Is it ok to Feel Angry about My Loss?
Deeply negative emotions or reactions are common with grief. Losing someone that was so important to you can bring things out of you that you never knew existed.
One of the most common reactions to losing someone you love is anger. This feeling can be even more intense when the one lost is a child or a young person that should have most of their lives ahead of him. This feeling is also common after watching a spouse or dear friend suffer for a period of time before her departure. There are countless other situations that can provoke anger during our time of grief.
We may be angry at that person for leaving us. We may be angry at ourselves for not doing more for that person while she was with us. We may get angry at God for taking that person from us.
Loss of faith is also a really common response. We see injustices take place. We thought that there was a God that cared about our plight; yet, heaven seemed silent while our loved one suffered and struggled. We might feel like we were naïve or even duped into thinking that God cared.
If you have had either or both of these reactions following the brutal loss of someone that was dear to you, then you are not alone. These are not only common reactions, but in a sense, can even be positive reactions. Before you go labeling me a heretic or crazy, lend me an ear and an open mind.
Not all anger is bad. Often it is justified. It is not the emotion of anger that is intrinsically evil. It is the context and manner in which anger is felt or expressed. When I hear news of the sex slave trade, I get angry. I remember reading a story about an old retired couple that was robbed and brutally murdered while in their own home. I felt angry. There were times when our dear Hannah suffered in which I felt helpless, frustrated, and angry. Sometimes I was angry at the injustice of an innocent child suffering. Sometimes I was angry at the shortcomings of the medical system. I cannot say that I felt intense anger very often with Hannah’s situation because I always felt that there was a higher purpose in it all. However, I do believe that the anger in all three of the above examples is justified.
There were times when Jesus was angry on earth. The examples we have in Scripture are rare, but in each case, Jesus was angry because of an injustice taking place. Remember when he turned over the money-changers’ tables at the temple because of their dishonesty and thievery? These merchants were cheating their customers, of all places, at the Temple. This was supposed to be a house of prayer.
Then there was that time Jesus gave a lengthy and scathing rebuke to the Pharisees. These were the men that he called, “blind leaders of the blind.” They were using their positions of power and religious “authority” to lord over people. Jesus called them vipers and rebuked them for ignoring the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.
We live in a world in which bad things happen to good people. We live in a world in which evil often goes unpunished. Simply stated, we live in an unjust world. It is ok to be angry over injustices. In fact, we should. Whether we blame God or not is another matter. As for me, I sincerely believe that there is an all-powerful and benevolent God in heaven that for whatever reasons, allows some of these things to play out. It may seem like one big fat contradiction. How could a loving God that has the ability to put a stop to evil continue to allow it to play out?
I have a few thoughts about this. I do not call them answers, because answers assume that the problem has been solved. I have not completely solved this problem. Philosophers call this problem “theodicy.” For what it’s worth, I believe these thoughts may be helpful to some people. They are the product of formal Bible education, way too much time thinking, and of course, living a nightmare that no decent parent should ever have to live.
1. I believe that God will put an end to evil someday. We just happen to be living in the interim period, which happens to be really messed up. While there is wide disagreement within Christendom about exactly how things will play out, almost all Bible believing scholars agree that there will come a time when evil will be no more (Col. 2:13-15; Rev. 21:4).
2. Once God puts an end to evil, when “the crooked path is made straight,” at least some, if not all, of the evil that occurred in this lifetime, will seem like a distant memory (Is. 40).
3. A world with freedom of choice between good and evil must have been the best of all possible worlds, at least for this temporal and brief existence in which we now live. The traditional view of God (and that presented in the Bible) is that God is all-knowing and eternal (beyond time and space). God does not just know all things past, present, and future. He knows every possible future. He understands the butterfly effect to the nth degree. Although this time on earth is full of injustices and other evils, God must have known that this was better than the alternative—a world without freedom. Perhaps this is one of those things that will lead to the biggest “aha” moment of our existence in the next life (Is. 55:8, 9).
4. We cannot possibly understand the ultimate purpose in each event that happens in this world. We can pretty well identify good from evil most of the time; however, the idea that all things are working together for some ultimate good is something that we can believe by faith, if we choose. We just cannot comprehend the depth and layers behind everything that happens (Rom. 8:28; Is. 46:10; Ecc. 3:1).
5. Scripture promises eternal reward for those who suffer from injustice in this world (Is. 61:8; Rom. 8:18). Perhaps the contrast of knowing evil will help us appreciate the way of perfect holiness and justice in the future.
6. We cannot know how things would have played out had we gotten our way. I think of that silly and humorous movie in which Jim Carrey plays God for a short time. He gets very overwhelmed and is more than ready to give the scepter back to God before the film is over. While this film had plenty of theological problems, in its own quirky way, it portrays the problem with thinking that we know better than God.
I do not like to say that good can come from evil in this lifetime. Why would we need an evil event to bring about a good one? If there were no evil, then everything would be good by default (or at least neutral). Also, when folks are hurting on the deepest of levels emotionally and mentally, they don’t want to hear a well-meaning person come along and say that good will come out of this pain, (even if it is true in the end).
My thoughts do not take away the pain. They don’t for me as I write, and they don’t for you as you read. The only advice I am giving is to allow the anger to play out properly. Talk about it honestly with others whom you trust. If you have a good counselor, that is even better. Perhaps having a better perspective about God can help too. The fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was angry at injustices happening around him should encourage us that God is not ok with all of this either. If God really took out his wrath on every injustice in this world, both great and small, what would be left of any of us? Have we not all sinned? Have we not all committed at least one injustice in this world?
I know the sins that humans willfully commit are categorically different from some injustices. For example, the way cancer ravages a helpless body or how coastal flooding destroys property and lives of people who are already struggling are examples of injustices that seem to have no correlation to any particular sin (other than original sin). However, the big picture is not so different. We live in a world of injustices. Some of these we can blame on human activity and some we want to blame on God. Yet, this same God that we want to blame is also the one who came to this earth in human form to provide a means of salvation for us and redemption for this sad world in which we live.
Jesus showed us a better way. He demonstrated in His lifetime the way to live justly. We can be angry at injustice without sinning. In fact, one might argue that we are sin if we are indifferent towards injustice. Your loss is real. Death is horrible. Jesus overcame both sin and death and offers hope in this world and promises a better future for this world and for all those who trust Him.