Is Your Bitterness Faithful?

Nepal Candles

Photo by Leah Reesor-Keller

There is so much to be bitter about. This week I lay awake at night with images of Aylan Kurdi searing their way into my soul. Aylan is the 3 year old Syrian refugee who drowned before he could reach Canada. You’ve seen the pictures. And lurking behind these devastating images is the certain knowledge that there are thousands more whose names we will never know. Whose images we will never see. I’m bitter. Bitter. I choose that word carefully. There is sadness, yes, but anger too. I’m angry at our global community for failing Aylan and all the countless others. I’m angry at myself for doing nothing to stop this refugee crisis, to put an end to war.

I’m angry at God.

How could you let this happen God? How could you let the world you love get so messed up?

I used to feel like getting angry with God wasn’t an option. Like it made me a bad Christian (and definitely a bad Mennonite). I’m discovering though, that the bible is full of people who are angry at God! And not just the baddies either.

Like Naomi in the book of Ruth. She is a refugee too. Naomi’s husband dies, and then both her sons die and she is left alone in a foreign country.  A widowed women in a world where security comes from men. And you better believe Naomi is angry at God. Bitter. She actually starts calling herself by the name Mara (bitter in Hebrew)! 

Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me? (Ruth 1:20-21). 

Naomi blames God for all the trouble she has encountered. She does not give up on God when life is at its worst. Not at all. She gets angry at God, and that’s a different thing altogether. Naomi believes in a God that is big enough to deal with her anger. That is a faithful bitterness.

So, like Naomi, today I am letting myself be faithfully bitter. To be angry at God for all that is heartbreaking in this world.

And when I’ve let myself be bitter for a while (a good long while mind you, we can’t rush these things), the bitterness might start to lift. I will reach out and see who is doing something about this current crisis. And when I see the passionate people who dedicate their lives and their dollars to supporting the rights of refugees and bringing an end to war, I might see that God is doing wonderful work in the world. Even in our times of faithful bitterness. Especially in our times of faithful bitterness. I might even join this wonderful work.

But for today? I’m bitter. Call me Mara.

2 responses to “Is Your Bitterness Faithful?

  1. I have been chewing on the idea of “being angry with God” recently. For whatever reason, I don’t think I’ve ever interpreted my inner feelings as being angry with God. So when I hear of people who have had tragedy in their life, and they talk about their anger towards God, I have a hard time relating.

    The last year or so of my life has not been a good one. Emotionally and mentally I’m not myself. I feel very disconnected from God, and unable to pray. The pulse of my hope is hard to detect. I do feel quite “angry” and “disappointed” inside at times, and it’s not directed specifically at any one person. But it doesn’t fall on God somehow. Is it possible to be angry but not angry at anyone? Perhaps people who are angry at God are doing the rational thing… directing their anger towards the back stop of life… God?

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    • Hi Daniel,
      I don’t think there is any easy answer for what you’re saying. I think I can relate to what you mean on this one – at the very least I think they’re good questions to be asking. I’m in a similar space myself; I find myself frustrated at nothing at all.

      Frustrated that God isn’t there, or there more, frustrated that God doesn’t make him/herself more objectively known in our experience. I think I’ve seen God at work numerous times, but who is to say it was merely my subjective perspective shaping and interpretating those “God” moments. That’s not God’s fault, nor is it mine.

      I’m frustrated that there isn’t more for us to know. Frustrated that this is it – frustrated that we are limited by the lives we live, and that whatever choice we make will be at the expense of several others.

      I’m frustrated that we live this life in perpetual expectation – either of the nothingness of death, the hope of eternity with God, or whatever mystery that is to be beheld. Yet we won’t know (or not know) for sure until it happens.

      I’m not frustrated at God. I’m frustrated at this situation. No matter what, we can’t win. We either limit questioning in our brains and learn to be more thankful and content, or we keep following our questions with integrity and are gifted with a life of melancholy and despair. We either focus on the present at the expense of the future, or focus on the future at the expense of the present. We’re always fighting a losing battle.

      Furthermore, the world is now this one big machine, and there is not really any hope of any one person changing anything. Even in the unlikely event that I could accomplish anything meaningful, it will all be undone by the people who follow me (I’m going full Ecclesiastes here). All the relationships I make, all the love I show to my neighbour, will be undone and forgotten and unfelt in 100 years time. I do not nor will ever have a lasting legacy. It’s frustrating and a legitimate cause for despair. No matter what, any action I take is inherently empty. In that milieu, it can be very hard to detect that pulse of hope.

      I don’t know if you can relate to that, but that’s what I think about when I read your comment. Let’s talk more in person.

      Like

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