I wrote this post last October but was too fearful to publish it then. I have the courage now. So much of the anguish and anger I describe in this post has lifted in the 7+ months since I wrote these words, but the underlying truth–that God can handle my rawest, realest, most unraveled self–brings me unending comfort and peace.
“Babe?” Riley called as he opened the door to our bedroom. I was already in bed, pajamas on, face washed, teeth brushed, staring at a book with glazed eyes, not retaining anything. “Uh huh?” I responded, closing my book and setting it on the nightstand. I was in a prickly mood, and he knew it, and I knew it. We were both walking on eggshells. “I want to talk to you.”
Begrudgingly, I managed an unconvincing “okay,” making sure to stare at the wall in front of me, not able to meet his gaze. “I was just praying for you,” he started gently, “and I feel like God told me that you’re mad at him.” Whatever pathetic attempt I had been making to avoid emotion was thwarted, and hot, fast tears came. “I’m so angry with him,” I admitted, “so, so angry.”
We sat together for the following two hours with our beating hearts laying flat out on the bed next to us. My tears turned to sobs, and I wept into my husband’s chest. Not knowing where the tissues were, Riley brought me a roll of toilet paper, and I went through the whole thing before the night was over. Admitting how I really felt made me feel physically hurt, but somehow the rawness was life-giving.
The truth was just as I had said–I was deeply angry with God. A year-long compilation of deep disappointments and hard frustrations and heavy sadness had made me weary to trust him. There’s no use rehashing all of these things for you, no use in recounting the dozens of things that brought me to this place. Some things are better left offline. The notable thing was that I was mad, and it was keeping me from the Lord.
No one wants to spend time with someone they’re angry with. So I was going through the motions–church and Bible studies and prayer–but my heart was distant and broken. When I had time set aside for reading the Word and journaling, I’d do just about anything else to avoid it. It felt fake, so I didn’t bother at all. My soul was tired and achy. I avoided confronting my feelings because it’s easier to just stay angry.
But God can handle how I really feel. He’s big enough to deal with every ounce of doubt, anger, distrust, hurt, cynicism, frustration, and disappointment I bring to him. He’s not intimidated by my feelings, and he doesn’t change based on them. The gospel doesn’t break under pressure.
So I laid it out, I said my piece. For my own benefit primarily, and for Riley’s too–Jesus already knew. This is why I’m angry. This is why I’m hurt. This is how I feel I’ve been wronged. Tissues piled up on the nightstand.
A hug and some empathy, and then the truth. Riley pulled out his Bible and began to read from it. Verse after verse, he spoke truth into my tender, hurt places. The anger unraveled to reveal the real struggle: distrust. Anger masks so much, doesn’t it? What an unproductive, addicting comfort. If I just stay mad, I don’t have to deal with my own sin.
The Word shattered my well-constructed glass globe of illusion and pretense. If I don’t trust God, no other part of my life makes sense. That’s true. Also true? In that moment, I definitely didn’t trust God.
And yet I can’t look back on a single season of life and not see God’s presence. He has pulled me through again and again and again. I shared my testimony (Christianese for “life story”) at small group a couple of weeks ago, and my story is fragrant with his lovingkindness. Every year and chapter is full-to-the-brim of his faithfulness and love. This is no “the universe just works things out” or instance of karma; this is my Creator, overflowing with grace, leading me. His fingerprints are everywhere.
But I only get more angry with God and others when well-meaning people offer cheap, temporary, human solutions to bind up my fractured soul. There is no activity, event, commitment, job, or gig that I can sign up for that will heal a single symptom of this issue if I haven’t dealt with the root cause. I need so much more than these band-aid fixes. Point me to God, point me to God, point me to God. I know I need him, even on days when I don’t want him, and I can assure you that more on my schedule will never change that.
I am certain that I will look back on this season and be thankful for it, or at least understand why it was necessary. Even typing that incites an eye roll at present, but history repeats itself, so I can say it with certainty: I know I am learning things now that will equip me for the future. My prayer over this is that my empathy and understanding will grow. I pray that I can one day sit across the table in a coffee shop somewhere and tell someone that I know where they are, that I’ve been there, too, and that God will redeem it.
So I’m starting to unravel this mess. A disaster of half-truths and lies and compromise that have left me in a heart-hardened state. Honestly? There’s still anger that lingers. There’s hurt and disappointment and frustration and sadness, too. Unfortunately, truth doesn’t usually dictate emotion on this side of heaven.
This is when I turn my chair back around and face my Jesus again. I’m in the middle of the first step in a journey of restoration and whole trust. I don’t live in the world of delusion–this is me telling you that every Christian I know has gone through junk, challenges, hardship–whatever you want to call crappy seasons of life, we’ve all been there.
But God? He can handle how I really feel. He can redeem every emotion, he can bring restoration, he can incite joy, he can make dead things come alive. Peace will reign again. All my ugly sin was nailed to the cross, all this heaviness can be laid at its foot, too. I’ve seen it happen a hundred times: redemption. And I love Jesus, but I’m not without my mess, my hurt, my anger, my distrust, my doubt, my frustration; I’m still figuring it out. And he’s right here with me.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28
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