According to Exline and Grubbs (2011), for most individuals, having a personal relationship with God provides a sense of security and comfort that meets our attachment needs. Oftentimes, people that have a personal relationship with God also believe he is very involved in their lives. Exline and Grubbs (2011) explain that when things go awry, spiritual struggles can take place that create feelings of anger. Each person will deal with their anger towards God differently, but the impact it has will typically range somewhere between "disengaging from their faith to actually having their faith strengthened" (Exline & Grubbs, 2011). Some individuals may even develop emotional distress from their anger and doubt. If God is active in their life and something bad happens, there's suddenly internal conflict.
In an online survey of 573 men and women, Exline and Grubbs (2011) found the participants had anger towards God due to “death of loved ones, interpersonal offenses/conflicts, personal illnesses or injuries, financial problems, loss of home or job, or were struggling with the suffering of a loved one due to terminal illness”. Unlike some of the participants that were able to overcome their anger, 256 of the participants were still struggling with their anger even after some time had gone by since their anger developed. Exline and Grubbs (2011) sought to determine if sharing their feelings of anger with another person would be beneficial. They found that, typically, at least one person had been told about the participant’s anger towards God. However, there were often fears that went along with revealing such feelings, such as “social disapproval, rejection, being misunderstood, believing that it was a personal issue that was between themselves and God, and even fears that revealing their anger would hurt or offend others” (Exline & Grubbs, 2011). Being open and honest about anger towards God is not always easy, especially since a relationship with God is different for each person.
What the study found was that revealing anger to another person could improve the relationship between the angry individual and God. However, it also was impacted by the listener’s response to hearing that the person was struggling with anger. For those that were supported, the study found that those individuals were able to “stay spiritually engaged” (Exline & Grubbs, 2011). On the other hand, those that were met with unsupportive responses, found themselves feeling “guilty, shamed, judged”, and less likely to move beyond their anger towards God. Furthermore, they were more likely to spiritually disengage, suppress their feelings of anger, rebel, withdraw, or even question God’s very existence (Exline & Grubbs, 2011). Ultimately, the study concluded that if anyone is struggling with feelings of anger towards God, it is helpful to realize that the feeling isn’t unique to you and be aware of others who try to shame or judge those feelings.
While it would be nice to live in a world where we could have a perfect relationship with God, it’s not reality. More than likely, you will experience at least one period in your life where your religious faith is shaken. Things don’t go quite right and some find themselves angry and doubting God for those events or their outcomes. It is helpful to be aware of the fact that you are not the only one who has ever felt angry towards God. Hopefully, by being aware of your feelings and being able to talk with God and others, the anger will dissipate. In Scripture, Jonah paints a very real picture of just what anger and doubting God can cause. We need to be encouraging to one another when there are seasons of anger and allow the Holy Spirit to be the one working and changing the individual from the inside out.
*** Disclaimer: The video clip shown is only a small portion of the actual movie and what is shown was not edited by myself. The character shown is fine in the end of the movie.***
Exline, J. J., & Grubbs, J. B. (2011). "If I tell others about my anger toward god, how will they respond?" predictors, associated behaviors, and outcomes in an adult sample. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 39(4), 304-315.