Originally published March 26, 2016
Note: When I write “we” and “us” in this post, I mean it.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all wondered, at some point, whether we have made God angry. Then maybe we passed a billboard or saw a commercial that proclaimed, “God’s not mad at you, no matter what.”
That’s a relief, right? Well, maybe it could be—except for one problem: it’s a lie.
It’s not just a lie; it’s an incredibly dangerous one, because it minimizes the reality of Our LORD’s awesome power. This is the God who wiped an entire city off the map because of its immorality—and then turned a woman into a pillar of salt because she disobeyed Him and looked back at the destruction she was fleeing. This is the God who ended a man’s life because he used contraception…once. This is the God who slew the first born of every Egyptian home, all in one night, because Egypt’s ruler was persecuting people who loved God. We’re going to say He can’t be mad? Where the heck did that come from?
It comes from us—from our desire to be able to do anything we wish without being judged for it. We want to continue in whatever lifestyle we choose, and we don’t want to be criticized for it by anyone—even God. We are a culture of four-year-olds who want that third slab of double-fudge cake, eat it even though our dad tells us not to (when the only reason he says no is because more cake’s not good for us, anyway), and then expect him not to be mad when he finds us in the bathroom throwing up and realizes what we did.
The idea that God can’t be mad at us is wrong for another reason, too: it implies that a God who gets mad can’t at the same time be good. I’m pretty sure the Texan term for that is “bull-honkey“. God’s power and the fearsomeness of His fury—those are some of the best things about Him! They are a critical part of His goodness! They’re key to our knowledge of Him as Protector. They help us to remember that if someone threatens His children, He WILL rout the attacker.
In Psalm 29, we read
“The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is power;
the voice of the LORD is splendor.
The voice of the LORD cracks the cedars;
the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon,
Makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
and Sirion like a young bull.
The voice of the LORD strikes with fiery flame;
the voice of the LORD rocks the desert;
the LORD rocks the desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forest bare.
All in his palace say, “Glory!”
Whom do you want protecting you when you are in danger—a God who can’t get mad?…or a God whose voice alone is enough to start fires, split cedars, twist oaks, strip forests, and rock the desert? I sure know which one I’d pick.
God’s anger is a good thing; one of His attributes is that He is all good. But being good doesn’t mean He can’t get mad.
His anger isn’t the biggest thing about Him, though; even greater is His desire to protect and shelter us. We can’t deny this when we read Psalm 91:
“You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.’
God will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,
from the destroying plague,
Will shelter you with pinions,
spread wings that you may take refuge;
God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield….”
See? God wants to shelter us. He wants to protect us so much, in fact, that He gives us a very easy way to run to His safety, even after we have offended Him.
In Nineveh and for King David, it involved things such as sackcloth and ashes, but we have an easier route. All we have to do to find it is to turn to Psalm 32:
“As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away;
I groaned all the day.
For day and night, your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength withered as in dry summer heat.
Then I declared my sin to you;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
Thus should all your faithful pray
in time of distress.
Though flood waters threaten,
they will never reach them.
You are my shelter; from distress you keep me;
with safety you ring me round.” (italics mine)
Aren’t these verses beautiful? Here is a simple key to God’s mercy. It’s repentance and Confession. All we have to do is run to Him and confess with sincere hearts. Real repentance, though, requires the humility it takes to give Him our lives—to commit to obey Him (even if we don’t understand His reasons). This is the way we can find shelter under His wings.
When we do confess and put our lives under His direction, He always forgives. Mercy is His greatest attribute, and one of the nicest qualities of His mercy is that when we try to follow Him, He knows it’s hard, and He gives us the strength to do it. As written in Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Jesus told this little Polish nun, over and over, that His mercy was like an ocean, and that if you put all of humanity’s sins together (yes, even that one) and tossed them into that ocean, they would be like one tiny drop in the unfathomable abyss of His mercy.
But, today, we don’t even want to try. We can’t admit we’ve done anything wrong. We make our decisions, push forward, and expect HIM to honor US.
No. No. No.
That’s not His way. He knows our hearts. He knows that we are easily tempted to things that are beneath our dignity as His children. So He gives us Scripture and teachings that date back to Him to draw us to a life that will heal us and keep us close.
All He asks is that we abide by those teachings,…but instead, we tell ourselves that God couldn’t possibly be mad at us, no matter what we’ve done.
Of course He can be mad. He’s God.
It’s time for us all to acknowledge His power, His might, and His ability to wipe every single one of us off the face of the map. It’s also time for us to confess to Him that, if He did wipe us off the map, it wouldn’t be at all unfair.
Onan contracepted…once. How many times have we?
Sodom and Gomorrah, the towns He obliterated, were crude, selfish, sexually immoral, and had no regard for God’s commands. How much have those characteristics overtaken our culture now?
God slew all the firstborn of an entire nation because their head, Pharaoh, was persecuting people who loved God. How many in our society have made it harder for us to let our faith guide every decision?…and how many of us have “caved” to that pressure and given in—or fueled this fire with our own sins?
Wouldn’t we rather be under the shelter of His wings than in that desert He finally decides we’ve left Him no choice but to rock?
Wouldn’t we rather be shielded in the shadow of His loving hand than standing under that cedar we’ve been daring His voice to split?
The key to being nestled safely in His protection, and not sitting atop that oak when His voice finally twists it, is accessible to each of us—no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, and no matter what our lives look like. That key is repentance, and the time for it is now.