Yesterday my wife and I celebrated 38 years of marriage. If I were to identify the most important factors in the growth of our relationship, one of them would certainly be the capacity to bring more and more of who we really are to the relationship, including anger, frustration, and disappointment. What I have learned over the years is that if we only bring our “positive feelings” to the relationship, we eventually feel disconnected.
Of course, there is no way to really hide those negative feelings. I know they are there. She knows they are there. If we don’t express them, the end result is a level of interaction that feels so out of touch with what is really going on. Fortunately, one of us (usually my wife I am sad to say) eventually has the courage to say, “Ok, what the heck is going on? What’s the matter? Somethings wrong. What is it?” What follows is an outpouring of pent up feelings and emotions that reveal where the relationship really is. Although the whole thing is very uncomfortable, bringing all of who we are to the relationship restores our connection and we once again feel in sync.
At the same time as I have learned this truth about my marriage, I have also discovered that this is true about my forty-one year relationship with God. Unless I bring all of who I am to God, I will eventually feel disconnected. When life is humming along and blessings are abundant, I find it easy to praise and thank God for blessings received. But when life is full of trials and tribulations, I find it hard to bring all my feelings to God. I realize how quickly I edit my feelings. I don’t find it hard to ask God for help during these times. But if the truth be known, during such difficult times the real issue is not just the need for help, but that I am very frustrated and angry with God and I don’t easily go there. It doesn’t seem the respectful thing to do. After all, who am I to get angry with Almighty God?
We find it hard to bring our negative emotions—especially anger—to God even though the Bible is full of prayers where people do exactly that? “Why do you stand so far off, O Lord/and hide yourself in time of trouble (Ps10:1)?” “How long, O Lord?/will you forget me forever?/how long will you hide your face from me (13:1)?” O God, why have you utterly cast us off?/why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture (74:1)?” What is revealing in these prayers is that the prayers don’t usually end with anger and frustration. The person who begins by lamenting “How long, O Lord?” often ends by declaring “But I put my trust in your mercy/my heart is joyful because of your saving help (Ps 13:5).”
What we see in the Psalms and in our own prayers is that if we bring all of who we are to God, we not only ask God for help—a request that is often answered with God’s saving help—but also open ourselves to the possibility of a deeper connection, regardless of whether or not our specific request has been answered to our satisfaction. If our request has not been answered to our satisfaction, what we may discover is that even though our problems are not yet resolved, we know that the God who has saved us in the past is with us and will not abandon us in the present crisis.