Anger and Doubt

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All of you know that I am a man who has great faith in God, at least I hope you think that. These last two weeks have been so difficult. Why did God take my friend? Why would he let something so tragic happen to someone with such a beautiful soul? Some terrible things had happened in my friend’s life when he was younger. His parents disowned him for being gay, which had nothing to do with religion but pure homophobia. God brought wonderful people into his life and helped him through those difficulties. My friend had a difficult time understanding how such a great and loving God could allow tragedies to happen. Whether those tragedies were accidents or caused by someone hatred or cause by natural disasters, he wondered how God could let those things happen. I never had a very good answer for him. He had suffered in his life because of his family’s rejection, and I’ve never been able to understand how they could be so cruel.

These past two weeks, I’ve struggled with the same issues. I can’t help but wonder how God could allow him to die in an accident, while his hateful parents continued to live on. I admit that it has made me so angry at God. Being angry at God just compounded my sadness because I felt guilty for being angry at God and questioning the faith I have in Him to protect and provide for us. God took this beautiful man (and I don’t mean in just physical beauty, which he was, but also in his soul.) He was beautiful and so kind. God took him away from not only me, but the rest of the people who’d considered him part of their family: his boyfriend and other friends. For me, he was more than a friend. He was family. He was my confidante, and he was my confessor. He was the younger brother I never had. There are so many wicked and hateful people in this world that God could have taken, but he took someone who had the purest heart I have ever known.

One friend told me that I had to think of this as purely an accident, because horrible tragedies like this are not the hand of God. While I wish I could think that way, I was always told that God guides all things. God performs miracles every day, why couldn’t He have saved my friend? I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. If so, what could possibly be the reason behind this? Being angry or disappointed with God is a troubling subject for me. If God is such a loving God, how can He allow such pain? It reminds me of a scene from Steel Magnolias. I produced the play a couple of years ago as part of the drama club I was in charge of. It’s the most difficult scene in the whole play and one that I never did get through without tears in my eyes:

M’Lynn: [crying] I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.
[screaming]
M’Lynn: I’m fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don’t know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know *why* Shelby’s life is over! I wanna know how that baby will *ever* know how wonderful his mother was! Will he *ever* know what she went through for him! Oh *God* I wanna know *why*? *Why*? Lord, I wish I could understand!
[in a firm tone]
M’Lynn: No! No! No! It’s not supposed to happen this way! I’m supposed to go first. I’ve always been ready to go first! I-I don’t think I can take this! I-I don’t think I can take this! I-I just wanna *hit* somebody ’til they feel as bad as I do! I just wanna hit something! I wanna hit it hard!

The scene of course is followed immediately by a humorous scene that breaks the tension. While I’ve always found this an emotional scene, it’s a very close description to how I feel.
I’ve read that being angry with God is something that both believers and unbelievers wrestle with. When some extreme difficulty or tragedy happens in our lives, we naturally ask God the question — “Why?” I’ve asked that question a lot in the last two weeks. I was researching ways to deal with my doubts and anger and came across the following passage written by Dr. D. W. Ekstrand:

This response indicates two flaws in our thinking — first, even as believers, we all have the tendency to operate under the impression that life should be easy and pleasant (especially if GOD is our God), and that God should prevent tragedy, difficulty and pain from happening to us (Jn 11:37); so when He does not, we get angry or disappointed with Him (Jn 11:32). Second, when we do not seem to be able to reconcile the extent of God’s sovereignty, we lose confidence in His ability to control all of the circumstances we go through in life. When we lose faith in God’s sovereignty, it is actually because our frail human flesh is grappling with our own frustration and our own lack of control over events. All of us tend to live life in such a way that we can positively affect the outcome of situations… that everything will work out as we have planned; as such, we believe that we are the ones who ultimately determine our fate — when good things happen, we generally attribute it to our own efforts; so when things go bad we are quick to blame God, and get angry with Him for not preventing it. Deep down we believe we should be immune to unpleasant circumstances (flaw number one as noted above), especially if God loves us.

While I think this is a good answer to what I’ve been dealing with tragedy, he’s flawed when he says “when good things happen, we generally attribute it to our own efforts.” I don’t. I attribute it to God’s guiding hand. So if we give God the credit for what good happens in our life, why shouldn’t He also take blame for the tragedies. Why does God continue to have us go through pain and loss? When will good Christians and faithful believers be rewarded? Is it only in death? If feel like in the past seven or eight years I have been constantly beat down. Finally something good had happened in my life and career, and I was thankful for God’s guiding hand. Then suddenly, all of that joy and happiness was ripped away by the loss of my friend. While I am still thankful for my job, I have to wonder: is this God’s way of reminding me that I will never be fully happy? It seems like in my life for every ten failures, I have one success. Is it my destiny to be knocked down each time God helps me up?

Dr. Ekstrand went on to say:

Tragedies and suffering bring home the sobering truth that we are not in charge… that God is the One who ultimately determines what happens in our lives… that everything is either caused or allowed by God. Remember, He is God. We can complain, get angry, and blame God for what is happening, yet if we will trust Him and yield our bitterness and pain to Him, acknowledging the prideful sin of trying to force our own will over His, He can and will grant us His peace and strength to get us through any difficult situation (1 Cor 10:13). We can be angry with God for many reasons, so we all have to accept at some point that there are things we cannot control or even understand with our finite minds.

This has not been the most upbeat of my post on religion. Maybe it doesn’t even belong here, but this is where I think through my relationship with God and try to understand it. Right now, I’m having trouble understanding it and maybe some of you have better answer than I do. Quite frankly, I have no answers right now.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “Anger and Doubt

  • troynbr2

    No answers is a good place to be. If one knows nothing, he is ready to learn everything.

    Grieve on…

  • jacki perrette

    You’ve covered a lot of territory here…and I’m not a good one to comment on relationships with God, but I can list off some things to consider.
    None of us will escape death, it is part of each life.
    Your friend’s life was shortened despite its value both to himself and to those whose lives he was part of.
    A whole range of other people share your loss. You are not alone in losing this person.
    You experience grief the way you do, because of who you are.
    Your grief process is unique to you, although the pain of loss hurts for each person who goes through it.
    Not to at all take away from what this means to you, to your friend, to each person who knew and loved him, nor to take away at all the validity of your feelings of grief, but consider the scope of loss in the world. Consider the jews under Hitler’s regime, consider families caught in fires, consider children who starve to death in poverty or people who are kidnapped and brutally murdered. No one deserves or has earned these death sentences, yet we see the very real and final evidence of their existence.
    I do not think these attrocities are hand crafted. I think they are the result of the way the natural world operates, the result of human error and human illness – mental and physical.
    Each person receives their own mix of challenges, losses, joys. Some people seem to have things easier and some much more difficult. It’s hard not to look at things and wish they were easier or feel as if we’ve already had more than our fair share of challenges. After that, if we want to stay sane and minimize the discomfort within ourselves we have to find and embrace our own version of the serenity prayer.
    I suppose my way of handling things – if I can drag my ragged feelings out if the pit they sometimes descend into – is to get as much distant perspective as I can. …to look at things as objectively as I can. It’s a bit of self preservation.
    There is a book with a title something like “When Bad Things Happen to Good People ” I read it way long ago…like in the 90s and what it said shocked me in some ways, but it definitely allowed my mind to pursue avenues of thought I had never dared to venture down before. I think there is evidence of its influence in some of what I said here. You may not like it because it is fairly far afield of your belief system and it doesn’t exactly offer comfort, but it can begin to offer acceptance.
    I continue to send positive thoughts your way. ❤

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