I once received a phone call from a man who told me that he needed to see me immediately. Since I knew the man had been going through a rough time because of a recent divorce I crawled out of bed, got dressed and drove across town to his house. It didn’t take me long to see that the guy was out of control with anger and anguish. He would yell at me then yell at God. At one point he screamed at God declaring that God had let him down and he didn’t want God anywhere near him ever again. He scolded me that I should have done more to make his wife stay and that I let his family down by not keeping his family together. He then went back to chastising God for not caring enough to make his marriage work. This went on for over an hour with me mostly just listening because every time I went to speak he interrupted with another tirade. Finally, seeing we were going nowhere, I went home and back to bed.
The next morning the man phoned to apologize, but now he had a new problem. He couldn’t believe that he had said the things he did the night before and wondered if God could forgive him. I assured him that God forgives everyone who is sorry for their past and then reminded him that we all have our off days when we let things get out of control. When he finally hung up I don’t think either of us were totally satisfied with my take on the situation. Though what I told him was true enough, the words seemed to have a hollow ring to them in light of the intensity of the previous evening.
What I wish is that I could have told him that what he was doing that evening was praying. He was pouring out every emotion in his entire body to God. Probably for the first time in his life he was telling God how he honestly felt about life. That evening there were no bent knees, folded hands and simplistic platitudes. Instead, only gut wrenching pain that screamed out in frustration and anguish.
Jacob wrestled with God and wouldn’t let Him go until He blessed him. The result was that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means, “God-wrestler.” Moses may not have yelled at God, but he made every excuse in the book to get out of doing God’s will. Abraham bargained with God about Sodom, Paul complained about his ill treatment at the hands of his fellow Christians. Job came to the place where he told his friends that prayer was a waste of time, and the Prophets spent a great deal of time arguing with God, as well as being frustrated and angry over God’s plans for their lives.
The words of our prayers may not always be pretty and their content may be self-centered and laced with anger and frustration, but God still listens because He loves us. In our more rational moments our prayers may be God-centered and full of contrition and sorrow for sin. Regardless, whether we are wrestling with God or calling out His name in the calm of our soul, God is with us. Maybe, sometimes we need to have a real heart-to-heart with God where we honestly unload our inner most doubts, fears, and pain. When we feel abandoned and broken, it’s time to talk to God and not pretend everything is fine. God’s big enough to handle anything we have to say.