What kind of question is that, right? Most people’s initial response would be a resounding, YES, of course I’m real with God. Are we really being real with God though? My friend Izzy Avraham from the Holy Language Institute recently did a short video on Facebook (you can watch it HERE) where he brought up some verses in the Psalms that caused me to really think about whether we are really real with God. Before I get into the verses, I want to talk about the underlying problem. As people, we want to be accepted by our peers, family, and friends. This need to be accepted and to be part of the group is so strong that we will often do things even if we do not understand why we do them because it’s what everyone else is doing.
There’s a video making the rounds online that illustrates this point very well. A woman in a waiting room is not in on the gag, but everyone else has been instructed to stand up when a bell rings! In no time at all this woman is also standing up every time the bell rings. As everyone in the waiting room is called to the back, she continues to stand at the sound of the bell even when she is the only person left in the room. As new people enter the waiting room and see her standing each time this bell rings, they also start to stand as well. It’s a very interesting video that you can watch HERE!
With this in mind, it’s not hard to imagine lots of examples of things that people do every day but have no idea why they do them other than it’s what everyone does! It’s the social norm. Unfortunately, social norms have also made their way into the church, specifically in regards to our relationship with YHWH. Most of us don’t reveal every thought we have to other people! We have to be careful about how real we are with the people around us. For example, someone may bump into us and cause us to spill a drink on ourselves and in our own minds we are mad…why was that person so clumsy, how dare they make you spill your drink! We may want to lash out, but we don’t. Instead, we smile and tell the person that it’s alright. We were not real with the person and in this case, it’s okay because we took the high road by not letting our anger get the best of us! We can’t get away with that with God though! He already knows our thoughts, yet so many of us are not real with God. Our social norms tell us that it’s wrong to get mad at God, to express anger and tell Him how we really feel would be extremely disrespectful. Let’s take a look at some of the prayers prayed in the Psalms and see just how real David was with God.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2
David is being real with YHWH, he is calling Him out asking, “why have your forsaken me, I cry, but you don’t answer.” Instead of saying something we might hear today like, “when one door closes, God will open another” David is real and calls God out asking “Why are you so far from saving me?”
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Psalm 13:1–2
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
Can you see how different David’s prayers are from the way many of us have been taught to pray today? David also prays prayers of thanks like many of us today, but there is also a raw emotional side where David is real with YHWH. Can you imagine someone standing up today to pray and saying, “How long will you hide your face from us Lord, why do you hide from us in our time of trouble, why are you so far away? How long will you continue to let our enemies be exalted over us?” That prayer would likely get labeled at blasphemous, but it’s a prayer of David, a man after God’s own heart!
“Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” Psalm 39:13
“How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?” Job 7:19
Look at what David and Job say to God, “Look away from me.” Wow, can you even imagine saying to God, “Hey, can you just look away from me and leave me alone so I can be happy again?” What would your friends think if you called them up and told them you just prayed that God would leave you alone so you could be happy? They would probably think you are crazy! Of course when we read these passages in context we see that it’s not as bad as they sound. David and Job are both talking about punishment for sin and asking YHWH to lament from His punishment so they can be happy again.
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? Psalm 44:23–24
Here we see the Son of Korah cry out in anguish to YHWH asking Him why He is sleeping and rejecting them. “Why do you hide your face,” they ask, “why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” This is real. They are not holding back the way they really feel.
It’s one thing to withhold our anger and true feelings with the person that causes us to spill our drink or cuts us off in traffic, but why do we do the same thing with God? He knows our anger, our grief, our displeasure already, so why hide it? Why not cry out in anger to God when we feel He has not heard our prayers or when we are frustrated with Him. To steal a line from my brother Daniel McGirr, it’s time to let go of “church defined good living” and be real with God. He knows our hearts, yet so many of us have been taught not to be real with Him for fear of being blasphemous. It’s okay to be angry with God. Just like with human relationships, they are not always rainbows and butterflies. When you are angry or dissatisfied with God, He knows, so why not be real with Him and express your anger and dissatisfaction? Let’s all take a step back and re-examine our relationship with YHWH and make a conscious effort to be real with Him.
Belief in God does not mean that we magically become shielded from bad things. Bad things are still going to happen and when they do it’s okay to be upset or angry and cry out to God. The church system may tell you it’s wrong and that you should stay positive because “when God closes one door He opens another and even if He doesn’t open a door He will open a window.” This may be true, but it’s also okay to be real with YHWH and to express your anger with Him. Just look at Job, David, and the Psalms and you will see that mighty men of God go through bad times and when they do they express their true feelings and don’t just put on their happy face and wait for things to get better.
Let’s be real with God!
A great book that ties in with this concept and also expands on it greatly is “The Sin of Certinanty” by Peter Enns.