I walk through the church atrium, greeted by many smiling faces. “How are you?” they ask me, already knowing my answer. “I’m good, how are you?” Their smiles grow wider when they act exactly the way that they expect. “Good!” they reply enthusiastically.
Little do they know that I’m not really “good.” The truth is: I’m hurting inside, but I don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather stuff it deeper and hide behind a polite smile. I lift my hands in worship, putting on a show rather than truly surrendering to God, fearing that if I didn’t lift my hands, someone would ask me what was wrong. The pastor leads us in prayer at the end of the service, but all I want to do is go home.
Sadly, I lived for too long under the mask of false positivity and rehearsed answers. Sadly, people I love have lived the same way. Sadly, the world makes it nearly impossible to be honest with others, with ourselves, and with God.
I believe that a huge portion of my anxiety was a result of hiding my feelings and being dishonest with those around me. I would walk through life as if I was carrying a big package and I could never put it down. It was difficult to breathe under the weight of my hurt.
Someone recently asked me if it was normal to be upset at God. Learning to be honest with God was so liberating. For most of my life, I believed that emotions were bad. I believed that I should avoid emotions at all cost and just focus on the positive. After all, the Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. Doesn’t that mean it’s a sin not to be thankful at any given moment? But after meeting some great accountability partners in college, I learned that the Bible had a lot to say about being honest with our emotions!
Yes, it is normal to be upset with God. Think about it. God is sovereign over everything. He can easily stop whatever is going on that is causing you pain or frustrating you. He can easily heal me from my anxiety. He can easily make the cars part on the parkway so that I have no traffic on the way home. But for some reason that we don’t understand, He’s not stopping the pain or the confusion.
The beautiful thing about honesty is that it shows God your heart. I believe that God would rather have an honest worshiper who was angry than a fake worshiper who was happy. Psalm 51:17 says that God will not despise a broken and contrite spirit.
The Psalms are filled with honest prayers to God that make you wonder “Should those really be in the Bible?” As a matter of fact, David prays that his enemies’ babies would be dashed against the rocks (see Psalm 137). That’s obviously really extreme, but it shows how much anger was in David’s prayers. He was angry that his enemies had taken Israel into captivity; he was removed from his homeland and all he wanted to do was go back.
I sometimes drive home from work and simply ask God “Why?” Why do I have to sit in this traffic? Why do I still have anxiety? Why is life so difficult? The world calls this complaining, but I call it honesty. The key to being honest with God about our emotions is that we must not stop there. The Psalms never ended on a bad note and neither should we. David would pour out his anger, sadness, and anxiety to God…but then he would declare his complete trust to God.
“God, I’m sad. I’m angry. Why is this happening? Although I don’t understand what You’re doing, I trust that You will work all of this out for good, and You will never leave me or forsake me because You love me.”
I don’t know how long this season of questioning will last for you. I don’t know what God has for you in the next season. All I know is that when you are honest with God, and you surrender your hurt, confusion, or anger to Him, you will grow closer to Him. It may be a daily surrender instead of a one-and-done deal. You may go to bed one day and surrender your hurts to Him, and wake up the next morning and still have the hurt. Keep surrendering, and then remind yourself of the hope you have in Christ.