But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:9 (NIV)
Have you ever felt furious with God? Yesterday, I interviewed someone who is. She’s angry with God for the way He allowed her mother to die, a long-suffering death from cancer.
As a Christian, I knew the words to say, but that wasn’t my purpose yesterday. Instead, I did what an interviewer is supposed to do. I asked questions and listened without offering advice. I was there to interview a caregiver about the emotions connected with caring for someone with cancer.
Before her mother’s illness, this woman had been a Bible reading, praying, faithful Christian; however, she had struggled with surrendering control to the Lord, and she still does. Her anger lies there, with trust.
As she talked, I felt her pain. She blamed herself that God didn’t answer her prayer to spare her mother’s suffering. She thought that He didn’t answer because somewhere in her life she must have done something terrible that displeased Him, and as a result her mother suffered. She explained that she had not stopped believing in God and that she knew that He hadn’t left her. Still, her intense pain and disappointment kept her from allowing Him into her heart. He was waiting for her to come back, but she just wasn’t ready. Her mom, she said, had been a wonderful person who had a hard life, and she didn’t deserve to die that way.
She spoke of well-meaning Christian friends who had offered advice, but she wasn’t ready to hear it. Their words only added to her anger. Her pastor had stayed close for a while after the mother’s death, but then, just as this woman began opening up about her feelings, he drifted away. She didn’t need advice. She needed time, she said, to process everything that had happened. As the sole caretaker for her mother for many years, she now experienced a void in her life that she didn’t know how to fill. She shared with me that I had been the only person she had been able to open up to. All of her anger had been held inside. When we parted, she said that talking about it had been therapeutic.
Yesterday, God reminded me of something. Years ago, He had spoken to my heart: “Talk less. Listen more. Be understanding.” I realized that as a Christian I haven’t often done that. I tend to use scripture and what I know about God to try to lift people up in their anger and sadness. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it has to be in God’s time. Through my work as an interviewer, He showed me. What this woman needed was to talk and have someone listen without judging or giving advice.
I left the interview with a new perspective and knowing that God is working His plan for the woman. She’s in His capable hands. My role as His helper was to talk less, listen more, and be understanding.
As a Christian, how would you try to help another Christian who is furious with God?