“Stripped to a scream, undressed to a cry of pain, he sobbed his anger at God in hoarse words that hurt his throat. He asked for nothing now, nor did he wonder if he’d been bad or good. Such concepts were all part of the joke he’d just discovered. He cursed God directly for the savage joke that had been played on him. And in that cursing Mellas for the first time really talked with his God. Then he cried, tears and snot mixing together as they streamed down his face, but his cries were the rage and hurt of a newborn child, at last, however roughly, being taken from the womb.” (from Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes)
A friend emailed last week to ask about crying out to God. She said I made it sound simple, but she felt intimidated by the prospect. As I thought through this with her it occurred to me that many of us probably feel scared or awkward about crying out to God. I wondered why this should be. If God isn’t the great comforter then what is He? If we can’t run to him in our sorrow, where can we go? And then it struck me; we do run to him, we do cry out to him, we do expect him to comfort us, but we also expect him to keep us from needing comfort! Isn’t he supposed to protect us??? Isn’t he supposed to stop the pain dead in its tracks??? How can we run to a God and cry to a God who didn’t keep us safe and didn’t guard our hearts? If we let ourselves rest upon this idea for a moment I think we might discover that instead of crying out to God for comfort, what we’d really like to do is to cry at God in pain. We’d like to ventilate our anger at not being protected. And that is scary for a lot of reasons. Is it ok to be angry at God? Is our theology big enough to allow for this? Is our morality in the way? Religion leaves no room for God-anger, it only lets us account for self-anger or others-anger. Either we messed up and we are getting what we deserve or someone else (the bad people) are doing what bad people do and God will get them eventually. But we do not blame God for our mistakes or for bad people being bad. God stays lilly white. He stays above reproach.
This is not Christianity. Christianity is a God who gets dirty. The gospel is a God who, while remaining fully God, allows himself to become reproachable; who, while remaining completely faultless, accepts the blame for every fault. If we look upon the cross long enough we will not find the answer to our suffering. We will not see why our tears fall, or why we were not protected. But we will see this – we will see that the real God did not run away from our anger or the anger of God the Father. We will see that the wrath of men and God were not great enough to destroy Jesus Christ. And we will see that the one thing we know about suffering is that God willingly participates in it with us. He doesn’t stay lilly white. He becomes darkness itself. Jesus was not protected. Jesus was not comforted. Jesus cried out and was unanswered. My heart can sometimes not contain itself when I look on this, even in my own suffering. I know I cannot accuse my God, the real God, of apathy toward my low estate. The cross contradicts me. Perhaps we do not begin to speak with God until we cry in pain and anger at him. Surely he is not afraid of it, just as I was not afraid to hear my children cry themselves to sleep when they were infants, knowing I’d provided all they needed and that they were safe and secure in my house only needing the crying in order to sleep well.