One of Philip Yancey’s earlier books is titled Disappointment with God. Apparently the publishers were concerned about the title and suggested Overcoming Disappointment with God. It seemed faintly heretical to introduce a book with a negative title into Christian bookstores filled with all sorts of material on the marvelous Christian life. But Yancey found that the Bible includes detailed accounts of people very disappointed with God.
Job and Moses are two of the more well-known but such a list would also include Habakkuk, Jeremiah and many of the unnamed psalmists. Some psalms could be titled “Furious with God,” “Betrayed by God,” “Abandoned by God,” “In Despair about God.” Here are just two examples.
How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?…
For what futility you have created all men!
~ Psalm 89
Why, O Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?…
the darkness is my closest friend.
~ Psalm 88
At first glance it may seem strange for sacred writings to include such uncomfortably raw emotions, but actually their inclusion reflects an important principle of therapy. Any good counselor will tell you that before unresolved issues can be settled there must first be the admission of ugly emotions connected to them. Yancey comments:
“The odd mixture of psalms of cursing, psalms of praise, and psalms of confession no longer jars me as it once did. Instead, I am continually amazed by the spiritual wholeness of the Hebrew poets, who sought to include God in every area of life by bringing to God every emotion experienced in daily activity. One need not “dress up” or “put on a face” to meet God. There are no walled-off areas; God can be trusted with reality.
The Hebrew poets considered God big enough to handle our wrestling with real-life issues and how faith factors into them. Sometimes I get discouraged when I feel like I am wrestling too much over such issues; but wrestling itself is evidence of an ongoing relationship.
Are you on the wrestling mat with God?