By Patti Kenney
Anger is one of the natural phases and emotions of grief. You may find yourself irritated by the platitudes and insensitive clichés people say like, “It’s better now than later,” “At least you have other children,” “You are young, you can have more,” or “God just wanted another little angel.” Friends or family may have withdrawn from your side or seem insensitive and lack understanding thinking you need to “move on”. Your spouse or significant other probably is not grieving like you are or the way you expect them to. Trivialities you always use to let roll off your back, seem glaringly larger than before. No one can do anything right. You may be angry at the doctors or nurses because of an error that caused your baby’s death, or not sharing the whole truth with you, or for a cold bedside manner. You may find yourself outraged toward mothers who do drugs during pregnancy and undeservedly have a healthy baby that they are incapable of caring for. You can’t even begin to comprehend how some parents can abuse their children or even find it difficult to tolerate parents who just simply get frustrated with their children. You may be beating yourself up emotionally for not going to the hospital sooner, or with all the unanswered, “What if…’s?”. Most people who have lost a child find themselves at some point angry towards God. “How could He let this happen? Why? I don’t deserve for my child to die, I don’t do bad things. I wanted this child sooo much, and would have provided a good home.” No matter where your anger is directed or how it manifests itself, it needs to be addressed and dealt with.
If you keep it in, and bottled up, it will lash out when you least expect it. I remember having many irrational thoughts that stemmed from my anger after my son died. If you harbor it, it will harden you and make you bitter. So how do you deal with it? Let us see how Asaph dealt with it in Psalm 73.
But as for me, I came so close to the edge of the cliff! MY feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite of their wickedness. They seem to live such painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong… “Does God realize what is going on?” they ask. “Is the most High even aware of what is happening?” Look at these arrogant people—enjoying a life of ease…Was it all for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong? All I get is trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
Do you ever feel that way, “It is not fair! Why me? What did I do?” Sounds like Asaph felt that way too, he recognized those feelings and got them off his chest by writing them down and expressing them in this psalm.
Then Asaph continued… “So I tried to understand why…but what a difficult task it is!” It seems as though we are born with the thought that we have the fundamental “right” to know “why”, and the “right” to be in control of our lives. And when we loose control or don’t have the answers to “why?” our world feels like it is swept out from underneath us. Did you know that we were never promised that “right”? Bruce Wilkerson gives a great illustration of this in “Secrets of The Vine”…
I took our son David [when he was very young] to the hospital for a shot. As the doctor approached with needle in hand, David bolted. When I finally corralled him behind a planter and swung him up into my arms, I saw the terror in his face. How can you explain to a sick toddler that his body needs penicillin? Yet David stayed in my arms as the doctor prepared to give the injection. When the moment came, David didn’t push me away. Instead, he held on to me more tightly and cried out, “Daddy!”
You can see from an adult perspective that Bruce was acting out of love for his son and what was best for him, though the answer to “why?” was beyond his little son’s comprehension? So it is many times in our relationship with God, it is beyond us. I am not saying that your child’s death is what’s best for you, but what I am saying is that t he “whys?” are many times outside of our grasp. How are you responding to the heartache of your baby’s death? Are you pushing God away, like Bruce thought his son would? Or in spite of the pain are you clinging to God even tighter, even though you may not understand “why”?
I know that I struggled and was angry at God because He had allowed my son to die. I searched for reasons and didn’t get them. I remember diving head-long into reading books and articles on grief to justify and wallow in my pain. I remember the Lord breaking through when I finally laid my pain and anger out before Him. He let me vent, but then He gently showed me that I could choose to follow my pain and grief and spiral inward into depression and get stuck there or I could follow Him to find true healing. He showed me that I needed to not only embrace Him but also embrace His truth; you shall know the truth AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE. As Beth Moore shares in “Breaking Free” My Truth + His Truth = Freedom, where My Truth + Lies = Bondage. So being honest before God was a first step.
Pour out our heart and frustrations, disappointments and confusions; be real and honest before Him, even if it is anger towards Him. He knows where our heart is; you don’t need to keep it from Him. He can handle it. He is bigger than your anger. It is like a child who is angry with her father, and is pouting and not speaking to him. He knows she is angry, that is no secret. But because he loves her, all he wants is for her is come to him and talk about it and bring it out into the open. He wants the two of them to talk, for him to shed light into her understanding, and to restore their relationship. It can’t be done until she honestly acknowledges her anger toward him to open the lines of communication again. That’s what your Father, God, also desires. Come to Him, be real, give Him all the hurt, and let it go. He can handle it much better than we can. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30. Let Him speak the t ruth to you and touch your heart. He is the healer of the broken hearted, but He can’t heal it if you don’t give Him the pieces.
So it was for Asaph in Psalm 73, and that is where Asaph’s focus changes…
“Then one day I went into Your sanctuary, O God…Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You. Yet I still belong to You; You are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with Your counsel leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire You more than anything on the earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow week, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever…But as for me, how good it is to be near You God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do!
It is best to be near God, in His presence. That is where we gain true perspective and receive His gentle healing. May we, in the same way as Bruce’s little son, trust our Father and cling to Him even when it hurts.
If you want to further dig into a helpful Bible Study, that will help with anger and bitterness, check out Lord, Only You Can Change Me by Kay Arthur