Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Resolve Anger Toward God after a Tragedy

  • Deirdre Reilly deirdrereilly.com
  • 2021 31 Mar
man sitting on floor looking up asking why upset confused angry sad

Do you ever worry that one horrific tragedy could rip your faith in two, smashing apart the carefully laid foundations you have spent years building through your faith in God? Many of us have seen news reports of unthinkable tragedy — an innocent person dying painfully and alone in a freak accident, a baby murdered, a gas leak killing an entire family — and we think, “Where was God then?” We may also silently worry, “I could never forgive God if that happened to me.”

These are indeed awful, tragic events, and there is no question that these events shape and change those whose lives they touch; they change us, too, when we hear about them, even if only temporarily. They take the world we know — full of love and blessings, with sadnesses and

troubles we feel capable of processing and recovering from — and rip it away, leaving us exposed and vulnerable, living on the edge, and questioning the God we worship and trust so deeply.

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A True-Life Tragedy

I once had a dear friend and neighbor who suffered a sudden, shocking tragedy. I have detailed it in my book, “The Pretend Christian,” as well as how it shaped and refined my friend’s faith, and what it did to my own burgeoning faith.

It started innocently enough; my friend, whom I will call Beth, was outside in her yard, holding a ladder for her brother as he did some work way up high in her fir trees, cutting heavy, prickly branches with a hand saw. He was sawing away at one thick branch that was blocking the light below and stressing lower branches with its weight, and he attacked it with gusto. Beth’s brother had just retired, was a relatively young, healthy man in his sixties, and was looking forward to spending precious time with his grandchildren. His future looked very bright.

However, the ladder suddenly twisted out of Beth’s grasp, and it teetered crazily for a few moments before falling backward, throwing her brother in the street and causing him to suffer a fatal head injury. He passed away several hours later.

Amazingly, Beth, who was a faithful servant of Christ, a woman who cared for her aged mother as well as anyone else who needed her, was actually praying to the Lord for her brother’s safety when that ladder fell.

While Beth’s faith eventually deepened through this tragic experience, my own was severely shaken. I was angry at God. How could He allow this to happen to such a good man, and how could He allow Beth, whom He loved, to witness it, and be powerless to help? How did God ignore her, even as she prayed to Him?

Here is what I learned, through my own journey, and Beth’s, after the fall.

If You Are Angry, You Are in Relationship

If You Are Angry, You Are in Relationship

Since I can better speak to my own feelings than I can to Beth’s, I will share how this shocking tragedy, which played out right in our shared neighborhood street, affected me. As a newer believer, I was shaken to my core, and doubt immediately set in. Was I being naive and dreamy-eyed in my Christian beliefs? Did I just want there to be an Almighty God so much that I ignored any and all sensible evidence to the contrary? Was life really just a random series of events, unmarshalled by any loving deity?

By any earthly standard, what happened to my friend was unthinkable; to see her brother fall and to hold his hand sitting there in the road, unable to do more than try to comfort him.

Beth was the very picture of a grounded Christian, always turning confidently to the Lord, in good times and in bad. Any God who cared at all would bless her, not distress her. If you are up there, God, I prayed, Your ways are scary and now I feel like I don’t know You at all!

Another Christian friend of mine, who was also farther down the path faith-wise, said that my anger with God was also an acknowledgment of Him. After all, we can’t get mad at a fictional character, can we? She said that I wasn’t mad, perhaps, as much as I just didn’t understand God’s ways. But my anger proved there is a relationship, my friend emphasized.

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Go to God with Your Anger

The Bible is full of prayers to God after devastations. Psalm 101 reads, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Lamentations is full of, well, lamentations; for example, Lamentations 5:20 pleads, “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?”

These are anguished cries of those who feel forgotten and overlooked by God during times of grievous suffering. These people of old expressed their distress over a God who had seemed to turn away from them in the midst of their sorrows and tragedies. “We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction,” reads Lamentations 3:47-48. “Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.”

Try to emulate those soul-searchers in the Bible. Instead of shutting God out, be real with Him — pour out your feelings as honestly as you can, telling Him why you are angry and hurting. Tell Him you do not understand His ways, nor why He would allow this tragedy to happen. Then, stay alert: since our Lord is a deeply loving, ever-present God, He will use your tragedy to bless others, or He will use it to draw you ever nearer to Him.

During any tragedy, you will be especially in His sights, like a spotlight trained on you in the darkness. He did not cause your pain and suffering, but He allowed it; your choice is to either stew in anger forever or to go deeper; to talk with Him, and begin to feel ever-increasing levels of love and dependency on Him once the hurt starts to mend.

A man reading a Bible, We need to show faith leaders that they have a support system

Dig Deep, Trusting God’s Word

Earlier I stated that by any earthly standard what happened to my friend was unthinkable. And that is true; however, God does not operate on an earthly standard, but a heavenly one. If we believe the Bible, God’s Holy Word, we know that those believers lost in tragedy are just fine — far better, in fact, than they have ever been. Their moments of fear and pain are over, forgotten in the glories of Paradise. Yes, we miss them and we mourn them, but our lives are, in the final analysis, so fleeting! Before we know it, we will be reunited again.

It sometimes comforts me to look around at nature and realize so many things; a tree, a mountain, a boulder, were here long before I was born, and will be here long after I die. We were meant for another place! And that place is heaven.

And what of us, who are left behind to mourn? In our suffering is fertile ground upon which God will sow something real and lasting. Additionally, our hearts will be healed.

Isaiah 66:9 reminds us that God sees us through each step of our pain. “‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God.”

John 13:7 also offers some very comforting words: “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’” This is what we must trust during a tragedy.

My mother used to love to celebrate different occasions with party crackers — long, decorative cardboard tubes that you crack open to reveal something fun inside (confetti, candy, or small trinkets). Whatever was inside always brought joy, togetherness, and laughter to all of us who gathered around her table. But, you have to really crack that cracker to get the prize, yanking hard on the ends, or destroying the middle. You have to break down that beautifully decorated outside, to get to the goodness inside. Life can be the same way, and God sometimes allows us to be pulled apart and cracked down the middle by tragedy in order to reveal the deeper meaning of life: total dependence on Him and total faith in His promises, revealed through His Word.

Perhaps He is also reminding us, through tragedy, to be ready to die — to have our souls in order, since we do not know when, or how, our own lives will end. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44)

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Let Time Work in Your Favor

So, what happened with Beth, and with me, in regard to faith? Beth’s faith continued to deepen. She once said to me tiredly after the tragedy, “I can’t explain this, but I feel like Jesus is almost hugging me.” As for me, what Beth endured has deepened and sharpened my faith over time. I am still sharing the story, years later, because I now believe what I couldn’t possibly believe then: God was loving and supporting Beth through it all, and she, in turn, became an even greater warrior of the faith, a quiet example of God’s shining light in our troubled world.

Time is a mysterious healer. Let it do its quiet work in your heart after a tragedy. Time brings perspective, a necessary diminishment of shock, and the space to allow God to manifest in your life in many surprising and joyous ways.

In the days after Beth’s tragedy I never thought that today I would thank God for allowing me to be there for Beth, and thanking Him for His blessings that were so evident after her brother’s fall — the concern from neighbors and friends, the outpouring of care from Beth’s church community, and the real, honest, and often teary conversations I had with my own loved ones afterward, telling them how much I loved them.

God was knitting us all back together, even stronger and more beautiful in His sight than before. We mourned, we prayed, we talked to God honestly, and we were humbled about the true, fleeting nature of earthly life. Lastly, we allowed time itself to reveal God’s enduring love and yes, even mercy, upon us all.

Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.

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