Christians often struggle with feelings of resentment, particularly resentment toward God during times of immense struggle and grief.
In his book, Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame John I. Snyder, an ordained Presbyterian minister who preaches at Starnberg Fellowship International Church in Germany, applies his years of experience serving in missions worldwide and ministering in the U.S. and Europe, to help believers find healing and a better understanding for why God allows suffering and why it’s OK to be honest with God about our disappointments when life doesn’t go as we planned.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post‘s interview with Snyder where he explains the dangers of resenting the only One who can truly bring healing and freedom during life’s toughest battles.
CP: Why did you want to write a book about resentment? Is there a personal experience that inspired it?
Snyder: People have often said to me, “I tried the God thing. I prayed and prayed, but He didn’t do a thing for me. I don’t need Him.” It’s these words coming from the depths of pain and misunderstanding about God that I wanted to correct.
Years ago, I had my own experience of disillusionment and resentment. It was after 10 straight years of academic study, in preparation for what I believed God had clearly called me to do, when He suddenly took away what I needed most, my ability to read. I didn’t read again for seven years. I couldn’t put this together. It seemed so random and out of character with anything I had ever experienced.
I had no mentors or advisors to help me through this, but I did seem to have plenty of “Job’s comforters” — who only intensified my confusion. This didn’t help me any and I ended up blaming God, and it took me years to understand God’s sovereign power and His best for my life. So when someone else is going through the same feelings of abandonment and despair, I want to encourage them away from the downward spiral of blaming God into a healthy and loving relationship with Him.
CP: We live at a time when society encourages indignation toward God, especially after mass shootings and natural disasters. In your book you address this. Can you tell us about it?
Snyder: You’re right, God does get blamed for anything and everything, not only by hostile skeptics but also by believers. Have you noticed what a little child does when he trips on something and falls down? When you rush to help him up, he turns accusing eyes to you. You made him fall! It was your fault! We are no different when it comes to God and our problems. Who better to blame than the One who made us?
If we understand that God is sovereign, and can arrange or rearrange what He chooses, then it’s inevitable that we ask the question, “God, why didn’t you stop it?” Why did God permit it? This is probably the number one complaint that turns from a simple question into a smoldering rage against God and the Bible.
God has never given us a tidy answer for why He permits suffering and disaster. But what we do know about God, not just from the Bible, is that He always has our ultimate best in mind.
Also, from the testimonies of those who have gone through deep suffering and pain, we hear He permits these things in our life, for our good. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul states, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”
That’s a hard pill to swallow — suffering, a gift? Particularly when you’ve been praying for the life of a loved one or a rescue from some disastrous situation. But the Bible assures us that God exploits all human evil and natural disasters for His own eternal purposes. He restrains them to keep the world from becoming as bad as it could be, or wants to be, and He restores to His people what they’ve lost because of them — even a hundredfold.
CP: You outline “setups” we give ourselves that lead to resenting God. What are some things we should avoid to keep bitterness from setting in and why?
Snyder: We set ourselves up for resentment in several ways. It might be because our theology has been shaped by false teaching. Some pastors and believers are persuaded that even to admit a bit of disappointment or resentment toward God is an automatic fail as a Christian. This is a dangerous teaching and can easily lead people away from the faith.
In counseling, I hear the following that cause people to turn resentful and bitter toward God:
-I don’t know who God really is.
-I perceive some failure on God’s part (usually a seemingly unanswered prayer).
-Life’s stresses are consuming me.
-I struggle with God’s sovereignty (He’s in charge, and I’m not).
-My life situation is distressing. It isn’t what I expected.
-I am discouraged.
-I have been mistreated and abused.
We prescribe the way God should respond in certain situations and when He doesn’t, our resentment and bitterness grows — God was AWOL; God let me down; God didn’t deliver on His promises; I prayed for patience, God sent me pain; Christians behaved abominably; the list is endless. Often only a good dose of reality leads us to a mature view of the God we worship.
We need to avoid building on our own misperceptions of the character of God, and the way He works in the world. It’s good to avoid the “God didn’t deliver” complaint. We obeyed the rules, did the right things, but God didn’t come through. Unless something happens to interrupt this line of reasoning, the believer ends up alienated and full of bitterness against the very One who is their most innocent and faithful friend.
It’s the testimony of God’s people for over four thousand years that God frequently gives us more than we ask for, or better than we expect. This truth is the oldest, longest-running witness. In God’s appointed time, His gifts are on the lavish, overly generous side.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law