When I told friends the catalogue of problems that had occurred in my life over a few years, people started to joke that my middle name was Job. Thankfully, my life was nowhere near as bad as Job's - who lost three daughters, seven sons, a number of servants and a huge amount of livestock, then was struck down with sores all over his body. But though we may not have had it that tough, we may still be able to recognise Job's predicament: faced with intense suffering he didn't want to turn his back on God, but he also couldn't pretend that everything was OK.
When pain comes our way it's natural that we're angry about it, but we're often left confused over what to do with that anger. After my family and I faced a series of health challenges, I was left furious. I thought the good Christian thing to do was push those feelings aside as soon as they reared their head, but they refused to go away. Confined to a sofa after a knee operation, I spent many days feeling so furious that I didn't know what to do with myself. I would imagine picking up objects and hurling them at the wall but then would immediately feel guilty. When I first tried to shower without help after the operation I completely lost it. I was struggling to balance on my crutches, put too much weight on my broken leg which was excruciating, and to top it off I managed to trap my fingers in the shower door. My rage built and built until I exploded and head-butted the shower door. Clearly trying to ignore my anger wasn't working.
Anger isn't talked about much in church, but the Bible doesn't shy away from the topic. The apostle Paul says, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27). In other words, he's saying that the anger isn't a sin, but hanging on to it is. Solomon said, "Anger resides in the lap of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9) with the word 'resides' indicating he means letting it become a resident rather than a visitor.
When we look at Job, we see that he didn't try and paste on a smile and act like he wasn't angry. He dared to ask if God enjoyed oppressing him whilst blessing the wicked (Job 10:3). He said God had worn him out by devastating his household (16:7) and accused God of throwing him into the mud and reducing him to dust without even telling him why (30:19-20). He also said that God had denied him justice (27:1) and had wronged him without explanation (19:6-7); that's some hefty criticism coming from a godly man! But when God responds he doesn't condemn Job for letting rip. Instead, he tells Job's friends that they got it wrong whilst Job spoke correctly (42:7). The incredible thing about Job was that throughout his pain he stayed engaged with God. When we feel hurt and angry we can either bring this before God and stay connected to him, or turn away from him and begin to let our relationship drift or be severed completely. Job raged, protested, moaned and groaned, swinging between faith and despair, but he never gave up. He chose to trust that there was an answer even if he didn't know it. After he met with God, Job repented (42:5-6). His encounter with God brought him back to his knees where he could let go of his anger, bitterness and pain.
We have to grasp that getting angry with God and letting loose on the thoughts that are tearing us apart is OK - he is big enough to deal with it. Getting angry means we stay engaged with God and we find release; pretending we're OK can drive a huge wedge into our relationship with him. If we let it, anger can drive us into God's presence looking for answers and there we find there is no need for pretence; we are free to express everything we're feeling before a God who knows and loves us.