I’m sure we’ve all seen memes such as these quite a few times. To be honest, I don’t appreciate them. In fact, I usually get flat out angry when I see them. Most of the time, I am not thankful for waking up. I am not grateful for this life. I do not have gratitude for the never-ending suffering in my own body and watching my worst fear come true as I see my husband deteriorate as well. And in my darkest times, I don’t understand how anyone could be thankful for life on earth. I. Do. Not. Get. It. We’re being gut-level honest today. I hope that’s okay with you. I am angry at life, angry at myself and, yes, I am angry at the God who thought it was a good idea to place me on this earth. Did I shock you or can you relate? If you can, we are in some great company.
David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” – Psalm 22:1, 15 (By the way, Jesus Himself quoted this passage while hanging on the cross.)
Job: “I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.” – Job 7:16
Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8
Jeremiah (likely author of Lamentations): “He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.” – Lamentations 3:5-6
Jeremiah (likely): “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:21-23
David: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” – Psalm 22:23-24
Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” – Job 13:15
Paul: “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” – 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
All of these faithful people dealt with very serious doubts. Why do I think I’m not allowed to do the same? Sometimes we’re so afraid of anger. We think it’s unacceptable to God. I have believed my anger and doubt are completely unacceptable. But God Himself gets angry so how can I hold myself up to a higher standard than God? Anger can be a tool for us if we’re brave enough to allow ourselves to experience it and discover what it’s trying to tell us. What are we believing about God or ourselves that has led us to anger? We need to examine these beliefs with curiosity, not condemnation, and then tell ourselves the truth of God in opposition to those beliefs. If we don’t allow the anger to come, we never open that part of ourselves to the Lord for truth and healing. Hidden anger can be extremely damaging.
But we must not forget the “and yet”. Each of the people mentioned above spoke God’s truth after speaking the depths of their despairing hearts, often even within the same chapter. Though anger is an important and useful tool, we can’t stop with its expression and let ourselves sink into bitterness. I have been there and living with bitterness is worse than I can describe. After bringing our feelings to the Lord, it’s so important to recall His truth, even if that truth is hard to believe at the time. The more we speak truth to ourselves, the more we will believe it, the more healing will reach our hearts, and the less angry we will become. Each of the people quoted above expressed their anger even to the point of wishing they were dead. AND YET, each of them spoke God’s truth over their anger and their misconceptions about God.
“Yet this I call to mind.” I call to mind. No one can or will do this for me. What a tremendously difficult discipline this is. As hard as it may seem to refute our thoughts and feelings at any given time, it’s crucial that we recall God’s truth after allowing the feelings to come and examining our beliefs behind those feelings. I may not believe in this moment that God is good. However, I know that He is good and this truth I speak over and above my feelings and beliefs. I submit my feelings and beliefs to the Lord and then, as the passage says, “I have hope.” Hope only comes to spark light in the midst of our dark thoughts when we call God’s truth to our minds.
Oh my goodness, I am not saying I have mastered this. Far from it. But I have come to see the value in the extremely difficult practice of speaking God’s truth over myself. I have a spark of hope on my darkest days, I know God never leaves me even when I doubt, and I’m starting to enjoy some of the fruit as He plants and grows His truth in me. Today I might be angry. AND YET, I am not consumed (or condemned) because of the Lord’s great love. He gives me mercy each day in response to my doubts. What a truly gracious and loving God He is. Great is His faithfulness.
God wants every part of us, including the negative emotions and doubts we’re pretending aren’t there. He wants to bring healing to the bitter places but He won’t do that unless we open those places to Him. Let’s invite God into our darkness and watch Him ignite a spark of hope and, yes, maybe even fan the flame of gratitude for this life He has given us.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 43:5