Anger has always been an uncomfortable emotion for me to express. For many years of my life, friends of mine would've heard me say, "I just don't get angry." I was proud of my non-angry existence and thought that people who did get angry or frustrated were high maintenance or dramatic. This strike on anger was reinforced almost every day by my Conservative Christian community. Bible verses like, "Anger doesn't produce the righteousness of God," "revenge belongs to the Lord," and "whoever hates his brother in his heart is a murderer" were staples in my community and I stood by them with pride. Everything was fine until, one day, I got angry; furious, in fact. So furious that I couldn't keep up my "low maintenance, anti-diva" image. But the biggest problem was who I was angry at: God.
A breakup is what made me loose my cool. I was confident that God had given me my boyfriend and I couldn't understand why He would take him away from me. I felt tricked, toyed with, and unimportant. Most of all, I felt unloved. With all of these feelings raging, and years of suppressed anger coming to the surface, I came to the conclusion that God wasn't trustworthy or good. While all of my friends were telling me to trust God, I didn't know how to express that I didn't see Him as trustworthy or good to me. I knew that that wasn't "right" or "true," but it was my internal experience and I had no outlet to process it. My healing began when a mentor said to me, "Taylor, you're feeling betrayed."
Here's what's true about anger: it's a secondary emotion. This nifty image displays that concept wonderfully.
Beneath anger, there's always some kind of pain. For me, my underlying experience/emotion was betrayal. Once I identified that, I was able to ask other important questions and really heal.
The feeling of betrayal comes after an agreement or expectation between two parties is actively dishonored by one of the parties. So, if I was angry and feeling betrayed by God, I must've felt like He hadn't kept His end of the deal. I asked myself, "What expectations or agreements did I have in my relationship with God that I feel like He sabotaged?" After literal years of self reflection, I found this contract that I unconsciously set up between God and I:
God, You're only good if I'm dating someone.
I have all sorts of theories about how that contract came to be, but, when I realized that premise was what my relationship with God hung on, and that He wasn't playing along, I had a choice to make.
1. Believe that God is good all the time no matter what (He is good on His terms).
2. Believe that God is inconsistent in His goodness (sometimes He's good and other days He just doesn't feel like it).
3. Believe that God is bad and out to get me all the time (there's zero goodness within Him).
The last option would've let me live my life how I wanted. I couldn't released myself from the "Christian life" and lived fueled by my anger and betrayal. The second option would've been way too stressful to hold in my mind. I wasn't up for the lifestyle either of those options promised, so I chose option one.
At first, I was terrified to give into God's unrelenting goodness. Why? In order to believe and live like God was good all the time, I not only had to surrender my "dating" contract, but I also had to give up any right of mine to define our relationship or His goodness. That meant, there was no guarantee that I would ever have a boyfriend or a husband. I couldn't bend God's arm with my side of the deal anymore. It also meant that I wasn't necessarily safe from any negative experience in life. I couldn't pray to God and say, "God, you know the deal. You protect me from this, and I'll believe You're good and follow You. But, if not, I'm out."
At the time, it quite literally felt like I was being squeezed down a funnel much too small for me. But I knew that I couldn't keep living my life with this part of me unsurrendered. I had had too many panic attacks and too many spells of depression to stay where I was. So, one night, I just gave up. I chose option one, went to sleep, and didn't expect to last the night from the fear I felt. I had jumped off the cliff and fully expected the hard, cold ground to greet me. But it didn't end that way.
When I woke up, I felt a peace like I had never felt before. I didn't recognize myself and I was honestly a little uncomfortable with what I was feeling. When you've been in a defensive and protective mode for most of your life, safety and peace can feel strange and threatening. But, as I tiptoed around my sophomore year dorm to get ready for the day, I began to trust that this was actually real. I began to lean into this newfound freedom that I hadn't anticipated and laugh at myself for not taking the leap sooner.
Oddly enough, I had a feeling that everything I thought I had "given up" would be given back to me at the right time. I feared I would be disappointed by God, and, therefore, hopelessly lost. But God is never disappointing and He never fails to fill every one of our deepest cravings and desires with Himself.
A revelation of God's goodness freed me from my anger, fear, and dysfunctional relationship patterns. It primed me to receive His love and it invited me to participate in a radical trust that easily outperformed my conditional relationship structure that I had set up for us. I was freed up to live loved, to cease striving, to trust, to watch for God's grace instead of be on alert for His wrath, and, best of all, I was freed from myself.
God didn't take away my agency in life and my decision making ability. What He did do was empower me with His mind, desires, and protection so that whatever I chose to do, as long as it was done in relationship wit Him, I could be confident that I was on His path for me.
To this day, surrendering my conditions and expectations of God is a sweet and intimate exchange. Yes, fears arise, but there's nothing that could come my way that could make me question His goodness towards me or His love for me. I may be young, but I've met God.
The last thing I'll say about being angry at God, is that the devil is angrier with God than you ever could be. The devil's pride and ego have been smushed, everything he does is useless and defeated, and he will never escape his eternal judgment. That's a lot of anger. This is important because, when you're feeling anger towards God, it really isn't your own anger at all. You're feeling the devil's anger. It's not as spooky as it sounds, and, don't worry, you're not possessed. It's just one way that the devil desperately tries to lure us into his kingdom. He tries to keep fueling us with his anger and from reconciling with God because that's his experience. He's trying as hard as he can to get as many people as possible at his pity party. Separating ourselves and our identity from this kind of anger helps us to further overcome and shame the devil and stand in the victory that Jesus bought for us.
If you're struggling with anger at God or anger in general, take a look under the hood. Answering these questions is a great way to start:
Where do you feel betrayed? Rejected? Unsafe? Unloved?
What does it feel like to think about God being on your team/good even in the face of what you've experienced?
What have you been suppressing because of shame? A part of your personality? An emotion? A story?
Do you notice your body responding to the anger/suppression? Panic attacks? Brain fog? Depression? Back aches? Stomach/gut issues? Headaches? Chronic illness?
How do you cope? How does that serve you? What does it feel like to think about God being able to serve you better?
Do you fear that God will disappoint you or not deliver? Why? What would convince you that He will never let you down? Why?
As you dive into these questions, you subconscious will most likely freak out. Tears may come, a frustration may come because tears don't, fear, panic, shame...but there's safety on the other side. Every emotion has an expiration date. You are worth the healing. You are worth the freedom. And, I promise, there's more for you on the other side.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.