When bad things happen, is God to blame? Is it OK to be angry with God?
Nick Vujicic has faced his share of challenges in life. In 1982, three sonograms failed to reveal that Nick would be born without arms or legs. In addition to typical adolescent struggles, Nick’s childhood was filled with loneliness, depression, and frustration. Nick constantly wondered why he was different and often questioned his purpose in life.1
Many people deal with incredibly painful circumstances that cause similar feelings of desperation and anger. Like Nick, they feel deeply powerless and may question the purpose of their pain. And in the absence of answers, some people channel their anger toward God.
But is it OK to be mad at God? To answer this question, let’s turn to the Bible—which Christians believe gives insight into God’s character and righteous living. In particular, let’s look at the compelling story of Job.2
The Story of Job
Job was a blameless, righteous man who respected God. In fact, he was so godly that God himself took particular notice of Job and even boasted of his loyalty.
But then Job suffered a series of terrible disasters. In a matter of days, he lost his family, his wealth, and even his health. At first, Job continued to bless the name of the Lord, but later he broke down. “I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul,” Job proclaimed.3
Though he never abandoned his faith, Job felt that God was at war against him.4 He couldn’t understand why bad things were happening to him—he was a good man. Confused and angered by the tragic turn of events in his life, Job demanded that God explain what appeared to be injustice.
God spoke directly to Job about his anger:
Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.5
God went on to challenge Job on matters of wisdom, power, and righteousness. He reminded Job of his power over all the earth—of his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. The God who created all also knows all.
From the story of Job, we can make a couple of observations about anger and God. One important thing to recognize is that God never told Job that his anger and disappointment were wrong. God never chastised Job for being angry or told him that his feelings weren’t allowed. Job’s negative feelings were a natural reaction to the negative events in his life.
However, God was not OK with Job demanding that God give an explanation for his actions. God reprimanded Job when he blamed God for the turn of events, reminding Job that he did not understand everything and was in no position to accuse God.
But without an understanding of why bad things happen, what should a person do with feelings of confusion and heartache?
Responding to Difficult Times
Backtracking a few chapters provides some direction. After listening to a lengthy discussion between Job and his three friends, a young man named Elihu grew frustrated with hearing Job “justifying himself rather than God.”6
Elihu felt compelled to speak with words “from an upright heart”:7
God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose. . . .
God is exalted in his power.
Who is a teacher like him?
Who has prescribed his ways for him,
or said to him, “You have done wrong”?
Remember to extol his work,
which people have praised in song.
All humanity has seen it;
mortals gaze on it from afar.
How great is God—beyond our understanding!
The number of his years is past finding out. . . .
Stop and consider God’s wonders. . . .
The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.8
From this passage, we learn two things about dealing with anger in difficult times. First, we gain an understanding of God’s character; second, we discover an appropriate response to God.
God’s Power and Wisdom
The first thing the excerpt above teaches us is that God alone is all-powerful and all-knowing. Although Job was capable and wise, he had an inflated sense of his position in this world.
Through his exchange with God, Job realized that even he, a righteous man, was in no position to accuse God of wrongdoing. When Job returned to an attitude of humility, he was able to admit that he didn’t know everything. “Then Job replied to the Lord, ‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. . . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.’”9
A humble attitude is critical in accepting tough situations, which Jesus said would be inevitable in this world. A humble person sees the futility of self-defense arguments like, “I don’t deserve this!” and “This shouldn’t have happened to someone like me!” Rather than demand answers and reasons, a humble person accepts that God’s ways are beyond our understanding.10
With that humble acceptance, we can realize that the ultimate question is not, “Why did this happen?” The real question is, “How do I live with this?” Thankfully, Job provides an answer on how we are to live with disappointing circumstances.
Praised at All Times
Although Job’s other friends failed to get through to Job, Elihu instructed Job to do one thing: remember to praise God’s work.
Humility prompts a person to seek help from the right sources in order to enable oneself to continue to give praise. Rather than fan the flames of injustice, the Bible and friends who respect God—like Elihu—help us to recall God’s goodness. They remind a suffering person of the evidence of God’s unmatched love, mercy, kindness, and justice.
With Elihu’s help, Job recognized that his feelings of mistreatment and outrage were misguided. Other people, oneself, or—in Job’s case—the devil can be the bearer of evil in this world. But God never is.11
People who remember God’s goodness can trust that God remains their advocate—even in circumstances that don’t always make sense. They remember that God equips us with the strength to deal with whatever comes our way. Their anger is replaced by feelings of acceptance and peace. As a result, they are able to praise God in the midst of tragedy.
A Restored Life of Abundant Joy
It’s important to recognize that God restored Job from anger to victory. He blessed Job with an even bigger family, greater wealth, and better health.12
In spite of his handicaps, Nick Vujicic says he has been restored as well. Although his life began with frustration, Nick sought help and inspiration from God, friends, and family. As he grew to praise God, his purpose became clear and his life was changed.
When he was nineteen, Nick shared his experience at his first speaking engagement. Today, Nick has traveled the world and shared his story with millions of people. He is a husband, an author, a musician, an actor, and the founder of the nonprofit ministry Life Without Limbs. He credits his strength and passion for life to his faith in God.
Both Nick and Job dealt with anger at circumstances that were out of their control. But both men also realized that their anger was ultimately futile and misplaced. In its place, they adopted an attitude of humility and praised God. Their praise—and the gratitude that followed—ultimately led to a deep joy that couldn’t be shaken by any life situation.