How to talk to God when you’re mad at Him
I was talking to a friend recently when she confessed, “I’m having a hard time praying these days. To be honest, I’m a little mad at God right now.”
I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve definitely been there. Sometimes my emotions are so raw and deep I’d rather throw a toddler temper tantrum than talk to God about it all. (And yes, sometimes the tantrum wins).
Surely you’ve been there too. Maybe you’re there right now. Your head knows that God is good but your heart feels like He isn’t. You’re mad. You’re ticked. So rather than take your hurt and confusion to God and let Him sort it out, you end up withdrawing from Him and giving Him the silent treatment instead. After all, how can you communicate with God if He’s the one you’re mad at?
Nine times out of ten, when my spiritual questions involve my emotions, I turn to the Psalms for help. As it turns out, there is a whole lot of communicating going on in the Psalms (especially between God and David), and much of it was born out of David’s anger, confusion, frustration or emptiness.
After studying these raw moments between David and the Lord, I found that David tends to follow a rough outline for expressing himself that can be super helpful for us today. Before I reveal that outline, however, there is one key in making David’s communication strategy work – he wrote it all down.
If you want to talk to God even when you’re mad at Him (and I highly suggest that you do), first get a pen and a notebook and then follow these four writing/prayer prompts:
1. This is my problem…
On the first piece of paper, write down every single unfiltered thought and feeling you are having regarding your problem or issue. Forget the Sunday School filters here. Just be honest and explain to God how you see your problem from your perspective. This was David’s problem in Psalm 3 (when he fled from his son Absalom):
1 Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”
David is simply counting his sorrows in these first two verses. Look at my enemies! Hear what they’re saying! There’s a hopelessness to his words that reflect vulnerable, human perspective here. He didn’t hold back and neither should you.
2. This is my Lord…
After you are done writing and venting and getting it all out there, turn the page in your notebook. On a completely separate sheet of paper, write down everything you know to be true about the Lord from what He says in His Word. Does the Bible say that God is good? Write it down. Is God loving? Faithful? Kind? Omnipotent? Make a note of it.
In Psalm 3, David writes that God is his shield, his sustainer, and the one who answers his prayers:
3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
The first step in this process was your chance to express how big your problem is. This is your chance to remember how big your God is.
3. This is how my Lord sees my problem…
Here is where you turn the page and start putting the pieces together. On the next piece of paper, you take what you know to be true about the Lord and reexamine your problem through that lens. Try, as best you can, to see your problem from His unlimited perspective rather than from your limited view.
In the first section, David referred to his enemies as “many,” but now that he’s seeing his problem from the Lord’s perspective, he describes his enemies as powerless under the Lord’s hand.
7 Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
God is never threatened by your problems. The ones that keep you up at night don’t even make him flinch.
4. This is my problem’s potential for God’s glory…
Finally, now that you have gone through the exercise of seeing your problem from the Lord’s perspective, you can also begin to see the good that can come of it. Within every hardship is an opportunity for God to show up. Today’s problems are tomorrow’s miracles. If everything was always conflict or struggle free, why would we even need God in the first place?
For David, he focused on the Lord’s promise to bless and deliver His people.
8 From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
Once you come to the point where you realize, like David did, that everything you’re experiencing now is paving the way for a “God story” later, your anger begins to melt away. You have taken your thoughts captive so that you are no longer focusing on your problem (which makes you angry) but anticipating God’s glory (which makes you excited).
I know this is a simplistic exercise and that many times the problems behind our anger are far from simplistic. Depending on the root of your anger at God, this exercise could take 30 minutes or it could take several days. The main point is to make sure you do not get stuck in step one where all you can see is your problem, which fuels your anger, which causes you to withdraw from God.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). David drew near to God every time he picked up his quill. In his good times and in his bad. Don’t believe the lie that you must conquer your anger on your own before you can pray. Even when you’re mad at God, you can still talk to Him.