How to Scream at God

By Cindy Koch

(The following is an excerpt from a presentation given on October 14, 2017)

I once asked the question out loud, “Have you ever been angry at God?” and I was met with a confusion of quiet stares. On my left I saw a half nod, quickly quieted as her eyes crossed the room. On my right, solemn and serious foreheads wagged stoically, no. A few frozen faces held their breath as the question hung in the air. Yet, for some reason, no one boldly shouted out their yes or no. The question uncomfortably stood before us, naked and embarrassing, and we didn’t know how to answer.

In some capacity, we have all come face to face with a depressing dissatisfaction in this life. Even if it hasn’t been our own, we probably know a friend or family member has suffered with an unsolvable problem. While God isn’t always the immediate culprit for things gone wrong, we must say something about His involvement. We must include Him because God knows everything – He created all and He sustains all things. So, what is He doing about all this evil that recycles around our lives, day after day? God is supposed to be completely loving, yet He will allow his own dear child to suffer with cancer. What kind of love is this? God is supposed to be good, but He was silent when abuse shattered yet another family. He is supposed to be present everywhere, so where is He in terrible times like these? Logically, our twisted minds try to find a way to make sense of an Almighty God at whom we might be angry.

We smash into a terrifying fear. If we are pushed to the edge of our understanding, then one of these two realities must give way. Possibly, the claims about God are untrue – He is not all-knowing, He is not good, He is not loving, He is not powerful. Maybe there are petty explanations for the way God acts. We can reason that God was never involved in the world in the first place. Here, we totally give up on an Awesome and Perfect Almighty God, just so we can comprehend why He could allowed these things to hurt us.

But on the other hand, in a meager effort to save the reputation of God, we may think it is wise to offer excuses for the Most High God. We may try to trivialize the pain, believing that “God will not give us more than we can handle”. We may tell ourselves that our faith is not strong enough, we must pray harder and do better things for God to come near. The suffering and tears may be explained as His punishment for specific wrongs we have done, all to excuse the actions of God. And some will simply tell us that this is God’s plan. We step back to wonder if we must ignore the seriousness of our heart-wrenching sorrow, just so we can keep God’s name holy.

But when a mother must touch a sweet, cold, breathless shell of a tiny life unlived, after 243 hopeful days of lovingly embracing her now stillborn baby, where does she turn? When any of us are confronted with a tragedy, personal or public, our own trust in the True God is at stake. Here, especially in these times, is where all the prayers, the hope, the relationship, the promises have to mean something to our sadness. When nothing else makes sense, the One who is Good should be there to offer an answer. And so, the most faith-crumbling situation is when that cosmically eternally Good One, is not there. The most soul-crushing relationship is with a loving God who does not love. And maybe the most terrifying relationship is a God that is so just and righteous that He doesn’t care about me. We tremble at our most un-pious un-patient un-faithful response when our struggle becomes too overwhelming – because we just might admit that we are viciously angry at our God.

But, instead of shoving words in the mouth of an unsearchable God, instead of explaining away His absence in the pain of our life, the healthy response is to scream at Him. Now, there is no doubt about it, our modern language has lost the words to scream at God. So much so, that we think it might even be a sin to cry out to Him. There is evidence in our advice and counsel and confusion when faced with suffering. Our reasoning and excuses expose our desire to answer for God when He doesn’t. Modern cultural Christianity has shamed those who even begin to complain to God. We somehow equate a turbulent prayer life with an unfaithful walk. But this is just not true.

For years and years, the faithful have had a rich conversation of complaint against God. Vividly, we experience the beauty of screaming at God in the book of Psalms. This collection of prayers captures the best and worst of times for God’s people. It explores the heights of praise and the depths of sadness. And most exquisitely, we can listen to the godly prayers that have been set free to scream at God.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet– I can count all my bones– they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:14-18)

Here in Psalm 22 we realize it is not simply an Old Testament psalmist screaming. It is not only our own hearts screaming at God. These words also sound just like a crucified Christ, pinned on a bloody cross, screaming louder than we ever could.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cries.  But what others mock as the weakness of God in a lamenting Christ, we hold this prayer dear. He feels the ultimate sorrow. He cries the most abandoned tear. But he does more than just stand in our place of lament. God Incarnate screams at God Almighty, on our behalf.  My God, My God, he says for you, why have you forsaken us? Words we only dare to say because we already know the answer. But, the Hidden God doesn’t answer out loud; here He lifts up his Revealed Son.

Focused on Christ during our suffering, we know God is near. God has not left us alone, He has not forsaken His promises. Especially when we scream at God, we also proclaim Christ has already secured and won the victory. He has done it, it is finished. Christ has completely answered for every scream at God.

You can read the entire presentation here.