Resentment of God is something that affects both Christians and atheists, yet few are able to admit it, and churches struggle to help, an author, pastor and church planter says.
John I. Snyder, an ordained pastor of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who has served in missions around the world and speaks at conferences across the U.S. and Europe, argues in Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame that resentment and anger are on the rise in today’s social climate.
As people deal with ever-growing confusion, injustice, and depression, many are blaming God for their pain, which is leading some to become disillusioned with Christianity, or walk away from faith altogether, he warns.
Resenting God tackles the many different reasons people become resentful toward God, from seemingly unanswered prayers to loss and suffering, and how that takes a grip on one’s life, with the negative effects spreading out toward the rest of society as well.
The author, who has taught New Testament studies at New College, Berkeley, California, shares of his own grief, frustration, and confusion when he underwent significant hardship and lost most of his eyesight for several years.
Greatly challenging was that his Christian friends and pastor deemed his “raw response” to be unacceptable for a believer, an attitude that Snyder warns continues to manifest in many churches, isolating Christians who are struggling.
The book, which was published on October 16, argues that much of these attitudes stem from an inaccurate view of God that misunderstands the role of suffering in faith, and advocates for the importance of good biblical teaching.
“We’ve all been there or are there. It can strike any person, anytime, anywhere. If we let down our guard and begin to give in to it, we’ll be pulled into a powerful downward spiral that we can’t escape by our own strength,” he writes about resentment.
“We find ourselves asking: ‘How can I forgive when the pain is so great? Does forgiving mean I have to forget the past? What if I choose not to forgive?'”
The book delves into the lives and various experiences of Christians around the world, including those under severe, daily persecution in North Korea, and how their view on suffering differs from many in the West.
Still, Resenting God offers hope and inspiration for those who feel their church doesn’t understand them and feel like they are being punished by God, affirming that God knows what people are going through, and will not walk away from them.
Below is a Q&A The Christian Post conducted with Snyder about Resenting God, which also touches upon some of the most difficult questions believers have, such as why does God allow suffering.
The email interview, conducted on Thursday, has been edited for clarity.
CP: You mention that resentment against God isn’t often preached at church. Do you feel that many pastors/church-leaders are ill-equipped to address the topic? Or are there not many good ways to address it at church at all?
Snyder: I think most pastors and church leaders are very capable of addressing this topic, but I have found many pastors feel uncomfortable with discussing it because resenting God is considered something Christians should never do, almost blasphemous — we shouldn’t complain about God or feel any resentment or bitterness toward him. I don’t know if anyone has ever said that to you, but it’s a lie.
Telling us not to resent or complain about God overlooks the fact that disillusionment with God and resentment toward him is a common and longstanding experience of God’s people, going far back into the Old Testament. Moses (Numbers 11:10-15), Jonah (Jonah 3–4), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-5), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:7) went through it, as well as many believers in church history up to the present day.
So there are sufficient precedents for teaching and preaching on the problem. However, there’s a general understanding that believers need to promote Christian life as “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” Anything else just doesn’t advertise well.
CP: In the book you point out the many reasons, including mistaken ideas of God, for why people come to resent God. What would you say are the root causes that lead people to gain mistaken perceptions of God?
Snyder: I’d summarize it as a lack of correct biblical teaching which leads inevitably to a misunderstanding of the character, ways, and purposes of God. This is made worse by a tendency to nurture our resentments along with others who feel the same way we do, opening ourselves up to the kind of relativism that leads us to believe whatever it is that we feel.
When we neglect Bible reading, we ignore the daily flow of biblical ideas and instead tend to adopt the ideas around us, or allow our own imaginations to fill in the theological blanks — typically with the most common illusions and myths.
These factors lead to a growing resentment against God. We end up tending to avoid contact and honest conversations with other believers who could help us understand what we are going through. When wounded, we can’t rely on our own perceptions of things to get us through.
We need the body of Christ to log in on the struggles and doubts we may be experiencing. Some Christians won’t understand, but many have been where we are now, including pastors who have passed through this spiritual desert and emerged successfully.
CP: You talk about the persecution of Christians in North Korea, and how that compares to people in Western countries who call themselves Christians but do not really act like Jesus.
Is there an argument to be made that those who suffer more are closer to Christ? When Christians in comparatively affluent nations pray for peace and prosperity in their own lives, and to some extent receive those things, are they perhaps limiting how the Christian faith is to be experienced?
Snyder: We all want peace and prosperity (and lots of it), but historically that’s not how God usually grows us up. No old saint ever got that way by a hammock in the shade. Like it or not, suffering always has been high on the list of spiritual growth experiences, and whereas we may avoid it like the plague, nevertheless, it tends to come our way — regardless of whether we are living in affluence or poverty. God is sovereign over everything, and there is no way we can limit the heights or depths of growth in our faith he calls us to experience.
The New Testament often speaks of the power of suffering, when blessed of God, to form within us the kind of maturity he seeks (Romans 5:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-4).
Regarding those who call themselves Christians, but don’t really act like Jesus — well, we aren’t called (or qualified) to judge their salvation, but we do have a right to question and evaluate their behavior based on their outward actions. Disciples of Jesus are known by their fruit.
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Source: Christian Post