Is God mad at you?

packer-wrath-quote

I’m uncomfortable around angry people. And more so if they’re mad at me.

I don’t really like feeling angry myself. While it is empowering, it leaves a bad aftertaste.

So thinking about God being angry makes me uncomfortable, too.

I was most uncomfortable this week with our reading assignment in J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. It’s chapter 15, “The Wrath of God.” (Can we substitute a more modern word for “wrath”? I’m going to use “anger” here.)

Packer says he knows we play it down. We don’t like talking about God’s anger for these reasons:

  1. We think anger isn’t God-like.

Yes, I admit it. I don’t want to equate God’s anger with how I see man’s anger: bad tempers; out of control behavior; violent mood swings. I agree with how James speaks of anger: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). (For more on this, check out Brant Hansen’s book, Unoffendable.)

But Packer reminds us there is a difference between God’s anger and our anger. Ours is often self-indulgent, whereas God’s is always a reaction to evil.

  1. We wonder if God’s anger is cruel.

We know God is good. But don’t his judgments sometimes come across as too harsh?

Packer says no. He says God is always fair. Agreed.

(Except when God isn’t fair. It doesn’t seem fair to me that I get forgiveness for every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit just because Jesus paid the price instead. Grace goes beyond fair.)

But my bigger disagreement with Packer is here. Packer says that God’s anger isn’t cruel because we choose it for ourselves.

Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way. If it were my choice, I’d always choose less pain and more pleasure as my consequence. Let’s all eat Krispy Kreme donuts and lose weight, not gain it.

So while I understand what Packer is alluding to (such as, if we choose to play with fire, we’ll get burned as a consequence), I think he’s underestimating our foolishness.

Our decision-making skills aren’t as refined as they need to be. We don’t always think the consequence will apply to me, or at least not until a very long time from now. (No need to start saving for retirement now, right? It’s so far down the road.)

So with all respect to Mr. Packer, I can’t agree with his statement:

“The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications: nothing more, and equally nothing less.”

But where we do agree is here:

“Between us sinners and the thunder-clouds of divine wrath stands the cross of the Lord Jesus. If we are Christ’s through faith, then we are justified through His cross, and the wrath will never touch us, neither here nor hereafter.”

So is God mad at us? All I know for sure is this: Not if we’re his.

However God’s anger works or doesn’t work, it’s no longer directed at me. He sees me differently now; he sees me through the eyes of Jesus. His anger has turned away. Now he comforts me instead. (Thanks, memory verse, Isaiah 12:1).

I’m not uncomfortable with that at all.

* * *

What do you think? (I won’t get angry if you disagree with me—I know I still have much to learn.)

We’re on Week 8 of reading Knowing God together with Tim Challies.

Knowing-God-Packer-summary

Previous chapters:

Next week:

  • Chapter 17 and 18, “The Jealous God” and “The Heart of the Gospel”

8 thoughts on “Is God mad at you?

  1. blankBill (cycleguy)

    i spent some time in correspondence with someone yesterday who has been told all her life that God is mad at her. She left the “Amish cult” and her parents (first father and mother…now s-father and mother) have prayed down vengeance on her. They have prayed God will punish her for leaving and let everything turn bad. She lives with that belief. I told her NO, NO, NO, NO God does not do that! i do believe in wrath (particularly at judgement) but do I believe God metes out wrath because some whack job prays for it? no. My .02 worth Lisa.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      The phrase that popped into my mind as I read your comment, Bill: “a minister of reconciliation.” What an honored opportunity you were given to reveal the truth of God’s love to this woman. It brings tears to my eyes to think about what she’s been through, and then for her to receive your words speaking truth to her instead. Shackles breaking; light entering the dark places. Thank you, brother, for how you’re expanding the Kingdom.

  2. blankBarbara H.

    I think what Packer meant by our choosing to be under God’s wrath is that when we refuse whatever light He shines in our hearts, there is no other alternative, no other choice. We think if people only knew what that choice ultimately meant, then of course they’d be saved – who wouldn’t want to be? But for various reasons they choose to go their “own” way, away from God’s way. But thankfully God is longsuffering and slow to anger, and I believe in most cases give multiple chances before giving someone up to their own way.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Nicely said, Barbara. I like your wording better than Packer’s. 🙂 Sometimes he just comes across as abrupt to me in the details, when in reality we may be actually agreeing on the bigger issues.

  3. blankWayne Davies

    I applaud you, Lisa, for acknowledging this “uncomfortableness,” and offer a loud “amen” and a hearty “ditto.” Could it be that this uneasiness when confronted with God’s wrath is one way we fulfill the biblical command to “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11)? A paradox for sure! But Scripture tells us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12-13) because our God esteems the one who “trembles at my word” (Is 66:2). When I consider God’s wrath, I’m filled with both unspeakable joy and overwhelming sadness. I’m ecstatic because He has saved me from that wrath; but I despair at the thought of all those headed for eternal destruction in the lake of fire. And so I am “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10).

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