It was the return trip from hell.
For 10 days, my wife and I had enjoyed a picture-perfect vacation in Scotland and her inner isles. We were flying home from Edinburgh to Newark, where we would catch our connecting flight home.
At least, that was the plan.
Roiling thunderstorms in the area delayed our flight three times until the airline finally canceled it around 11:00 pm. The mad rush to the service desk began, where I waited in line for 2 1/2 hours while frantically searching for a hotel room (I finally found one about 15 miles from the airport). Meanwhile, my wife sat down and tried to reach a customer service agent by phone – and finally gave up over an hour later. When we finally came face-to-face with an agent, it was 1:30 am and I was cranky, my ankles were swollen, and I’m sure I smelled like a yak.
The agent told us that she couldn’t get us on a return flight home for two days. We weren’t about to spend 48 hours in Newark, so we asked if there were any flights to Houston. There happened to be one the next evening. We figured we would fly to Houston, snag a rental car, and drive 4 hours through the night to our home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
When we got to Houston, the car was ready for us. My wife and I had our passports but no driver’s licenses, so I had my daughter take a picture of my DL and text it to me. The rental agent couldn’t accept it. By then it was around 9 pm and this 63-year old man was about to cry like a nap-deprived toddler.
When we gathered our senses, my wife and I were able to score a nearby hotel room and a flight to DFW the next morning. Home never looked so good.
Later that week, I debuted a monologue on the character of Job. I portrayed him as a Texas rancher, but the biblical story remained the same: his unspeakable sufferings, his friends’ unhelpful advice, the encounter with God in a whirlwind. As I re-read the book, I was struck by the fact that Job never abandoned his faith. To be sure, he ranted and railed against heaven, but in all of that, he was acknowledging that God was present.
Some believers might warn you to put a lid on your anger toward God. Even a popular Christian website that gives answers to theological questions states, “…Yes, it is wrong to be angry at God. Anger at God is a result of an inability or unwillingness to trust God even when we do not understand what He is doing.”
In my own life, I have discovered that getting to that trust often involves wrestling with God. In addition to Job, Moses, Jeremiah and the Psalmist took the Lord to task. Their angsty, white-hot dialogues with God were part of a process that eventually led to a renewed faith.
I believe that God is big enough to understand that life is hard – after all, Christianity teaches that He Himself put on flesh and blood, suffering for our sakes. Jesus never had a flight canceled, but He did experience disappointment, sadness and deprivation. On the cross, he even felt separated from His Father when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) — which the Psalmist wrote centuries earlier when he was going through difficult times.
However, the Bible proves that when the righteous go toe-to-toe with their Maker, God doesn’t respond with the nuclear option. He listens compassionately (Psalm 10:17). Sometimes he asks questions (Jonah 4:9-11). Other times he rebukes in thunder (Job 38:1-3). Despite Job’s indignation, he remained righteous because he yearned to encounter God; in the middle of the storm he was still able to declare:
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).
Yes, you can get mad with God. Yell, cry, gripe, shake your fist — those can all be part of anguished prayer. And after your tears are spent and your heart is catching its breath, you just might hear a small, still voice as Elijah did, sending your back into the world with grace and encouragement.