I was planning on writing an entry about my nephews and the funny things they say in do in honor of their birthdays. However, I’ll save that for later this week. Instead, I need to write about the wrath of God. This one is more for me because I need to process. I clenched my teeth and cried on my drive home today and was unsettled for most of the “pirate party” for my nephews this weekend because of the news.
My sister’s friend is a lawyer and told us about the most recent case where a man was chased by a young, local police officer, hid behind a corner with a crow bar, hit him over the head and took his gun. Witnesses heard him say, “You have my gun. Just go.” But instead, as the officer lie helpless on the ground, the man shot him three times in the head. Police found him two days later wearing the same shirt with the officer’s blood on it.
Just typing that boils up a rage inside me that brings up painfully stinging tears and I have to clench my jaw to keep from screaming. “Lord why? Why do you allow it? Won’t you act!” In these moments, I don’t want any of Christ’s grace or forgiveness. I want only His wrath and justice. And I’m struggling because I know my God is a God of love but I also know that my God is a just God. I don’t even want to forgive this man. I want him dead. I don’t want him breathing this air. He is evil and I want him gone.
I struggle because I don’t know how to handle these emotions that are bubbling inside of me. My hands shake with rage but at the same time, I wonder what God is thinking as He watches me. I don’t believe I serve a God who will allow this type of evil to go unpunished and so here’s what I think He might be thinking:
“Katie, I’ve got it under control.”
“Katie, I am a just God. I understand your anger. I’m angry too. Punishments will be paid. I hate injustice more than you do.”
“Katie, I created that police officer and love him and his family more than you ever could. I know their pain and I am with them.”
I used to wonder if God grieved for us when things like this happened. Not because I doubted His love but because I thought, “He sees the big picture and knows the final outcome so maybe this doesn’t even phase Him.”
But then I remembered how Jesus wept. He wept when he found Lazarus dead, not because Lazarus was dead, but because he saw the pain of those he loved and he wept for them and for their pain. We were not meant for this pain. We were not created to die. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. And the God who knit us together in the womb weeps for us when we hurt, even if our hurt may be silly or illegitimate. He still weeps. He feels our pain.
So as angry as I am right now, I know God is more. He weeps for injustice. I shake with rage over one incident. I can only imagine the rage He must feel for all those crimes of injustice daily happening. So though I have these troubling, somewhat disturbing emotions to deal with, I think they might be from Him. I think they might be reminders that there is such a thing as a “righteous anger” and we should weep for injustice. We should boil with rage. But this rage should also move us to action; to do what we can to prevent injustice but also to point others to the eternal kingdom where THERE WILL BE NO INJUSTICE. So many people are going to miss out on this kingdom and that is reason to weep. And reason to act. Reason to speak. Reason to point to Jesus. Every day. Point to Jesus.
I watched Hudson and Vander fight tonight. They fought over the nerf bullets. Neck vains were popped, fists were shaking and tiny hands were swinging because of injustice. Because Vander stole Hudson’s bullet and it wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. And Huddy was angry. I feel like Huddy right now. Except I don’t have anyone to hit.
I used to swing at God. “You’re to blame for this evil, God! Why do you allow it?” I’ve wrestled with Him about that issue but now I’ve stopped swinging at Him. However, I’m still stuck with this balled up a fist, wanting to punch someone.
But who can I hit?
I want to be angry at that evil man. I want him to die a slow, painful death. I don’t want to consider why he is messed up. I just want him to suffer. But I know that if I actually saw him suffering, I wouldn’t be appeased. It’s not the man that I’m angry at. I have a bigger fish to fry.
It’s Satan. He is down here screwing everything up and although we sure play a huge part and freewill blah, blah, blah…the fact is- this is not how it was supposed to be and we have a real enemy who is pure evil. I write things like that and wonder about the atheists and agnostics. They must think I’m silly. They must think I use this made up enemy as a scapegoat to feel better about having someone to blame. But, as Blaise Pascal said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” Truly there is enough light to see the evidence of a perfect God and an enemy who has unleashed all sorts of evil in this world.
So I shake my fist at this, our evil enemy. I shake my fist at injustice. And I long for the day when God will avenge; when God will bring justice and punishment and wrath. And I am grateful for His wrath.
I realize Hell and God’s wrath create stumbling blocks for some non-believers. They can’t believe in a God who would create beings destined for Hell. However, I can’t believe in a God who is unfair; who lets evil go unpunished.
At the beginning of the year, I had another one of these, “I’m so angry at an evil person I’ve never met that I could scream and shout and shake with rage” moments. It was on that day that God brought me to Habakkuk. Don’t be fooled. I don’t typically hang around in obscure Old Testament books. My motivation was actually quite silly. I was waiting in a pizza place and the worker was eyeing me. Giving me the “I want to make small talk with you and maybe date you” eye and I wasn’t interested. So I used the Bible as a shield. We’re told to that aren’t we? Armor of God passage? Anyways, I quickly flipped it open and since said pizza man was quickly approaching, I needed to be instantly engaged in whatever I flipped to. Which happened to be Habakkuk.
So I read the small book of Habakkuk and left the parlor with a pepperoni pizza and a full heart. God knew exactly what I needed. I love when He speaks so clearly through His word. I was struggling with these emotions of intense anger and He knew I needed to be reminded what kind of God He is.
Here are some lines the prophet Habakkuk lamented to our Lord thousands of years ago along with God’s response:
Habakkuk: Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. v. 3-4
God: Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told. v. 5
Habakkuk: O LORD, are you not from everlasting?…Why then are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
God: Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of an end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Chapter 2, verse 2-3
God proceeds to say “woe to…” people who are violent and unjust and corrupt, “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,” and “the LORD is in his holy temple; let the earth be silent before him.”
The next book, Zephaniah continues this line of thinking and speaks often of this “day of wrath” that is coming for “those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.” v. 6 And we’re encouraged to, “seek the LORD , all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.” chapter 2, v. 3 Again, we are reminded that, “The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land…Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and very new day he does not fail…”
Basically, there will be a day of reckoning. Wait and watch for it. Expect it to come. Evil will not go unpunished forever. Everyone will one day acknowledge God and those who lived lives of disobedience, who mocked God and his children, who thwarted His justice, they will pay.
Habakkuk’s response to God surprised me. “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” chapter 3, verse 2-3
He was just calling for God’s wrath as I do when I think of men like the one who executed the cop. But then, when God reminds Habukkuk of His power and glory and that there will indeed be a day of reckoning, the prophet asks God to remember His mercy. Mercy?
I don’t want to think about that. I want the stereotypical God of the Old Testament. The God of brimstone and fire who will smite anyone who disobeys. Men like this deserve smiting. But here, even in the Old Testament, Habukkuk calls on our God’s mercy. Apparently He was merciful even before Jesus.
Though this makes me feel guilty for just calling for His wrath, I’m glad that I serve not only a powerful, angry, jealous God but also a God of mercy. This doesn’t mean evil will go unpunished. He will be fair. It is impossible for Him not to be. But somehow, someway He is both at once: a God of wrath and a God of mercy. And I love Him for it.
I haven’t written anything new or original here. Really I just needed to sort these feelings and record them for the next time I’m boiling over with anger because of an injustice. Mike Erre is a teaching pastor who is much more insightful than I am and in a recent series gave a message entitled, “God is angry.” If you want to learn more about how this God of wrath can also be such a loving and merciful God, click on the link and watch.
Thanks for letting me vent. I promise my next post will be much more light-hearted- it will be about balloons and ABC gum and pirates and innocence and heaven.