But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. – Jonah 4:1–5
Have you ever been angry at God? That might be a hard question to answer, but be honest with yourself. Have you ever been angry at God?
Maybe life isn’t going the way you planned or it isn’t going like you had hoped it would. Maybe a dear loved one unexpectedly died in a horrific car accident. Maybe you didn’t get that job promotion for which you had been working so hard day-in and day-out. Maybe that person in the office, who you know didn’t deserve the promotion got that job promotion you wanted. Maybe you’re in a season of difficult trials that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Maybe your prayers haven’t been answered.
The list could go on. There are all sorts of things for which we can get angry at God. Ironically for Jonah, it was a very good thing done to a very bad city that made the prophet extremely angry at God. That wicked city Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, Israel’s enemy, had received God’s mercy. A huge transformation took place in the city when the king and his people repented before God. God saw what they did and he chose to withhold the punishment they deserved.
But what did the preacher do? Jonah had just preached this grand message to the people and Nineveh responds obediently by repenting. But, what of Jonah? Well, he had expected things to go very differently. He thought he’d preach the message and Nineveh wouldn’t change and then God would light up the place. Yet, what happened? Nothing. And it was this “nothing” that angered Jonah so much.
Jonah was angry at God and what God chose to do. The prophet had certain expectations and when God didn’t live up to those expectations Jonah became furious. In short, Jonah was angry that God was God and that Jonah was not.
I have experienced this kind of anger before. Actually, quite recently. You see, part of the reason I’ve been gone from blogging for so long is due to a busy season of ministry. For the past 7 months, I have essentially been the pastor of my church, even though I’m still just the intern. During this time, the church had been searching for an interim pastor to help us transition to a new pastor. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking for a church of my own. I put my resume together. I put a minister profile together online where churches searching for a new pastor could find me. I’ve even gone through several interviews with other churches. Yet, no success.
To save you the sob story, I openly admit that I was angry at God. I knew full well that the ministry wouldn’t be an easy vocation. But, I could never have anticipated ministry being so difficult to enter into! I spent many of my mornings praying to God for hours. I’d ask for wisdom. I’d ask for direction. I’d ask for doors and windows of opportunity to be opened to me. I’d ask for signs that would help me know where to go.
And you know what? God answered me. At first. But, after a while, silence was all I received. There would be days and weeks in a row where God seemed to answer every prayer I prayed! But, then there were also weeks and even months where God didn’t answer any of my prayers.
I remember one day I was at my wit’s end and I broke out in a loud shout, “What are you doing, God!” I had certain expectations of what God should have been doing in my life and when He didn’t live up to my expectations I became angry. Like Jonah, I even tried to rationalize my anger.
The results of my anger did not help my situation, I confess. Actually, my anger sucked the energy out me. I had no motivation to work, no motivation to read (one of my favorite things to do!), and no motivation to write. My anger was killing me. Had that anger continued to boil I fear worse things than lack of motivation would have transpired.
So, what made me see reason? What cooled my anger down? Well, much like Jonah, it took a “plant” from God to reveal the ugliness of my sin. A brief reprieve from the heat of my anger was what I needed. And just like Jonah, that “plant” was taken away from me. My anger came back briefly but fizzled out.
I don’t understand completely why my anger fizzled out, but by a work of God, it did. I owe a lot to my wife. She was patient with me. She was merciful to me. She reminded me that God knows what He is doing even when I don’t see Him working.
That’s not all of the story… But I will save that for another post!
When you get angry at God, I hope the LORD’s question to Jonah will ring through your mind. “Do you do well to be angry?” The correct answer, every time without fail, is “No, I do not do well to be angry. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”