments!