I recently read a news article about a famous athlete who plays a team sport. I won’t mention who it is. Because she suffered an injury while playing her sport, she decided to reject God. There wasn’t much to do with God in this person’s life before this. She wasn’t a solid believer who all of a sudden moved to unbelief. She’s taken some very public stands that are decidedly not aligned with biblical morality and so has positioned herself as a controversial figure.
I found it interesting to read it was an injury that moved her to make a definitive statement of her rejection of God. Such a conclusion seemed to her justified because she reasoned, “How can there be a God when this bad thing happens to me?” She isn’t the only person who thinks that way. I’ve met many who echo her comments. It’s as though they think they are punishing God or getting back Him by not believing in Him because something bad happened to them. As though God is like Tinkerbell whose glory brightens when we applaud but dims when we withhold belief.
Over the years, people come to counseling when they experience a setback, when out of the blue, there has been a diagnosis of an illness or financial distress. They come to a hard time and they have a sense of outrage that God would let this happen to them.
This response doesn’t come from those who have been walking with the Lord, with a close relationship with Him. I can’t think of anybody who’s done that, who had a healthy walk with God, a sense of communion and fellowship with Him, a growing spiritual maturity, that had a setback that moved them to throw up their arms and say they can’t believe God allowed that hard thing to happen to them. I’m not saying no one’s EVER done that – only that in my well over forty years as a Christian and pastor – I haven’t encountered that.
Who I DO hear that from are those with little to no interest in God. They’re not churchgoers. They live their life without reference to God, and then something bad happens. Either they get sick or experience a financial setback, or someone close to them dies, and they are outraged. God would let that happen to them. So, they decided to punish God by being mad at him.
I am going to be straight with you and admit something probably not really commendable about myself. While I try to encourage people who are angry at God to turn that anger to a healthy direction – I confess that inwardly, what I want to say is “Who do you think you are?” Here’s the conversation that plays out in my head, “You have lived your life without reference to God. You have no interest in Him. You were not walking with Him. There was no attention to spiritual matters. But when life doesn’t go the way that you want it to, suddenly God’s the bad guy. Suddenly you think He owes you something. So you live your life without reference to Him. Assuming God owes you a carefree life. Then, the minute something bad happens you blame it on God for His inattention to you.
“Consider how filled with hypocrisy that reaction is, that mentality to completely disregard God, to go about your life as you choose, not wanting God to have any say over your life. And then when things don’t turn out the way you want them to, suddenly God is to blame as though He owed you.”
How can a person not see the hypocrisy in that? God doesn’t owe anybody anything. He gives things because He is good and gracious. Apart from God’s grace, people experience loss and sorrow and grief all the time because we live in a fallen world cursed by sin.
This attitude of “I’m going to live any way I want, and I expect it to be smooth sailing and the minute I get into choppy water, the minute some waves start to get into my boat, I’m going to shake my fist at heaven and say, God, you owe me smooth sailing.” That makes no sense.
What we ought to do with those who express such undeserved anger at God is listen to them and hear them out. Instead of saying, “Who do you think you are?” how about, “What does your anger say about your assumptions about God? Why do you think God owes you a carefree life? How have you been living till now that would indicate God should be giving you a carefree life? Do you realize what your reaction reveals about your expectations of God? Let’s compare that to what God says about Himself.”
Once we get them thinking about what God owes, we can focus on the word “does.” What DOES God really owe them? Owing is a matter of justice. What’s owed sinners is judgment. God is holy. We are sinners. We are the ones who have done wrong. But God hasn’t judged.
In fact, what you’re experiencing is the result. It’s not God’s fault. What you’re experiencing in what’s happened in your life that you’re upset with, that you’re unsettled by, is in fact the result of living in a fallen world, fallen because of the choices of human beings.
That the gospel is the message that God has staged a rescue operation that ultimately the kind of thing that you’re experiencing right now need never happen again in terms of when the kingdom of God comes, and he sets this fallen world right. So who do people think they are that God owes them a carefree life?
They’re misunderstanding themselves and they’re misunderstanding God.
Lance is the founding and lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard where he has served since 1982. Lance & David Guzik co-pastored the church for six years before David planted a church in a nearby community.
Lance & his wife Lynn were married in 1980 and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Lance loves teaching the Bible, History, and Leadership. He holds Masters-of-Arts in Biblical Studies and Ministry.
Lance serves as a chaplain for both the Oxnard and Port Hueneme Police Departments and enjoys backpacking, wood-working, working out, gardening, home improvement projects, reading, and graphic design.
The popular Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church podcast can be found in both audio and video at the Into His Image website along with a growing inventory of Lances teaching.