Remember: When angry, direct your anger toward God

mockingbird_devotionalI realize I’m going to the well of The Mockingbird Devotional twice in one week, but there’s a reason this book was my go-to gift this past Christmas. It’s good!

In today’s devotional, Paul Zahl reflects on Exodus 17:2, which describes the Israelites’ anger at Moses shortly after being delivered from the Egyptians:

Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”

Notice that Moses rightly understands that the people’s anger was misdirected: Despite their words and actions, they weren’t angry at Moses; they were angry at God. “Why do you test the Lord?” He was the One who was ultimately responsible for their being in this predicament—on the verge of dying of thirst—not Moses. And that’s true for all of us who are facing any kind of hardship.

After all, even if God didn’t cause it, God certainly had the power to prevent it. Why didn’t he?

Of course, you might say that we shouldn’t get angry at all, and I’m sure that’s true. Anger is almost always destructive. And don’t resort to saying, “Yes, but Jesus was angry when he overturned the money-changers’ tables.”

Do I need to point out that we’re not Jesus?

No, by all means we should trust that, despite the fact that our lives aren’t going according to our plans, they are going according to God’s—and that God’s plans are always better than our own.

I don’t deny that we ought to feel that way. But when we don’t, which—let’s face facts—is most of the time, here’s some good news: we can do something productive with our anger: we can blame God!

One recurring theme of my blog over the past few years is my affirmation of God’s sovereignty and providence, which is another way of saying that God is, indeed, “pulling the strings.” That being the case, when we find ourselves angry, at whom ought we to be angry? As Zahl says in his devotional, nothing good comes from being angry at people. God, however, is big enough to absorb our anger. Let’s be angry at him.

Try it. For a second, stop blaming the “SOB” ruining your life, and instead blame God, who, by definition, must be pulling the strings. It will be for your good to have done so, though I don’t expect anyone to pickup on that until… “Afterward” (Edith Wharton).[†]

Paul Zahl, “January 28” in The Mockingbird Devotional (Charlottesville, VA: Mockingbird, 2013), 57-8.

4 thoughts on “Remember: When angry, direct your anger toward God”

  1. I always thought of anger as a compass, pointing toward where we are hurting inside and an emotion given to us by God in order to do that. (Not permission to let it go further than that). Sometimes we have to be a bit angry at the “person who ruined our life” because it shows us where we need to heal. i know its not always used that way but my opinion nonetheless 😉

    1. Thanks, Jenine Marie. And once it serves this useful purpose let’s try to get rid of it as quickly as possible!

  2. Good point generally, but I do think there are other instances of biblical characters being angry at other people, not just Jesus with the moneychangers. For example, Moses was pretty angry with the children of Israel when he came down from the mountain. In the law, the “principal” is liable for the authorized acts of his “agent,” but the agent can also be held liable as well if he acts “tortiously.” I think obviously we can be angry with the devil for his mischief, even though God may ultimately be responsible for letting him do as he does.

    (Been too busy for awhile to keep up with other posts! 🙁 )

    1. Yeah, I’m not denying personal responsibility. But it is true that the “principal” in this case knows exactly what his agents will do before they do them and has the power to stop them.

      Hope you get to catch your breath!

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