Throwing Tantrums at God

When things do not go right in our lives for one reason or another, the first person we tend to direct shots at, is God. At first, an emotion grips us, we then try to make sense of it. And when we cannot, we turn to the proverbial, ‘Why me God?’. This question is peristaltic as it tends to unravel a series of tantrums directed to God. Of course God does not answer the ‘why me’ question because it is no question at all. The question is in fact the highway of self-justification, and any self-justification is done at the cost of God’s righteousness, justice, and holiness. In the latter stages of his anguish, Job began ‘justifying himself rather than God’ (Job 32:2). Job winded on about how he sees no fault in himself that God would cause him such a calamity. At some point, he even says, ‘I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?’ (10:v2-3). Job in justifying himself yet again tells his friends, ‘If you indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me’ (19:v5-6). Job, who in some instances ‘was righteous in his own eyes’ (32:v1), ends his self-justification by saying, ‘I sign now my defence – let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing’ (31:v35). That was the end of Job’s tantrums, and the beginning of his answers.

Elihu, a man with God’s Spirit, notes to Job, ‘But you have said in my hearing – I heard the very words – I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers his my enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch on all my paths’ (33:v8-11). Elihu then rebukes Job, ‘But I tell you in this you are not right, for God is greater than man’ (v12). In fact, ‘Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong . . . It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice’ (34:v10,12). So, the first thing God personally asks Job when He finally appears to him is, ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?’ (38:v1). This is because while throwing tantrums at Him by justifying ourselves, it usually ends up in darkening God’s counsel. For ‘when words are many, sin is not absent’ (Proverbs 10:19). And darkening God’s counsel contradicts all what He is because, ‘As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless’ (Psalm 18:30). God is perfection, and so asks, ‘Who has a claim against me that I must pay?’ (Job 41:11). So, no one can accuse God for anything. In fact, after God had finished speaking, Job comes to see his error and says, ‘Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know . . . My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes’ (42:v3,5-6). Job now humbles himself before God, because it is impossible to throw tantrums and at the same humble oneself before God.

Those who throw tantrums at God are either those that do not quite know God, or those who think that they know Him too well. The tantrums of those who do not really know God present itself as rebellion and pride. Such grow in bitterness towards God and see Him as the perpetual antagonist. God is the cause of all the problems in their lives, and so they cast Him aside. When the Israelites rebelled against God because they faced problems, even when He came through for them, it was still never enough. They had set their minds to a perpetual complaining against God whatever the case. Even when God daily provided for them manna, the bread of angels, they complained, ‘But now we have lost appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’ (Numbers 11:6). Even when they were about to enter the Promised Land, they still faulted God saying, ‘Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?’ (14:v3). The tantrums in the form of rebellion and complaining became a stench in God’s nostrils that He asks, ‘How long will this people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?’ (14:v11). Indeed, ‘Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord’ (Isaiah 26:10).

On the other hand, those who think they know God too well are also susceptible to throwing tantrums at Him. Jonah knew God to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents on sending calamity’ (Jonah 4:2). This familiarity leads to Jonah refusing an assignment God had sent him for. He even tells God, ‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? This is why I was so quick to flee at Tarshish’ (v2). Jonah who was sent by God to proclaim to Nineveh that it would soon be overturned refused to go because he thought he knew God too well. When He finally went, he was angered by God’s compassion towards the City because He did not bring the disaster He had told Jonah to proclaim, for the people repented. But since Jonah thought he knew God too well, he saw his efforts as futile and lamented, ‘Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’ (v3). But God answers him, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’ (v4). And so, before throwing tantrums at God, we should first ask ourselves this same question.

We Believers who walk with God and serve Him in one way or another sometimes tend to think that it is our right to have all that we ask for. Upon meeting a calamity, especially after doing what is required of us by God, we are tempted to ask God why we are passing through this by the merit of what we have done for Him. We sometimes tend forget that we are doing nothing for God, but that it is God merely working through us. We should instead say like Elihu, ‘I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay’ (Job 33:6). However, often times, when we have only experienced good from God and then a calamity strikes suddenly, we start longing like Job ‘when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house’ (29:v4). The Prophet Elijah also experienced this. When he had called fire from heaven, killed the Prophets of Baal, and thereafter called for rain after years of drought, his life came under a threat because of that wicked woman, Jezebel. After God had done great exploits through him, his life was now at stake. Forgetting the wonders that God had just done through him, Elijah fled and went to the desert where he told God, ‘I have had enough Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’ (1 Kings 19:4). For sometimes, when feel like we have reached the end, we think that there is nothing else that can be done. But God proves us otherwise.

Jeremiah, who had prophesied all what God had told him also came under attack as some people plotted to take his life. He then complains to God, ‘O Lord, you deceived me and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me . . . So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:7,8). God does not answer Jeremiah in this matter, because He had already forewarned him of what his assignment entails. Likewise, for us Believers, God has already told us, ‘All men will hate you because of me’ (Matthew 10:22). So, even complaining to God about this is no use, but ‘pressing on toward the goal’ (Philippians 3:14) is what is needed, for we are not to ‘be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well we were destined for them‘ (1 Thessalonians 3:3). ‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12) in one way or another. So, there is no need to persecute ourselves further by complaining and wavering in faith. ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work (assigned to you by God) . . .’ (4:v5). When Jeremiah paid attention to the naysayers and those who make empty threats, he got distracted and his work slacked. He soon realizes that when he kept silent, the Word of the Lord was ‘like a fire shut up in (his) bones’ (Jeremiah 20:9), and so he had to speak it up and do his assignment regardless. So, at the end of the day, while it is important to ‘pour out (our) hearts to him (God) ‘ (Psalm 62:8), we need to be careful that we do not loose our grip of faith and awareness of God’s Soverignity due to other people or external pressures. For God simply cannot respond to our tantrums any more than a parent can do anything about their child’s outbursts. He just waits for our tantrums to die down so that we can even hear and understand Him when He responds. So, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you (James 1:19-21), and which can also calm us down.

‘But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him’ ~ Habakkuk 2:20

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