Yesterday was difficult. I engaged in a debate with a friend in which criticisms dug deep, and when we finally parted, I was exhausted. I hate being involved in those discussions. It feels safer to accept a relationship "as is." I don't like to gamble my relationships on the hope that the other person will be strong enough to "grow" through criticism rather than reject it—or me.
Sometimes I withdraw from God the same way I avoid difficult discussions. I worry that being critical of him will jeopardize our relationship. So instead of arguing my beliefs with my Creator, most of the time I hold my tongue, stare at the sky, and bury my feelings. Well, sort of.
I often ignore my emotions until they explode in a full-blown temper tantrum: "God, I'm so frustrated with you!" Although I try to keep my temper in check as a respectful response to God, my humanity can cause an emotional eruption of volcanic strength. Am I thankful God is in my life? Of course! Yet being critical or asking for a debate with the Almighty makes me anxious; I'm totally out of my league.
How does God feel about criticism? Does he rage with anger when we're critical of his plan or when we walk away in a spoiled reaction to his will?
Job was critical of God (Job 30-31). He complained, "I did things right and you punished me. What's up with that?"
God debated back: "I am bigger than you. I know more than you. I deserve the position and the buck stops here." In contemporary terms God put the smack down on Job.
Then Job repented of his anger (Job 42:5). He accepted the eternal sovereignty of God and his spirit calmed. He responded, "I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes." God's words helped Job see who God is.
I've yelled at God. I've fussed about his decisions and his plans. I've argued my problems were too big to be solved. I've been so frustrated that I've shaken my arthritic fist toward heaven and said, "Hello! Are you paying attention or just goofing off?"
Disrespectful? I don't think so. Human? Definitely. Job was right when he said, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:3, NIV). Maybe this passionate discourse of criticism is a path to understanding who God really is. Maybe it's a way we can fix the root of the issue rather than just stand around being polite.
I'm positive God is strong enough to listen to our complaints without walking away from our relationship. In the same way parents administer compassion when a teen cries that her life is over because she doesn't have a date for the prom, God tenderly waits while we express our pain.
"Oh, Debbie," he says. "If you only knew the wonderful plans I have for you. Just hang on."
The Christian faith demands complete commitment. Unfortunately, our minds can't fully commit until we're convinced that we have all the facts. Sometimes we need to blurt out our fears and wait for God to debate his point by administering calm assurance or by changing our circumstances. Sometimes trauma has to run an emotional course forcing us to strain the neck high enough to see over the horizon and catch a glimpse of God's power and the depth of his love.
God is more active in my life when I'm a participant in his plan rather than a passive bystander. He knows my inner thoughts, yet he longs to hear those thoughts bubble to the surface. "I don't understand you, God, but I'm still trying," or even, "I love you, but I'm so angry today. What were you thinking?"
Of course God is always going to win the debate, but that's not the point. When I engage with him, I learn who he is. Unlike fragile humans who can be devastated by criticism, perhaps God longs for a debate to reveal his true character.