How to Pray When You're Angry at God

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"What are you doing with my life?!" I shouted at God in our little adoration chapel. Well, I shouted internally in my head. There were too many people there in chapel with me for me to be able to shout at God out loud. 

It was March 2017. Joseph and I had been married for just three months. We were just figuring this marriage vocation out when we found out that we were expecting a little baby. But just eight, short weeks into the pregnancy, we lost Marion in a miscarriage. 

I couldn't figure out what sick trick God was trying to play with my life - and I didn't want to listen to Him long enough to hear His end of things. 

I was angry at God.

Could I do that? Could I be angry at the creator of the universe? The maker and supposed lover of my soul? The one that I used to be able to trust, even when everything was falling down around me?

Absolutely. 

But I couldn't just wallow in my anger. While processing Marion's death, I learned quite a bit about my relationship with the Lord. Slowly, I started to build up a trust with Him again. 

But learning to trust and be vulnerable with God meant I had to talk with Him. Even more, that healing process meant I had to listen to Him, too. 

If you're frustrated with the Lord and are struggling to be present in conversation with Him (or have no desire to even think about talking with Him!), here are five things to keep in mind: 

1. Realize it's okay to be mad at God

When Marion passed away, I didn't want much to do with God. The first stage of processing my grief left me yelling, shouting, and flailing against God's plan. How could a good, good Father who shows up and keeps His promises do something like this? 

Then, after I finished yelling, I hid from Him, I thought He wouldn't want me in my mess. I worried that He wouldn't forgive me for being mad at Him. But that couldn't have been further from the truth.

God wants all of your story. He wants you on your good days and the days that you really just want to cuss Him out in prayer. 

So give yourself permission to be frustrated. Angry. Sad. Confused. You don't have to have everything figured out, and Heavens knows you don't have to put a bow on the top of every prayer to make it look pretty and put together. 

2. Show up and let yourself be seen by Him

When you're angry at situations that are unfolding in your life, it can be hard to bring your frustration to prayer, let alone to know what to pray. 

You don't have to say much.

"If our prayer consists of nothing more than holding ourselves before God without doing anything or thinking of anything special, without any particular feelings, but with a heartfelt availability and trusting abandonment, then we could not do any better," writes Father Jacques Philippe in Time for God - one of the best books on prayer I've ever read. 

Simply being present and seen by the Father isn't a passive move - it's a courageous one. 

"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen," writes Brene Brown in her book Daring GreatlyIt takes courage to show up to a conversation with someone who you're frustrated and angry with.  

3. Don't stop praying

"Why should I still take time to pray?" I asked myself when I was frustrated with His plan. "Doesn't God already know what I'm going through?"

Even though it seems like one of the hardest things to do, we can't stop praying in times of desolation. 

Imagine how a marriage would function if every time that there was anger or frustration, the couple would stop talking to each other. Instead of processing the anger together, their silence and lack of communication allows the anger to fester between them. 

Don't let anger fester between you and God. Instead, keep showing up to prayer. A season of desolation is not the time to change your prayer life, but simply to persevere and be present. 

"In time of desolation, never make a change," Saint Ignatius writes in his rules for spiritual discernment. "Be firm and constant in proposals and determination in which one was in the preceding consolation." 

The Lord wants to process this anger and frustration with you - don't shut Him out. 

4. Remember that Christ knows what your pain feels like

"God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering," Saint Augustine wrote. 

If you're angry and in pain, you're never alone. Christ doesn't abandon you during your times of suffering and anger. Instead, He walks alongside you with an intimate knowledge of your pain. 

The Lord invites you into an intimate relationship with Him during your pain. He knows what pain is like. When we lost Marion, I felt alone and abandoned during that time. Then I realized that, while God may not have experienced a miscarriage, He sure knows what it's like to sacrifice a son. 

We read about Christ's infinite compassion and empathy in Saint Paul's Letter to the Hebrews. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession," Paul writes. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help."

5. Don't spend time comparing your suffering to the story of others

One of the worst things we can do when we're angry with God is compare our stories to the stories of those around us. 

Each one of us will process pain, anger, and grief differently.  Each one of us will bring those emotions to prayer differently. 

That's okay. 

"Souls are very different," writes Father Jacques Philippe in Time for God.  "There are more differences between people's souls than between people's faces. Each person's relationship with God is unique, and therefore each person's prayer is unique. No one can map out a path or method that applies to everyone, because that would mean disregarding people's freedom and the diversity of their spiritual journeys. It is up to each believer to discover, in response to the Spirit's movement and in the freedom of the Spirit, the path along which God wishes to lead him or her." 

In moments where it feels like life is falling apart, it can be tempting to want someone (anyone!) else's life. I've spent many seasons of desolation imagining what my life would be like if only this one cross was out of my way and off my shoulders.

Haven't we all been there? Even Christ calls out from the cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

But instead of looking around and wishing for anything other than the story He's inviting you into, be present to your own story - mess and all. It's a story that He's writing with you in mind. 

He isn't going to give you something you can't handle with His help.