I want to respond a little more to a question that was raised in one of our Facebook live chat sessions. We were talking about the question of whether it is possible to lose your salvation. We talked about the possibility of persisting in sin until the Holy Spirit gives up. I said that there was no chance of this happening because the Holy Spirit is greater than anything that might have a hold on my life. That’s when the scenario was presented.
“What about the person who is so angry at God and is still angry after many years, perhaps because of bereavement?”
The first thing I want to do in a situation like that is to talk with the person about the pain that they are feeling after such a long time. No doubt, the cause for ongoing sustained grief at this level is that the loss hit them particularly hard and maybe felt intensely unjust for them to hold onto their grief for so long. It is important that we respond with compassion and understanding.
We would then want to talk about the source of their pain and where their anger is directed at. One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that some people experience intense and consistent pain to the extent that they no longer know where the pain is coming from. Every attempt by others to get close to them feels like further pain causing them to cry out. The same can be true emotionally, we have been hurt so often and so hard that we no longer know where the pain comes from and so we find ourselves lashing out, a form of cry for help even as we flinch at the pain that comes.
It may well be that this is where the person in our scenario is. It is possible that as we begin to talk that the person isn’t actually angry at God. They recognise deep down that the true God they know is good, is love, is faithful and has never left them. However their apparent anger may be cries of pain, confused laments and expressions of frustration as much with the god(s) that they have been presented with by the religion and culture around them.
This is important because I want to suggest that it is simply not possible for a believer in Jesus to be permanently angry at God. That would mean that we were angry at love, joy and goodness. It is also not possible to be angry with him because if we believe in him, we know him, we have met him. We have experienced his goodness in our lives. How could we turn our backs on someone we know to be loving, gracious and kind?
And this is where we need to ask whether the person persistently in this state of mind and spiritual health really knows the Gospel. You see, when we know where we were before Christ stepped in, the horror and depths of our own sin, our helplessness as those spiritually dead, the enmity we had shown God and the harm we were doing to others then we would know how radical and amazing the love and grace of Jesus is.
So, one challenge to us is whether or not we have fully and properly preached the Gospel. Have we been too ready to present the message as primarily being about finding some spiritual comfort or even a ticket to heaven? We can dumb down the message because we don’t want to offend or we want to make it more palatable. We can also do so to accommodate children of believers, although my personal experience of salvation tells me that it is possible as a child to grasp a sense of sin and true faith in Christ. However, the risk is that we are producing a generation who have a level of spiritual experience but have never reached that point where they truly grasped how awful their sin was and therefore how wonderful Christ is.
So, we cannot leave this person without once again returning to the Gospel. Do they know how good God is, have they experienced the forgiveness he offers. If they have, then they cannot stay angry at him for long.