“In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD your Redeemer.
When I was a young man, verses like this one disturbed me. I just couldn’t accept the notion that God could be angry. For me, anger seemed like the antithesis of love. How could a loving God turn away his face in a surge of anger?
Over the years, I have become more accepting—but not completely comfortable— with the biblical picture of an angry God. I realize that anger is sometimes an appropriate emotion. It is right, for example, to be angry when a mob beats an innocent person because of his race, or when women are sold into slavery because they are Christians, or when a child is abused by a cruel adult. God’s anger, I now see, is a pure, righteous response to human sin.
Moreover, I have grown in my understanding of the peculiar flavor of my own personal experiences of anger. I can grasp now how much my fear of God’s anger had to do with my emotional response to my human father’s anger, which was very scary to me. Knowing how I respond to anger in a father figure helps me to see how much I project upon God. It also enables me to accept the biblical picture of God without the fear I once knew as a child.
Why? Because I know that God is completely just and completely loving. I can begin to understand how anger is not inconsistent with deep, lasting love. As a father, I know how angry I can be with my children. Yet this anger in no way diminishes my love for them. And, in a way, it is an extension of that love. I want what’s best for my children. When they do that which harms them, I feel both compassion and anger. Thus, I can begin to grasp how God could be angry with his people “for a moment,” when, in fact, his kindness is everlasting and his compassion lasts forever.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to the biblical picture of God’s anger?
Does this image of an angry God remind you of something from your own personal history?
How do you reconcile the love of God with his wrath?
In what ways have you experienced God’s kindness and compassion?
Gracious God, you know how much I have wrestled with the idea that you can be angry. For so long, it seemed as if your wrath was inconsistent with your love. So I thank you for the ways you have helped me to grow in my understanding. Thank you for helping me to unravel my own personal experiences of anger. Thank you for allowing me to begin to see how love and anger aren’t always in conflict.
Most of all, thank you for the fact that your anger comes as a surge, while your love is everlasting. Knowing that you love me gives me the confidence to see you in the fullness of your revelation. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Be the Answer
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