The Overwhelming Love of an Angry God
By Erin Greneaux
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Erin's Story
My preschool daughter didn’t skip to the car with her usual enthusiasm as I picked her up. I studied her face in the rearview mirror as I began my investigation of the cause.
“Did you get to show your class your purse for show and tell?”
“No, we ran out of time.”
“Did you get to try some letter Z foods in taste testing?”
“No, we ran out of time.”
“What was taking up all of the time today?”
“We had a birthday party.”
“Oh! That’s fun! Whose birthday was it?”
“It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. It was just a party for all of the moms.”
The moms? Why would there be…oh no. No no no no no no…
Today was Muffins with Mom. I had it on the calendar. I completely forgot. I wasn’t there.
Every kid in her class sat and ate muffins with their mom and my daughter sat alone by herself and wondered why I wasn’t there with her, and I wasn’t doing anything. I could have been there. I should have been there. I am the worst mom in the world.
I pulled the car over, turned around, and looked my daughter in the eye. “I am so sorry I wasn’t there. I wanted to be there and forgot that it was today. There isn’t anywhere else in the world I would rather be than with you in your class for Muffins with Mom. Will you forgive me? How about we go get some muffins right now and have a Muffins with Mom picnic for just the two of us?”
On the drive home, I put on my sunglasses to hide the tears stinging the corners of my eyes. There is nothing worse than being unsure of the love of those closest to us, the ones who are supposed to be there. I have felt that embarrassing loneliness before, and it hurts. What I hadn’t experienced before was the intense grief of being the one who had inflicted that sense of abandonment on one whom I love so much.
It tore me apart, but mostly it made me mad. I was so angry with myself for not being there. I hated the way my actions had made her feel. I would do anything to reverse time and be there.
As I sat beating myself up, God reminded me of a story in the Bible when Jesus caused His own close friends deep pain. Lazarus was sick, and his sisters sent messengers to tell Jesus to hurry.
Jesus could have gone to His friend immediately, but He didn’t.
“So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days” (John 11:5, NLT). When Jesus arrives, He is too late, and Lazarus is already dead. Both sisters say the same thing, “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
We have all experienced Mary and Martha’s pain. They knew that Jesus loved them, and yet, He wasn't there. When they needed Jesus most, He didn’t come.
“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled” (John 11:33, NLT).
I noticed something new in Jesus’ response. I remembered His tears and empathy with the sisters’ sadness, but I had overlooked His anger. We see His anger again in verse 38, “Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance” (John 11:38, NLT). Jesus was mad at the whole situation. Why?
Unlike my own anger at myself, Jesus is angry at death. He is mad that His loved ones endure sorrow and suffering. This was never God’s plan or design, and the fact that we live in a world of pain and death makes him furious. We are His beloved children, and He hates the effects of sin.
What a different picture this is from the idea of an angry God who uses suffering as punishment! That idea couldn’t be further from the truth!
In the same way that I vowed to make things right with my daughter, Jesus also set out to make things right. He raised Lazarus from the dead, but He didn't stop there. His entire purpose on earth was to set things right, not just for Lazarus, but for all of us. He would raise the dead again, but it would be the stone to his own grave rolling away the next time, and that resurrection would conquer the power of sin and death for all mankind.
This world is filled with grief, suffering, and loss. Sometimes we feel like the little girl sitting alone, watching every other child eating muffins with their mom. When we feel deserted or forgotten by God, we must remember this picture of Jesus.
We remember that He weeps with us. He loves us so much that our pain makes Him angry.
We remember that He took on death to make things right even though the fault was not His.
We remember that one day we will be reunited with Him in a place with no pain, and where we will never leave His presence. And on that day, everything will be set right.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
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Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Erin Greneaux is an award-winning author of and mom to three girls who make every day an adventure. She loves working in the garden, and finds her best inspiration while digging in the dirt.
A graduate of Baylor University, Erin has worked in children’s ministry, missions, education in at-risk communities, and curriculum development. Erin is passionate about exploring the practical application of faith in everyday life. She loves to take Biblical ideas and present them in a way that is clear, creative, and captivating.