Am I God’s Orphan? Did He push me off the train, or just turn away and leave me?
For a long time, I lived with those kinds of questions. I would drag myself to church with my family each week, but often things that were said there only increased my pain and anger. I spent a lot of time crying in the bathroom. It was no one’s fault that subjects like forgiveness, adversity, and family were so painful to me. It just was.
Thanks to the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, on the stages of grief, it is commonly accepted that people who are suffering from grief will go through a period of being angry at God. Studies have shown that it is also common for survivors of sexual abuse and assault to feel angry at God. However, I don’t think this anger is as commonly accepted.
Because survivors don’t feel the anger will be understood or accepted, we don’t talk about it. For example, I’ve been blogging about my journey toward healing for a couple years now, and I haven’t talked about being angry with God except during those times when I felt closer to Him.
Why are we so reluctant to admit we are angry at God? I suppose we fear being judged as having a lack of faith, or maybe we simply feel guilty. We tell ourselves, “God is perfect. Who am I to be angry with Him?” But we aren’t perfect and so we get angry. And that’s OK.
I was very angry with God for a long time. The biggest point of contention was “Why did He let this happen?” Yes, I have heard and read many answers to the question about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. But none of them felt very satisfactory to me when I was in the most pain.
My reasoning was this–you tell me that God is my Heavenly Father, and yet what good earthly Father would allow His child or his daughter to be sexually abused or raped? Again I heard many answers to this sort of question–all directed toward adults, but how do I explain it to my inner child? Or in my case, my inner children?
When I turned to my church for answers, the most common response was “forgive”. Grrr. I came to think of forgiveness as the other four-letter “F” word. Forgiveness IS an important and beautiful principle, but it is not the first step on the healing journey. Telling a survivor to forgive prematurely can actually increase their shame and anger toward God.
When I looked to the church for answers about why these things happen, the most common message was “God gives us adversity to help us grow.” No doubt I have grown from this experience, but God did NOT give it to me for that reason. God does NOT give us abuse, assault or murder. They are a result of free will or agency, other people’s sins.
So what is the answer? I did find answers to these questions about God. I have resolved the anger and shame that kept me apart from Him. I admit I still have flashes of anger. It is really hard for me to sit in a church meeting and listen to people talk about how God has blessed them, and how they know He will always protect them. Even when I am not angry with God, I see things differently. And if I am angry, I think, “Why hasn’t He protected me? Am I God’s orphan?”
The good news is there are answers to these questions. I believe the answers I have found will help others who are hurting. so I am writing a book about it. That is not meant to be a teaser, just to say there is hope…but the answer is too long for a blog post, or even a series of blog posts.
The point of this post is to say if you are angry at God, you are not alone.
I get it. He gets it. Don’t let anyone increase your shame and anger by asking you to forgive prematurely. Forgiveness is a process. It may begin with a choice, but it is a process. God understands your pain, your shame and your anger, including your anger toward Him.
The first step resolving the anger is the same step you would take in any relationship. You need to talk about it. One of the best things I did was talk to Heavenly Father about my anger. I remember the first time. I walked, I cried and I ranted. I held nothing back. I couldn’t keep it in anymore.
When I was done I expected the proverbial lightning strike–not really, but I did expect to feel guilty or ashamed. I didn’t. I felt better. Actually I felt a lot better. The feeling I had was very clear, God was not displeased with me at all. I felt quite the opposite. It was as if He were saying to me lovingly, “That was a very important step, Leslie. So glad you are back.”
If you are hurting and angry at God, I want you to know He understands and He cares. He weeps with you. Remember when Lazarus died, and Mary and Martha were upset with Jesus. They said, “if you had come sooner, our brother would still be alive.” Did He chastise them for their anger? No, He felt their pain and wept with them.
Your pain and anger are heard. You do not weep alone.