When a loved one is suffering, it’s natural to search for someone or something to blame. Often, people questioning why God would allow bad things to happen direct anger and blame toward God. If someone you care about is angrily asking why God permitted their hardship, how should you respond?
Here’s a quick answer: avoid debating theology, listen with empathy, acknowledge their pain, and offer compassion. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore respectful, loving ways to discuss faith with someone who feels let down or betrayed by God.
In this approximately 3000 word guide, we’ll cover: an introduction to the complex emotions behind blaming God; tips for having an open, non-judgmental conversation; things not to say as well as better responses; advice for when a debate over God’s existence erupts; guidance for discussing the role of free will; how to offer spiritual support; when to suggest counseling; and a summary conclusion.
Understanding Their Hurt and Anger Toward God
When someone is angry with God or feels betrayed by Him, there is often deep hurt and pain underlying those feelings. Getting to the root of those emotions can help bring healing and perspective.
Feeling Betrayed or Abandoned Often Fuels Blame
It’s common for people to feel let down by God when they face tragic circumstances like the loss of a loved one, a debilitating illness, or a major setback. In those moments, it’s easy to wonder “Why did God allow this to happen?” Some even feel like God has abandoned them in their time of need.
Understandably, this can lead to a sense of betrayal that morphs into blame and anger toward God.
In discussing this with someone, it’s important to listen and acknowledge their feelings without judgment. Comments like “God is still good” or “Everything happens for a reason” tend to minimize their pain rather than help them process it. Let them know you hear how much they’re hurting.
Over time, as the rawness of the wound lessens, they may be more open to finding meaning amidst the pain.
Anger May Mask Deeper Hurt, Fear, and Grief
More often than not, anger conceals other more vulnerable emotions like sadness, fear, and grief. When someone rails against God, recognize that they are likely dealing with overwhelming hurt and a sense of powerlessness in the face of hardship. Anger gives them a sense of control amidst the chaos.
Gently draw them out by asking open-ended questions about how they’re feeling and what they’re struggling with most right now. Make it clear you want to understand what they’re going through. As you show them patience and compassion, the anger may gradually give way to the real wounds underneath.
Then you can help them process the deeper issues and find comfort and hope in God’s redeeming love.
Approaching the Conversation With Care
Actively Listen Without Judgment
When someone expresses anger at God, it’s important to listen without judgment. Don’t interrupt or immediately try to “fix” their feelings. Let them vent and acknowledge that you hear the pain behind their words. You could say, “I hear how upset you are. Tell me more about what you’re feeling.”
Ask open-ended questions to understand where they’re coming from. “What led you to feel this way about God?” Validate their emotions. Saying “It makes complete sense you’d feel let down” shows you grasp their perspective.
Avoid invalidating statements like “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “A good Christian wouldn’t say that.” Your role isn’t to lecture but to empathize. Condemning their candid thoughts will only alienate them.
Don’t Try to ‘Solve’ Their Anger With God
Though you’ll want to ease their pain, avoid the temptation to immediately explain why God allowed something or toss out religious platitudes. Comments like “It’s all part of God’s plan” or “God works in mysterious ways” tend to aggravate, not soothe.
Likewise, don’t cite Bible verses that contradict their perspective. For someone harboring anger, pious pronouncements can sound callous and dismissive. Recognize that pat answers don’t make people feel better.
Your friend needs to vent without feeling judged. Making them feel heard and understood will help diffuse the intensity of their emotions so rational discussion can follow. But get their permission first. Ask, “Would you be open to hearing how I’ve dealt with unanswered questions?”
If they say no, respect that.
With an open and compassionate presence, you can help turn their bitterness to hope. But relationships take time. Don’t expect to resolve deep anger in one chat. Your listening ear may plant seeds that change their perspective down the road.
What Not to Say
Avoid Minimizing Their Pain and Loss
When someone is grieving after blaming God for a tragedy or loss, it is important not to minimize their pain. Phrases like “It could be worse” or “Everything happens for a reason” can invalidate their feelings and make them feel guilty for being angry at God (see Focus on the Family).
Though intended to encourage, cliché sayings often have the opposite effect. Instead, allow them to express their complex emotions without judgment. Validate their right to wrestle with faith while grieving.
With empathy and care, we can create space for people to process tragedy in their own way and time, even if it involves blaming God.
Rather than explanations, it is better to offer a listening ear, shoulder to cry on, help with practical needs, or simply say “I’m so sorry” or “I don’t know what to say but I care” (see Bible Study Tools).
Research shows that forcing closure or silver lining interpretations often causes more harm than good. Grieving people need to feel heard and supported through the stages of loss. While our instinct is to ease their pain, the healthiest thing is allowing them to fully feel and process it.
Don’t Tell Them How They “Should” Feel
Telling someone they “shouldn’t” blame God or feel anger denies them the full range of human emotion when processing loss and tragedy. Though coming from a place of theological conviction, saying “A good Christian shouldn’t feel that way” is neither helpful nor empathetic.
It invalidates their lived experience rather than meeting them where they are.
A better approach is asking thoughtful questions to understand their perspectives (see Chabad). If trusting God feels impossible for them right now, that is valid and deserves compassion. We can hold space for people to go through the stages of grief in their own way, including anger at God.
Rather than “shoulds”, we can offer non-judgmental listening so they feel heard and supported during a devastating time of wrestling with faith and loss.
Better Responses Show Understanding
‘I Can’t Imagine How Much This Hurts’
When someone is angry at God or questioning their faith, it’s important to respond with empathy and understanding. Rather than judging or debating their feelings, you can say something like “I can’t imagine how much this hurts. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
“This shows you care about their pain rather than just their beliefs.
You can also ask thoughtful questions to understand more about what they’re feeling. For example: “What thoughts are going through your mind about God right now? “ or “When did you start feeling distance from God? “ Listening without judgement creates space for open and thoughtful dialogue.
It’s also helpful to validate and normalize their emotions. You could say: “It makes complete sense to me that you would feel abandoned right now. Many faithful people have felt that way before.” This reassures them that their reaction is understandable.
‘It’s Ok to Be Angry and Confused Right Now’
Reassuring the person that strong emotions towards God are normal can help ease their pain. You can tell them: “It’s absolutely ok to feel angry and confused and to question your faith. God can handle our honest emotions.”
You can also share examples of biblical figures who were angry at God during trials to help normalize their experience: “Even David cried out to God ‘Why have you abandoned me?’ when he faced hardship. It’s a natural response.”
Rather than correcting their feelings, you can guide them back to their support system: “This anger seems like it’s weighing heavily on you. Let’s pray about this together and maybe talk to our pastor too for guidance.
“Offering spiritual and emotional support reminds them they don’t have to work through this alone.
Navigating Theological Debates
Focus on Emotional Support, Not Winning Arguments
When a loved one questions God’s will during difficult times, it’s important to focus on providing emotional support rather than trying to win theological arguments. Here are some tips:
- Listen without judgment. Allow them to express their feelings openly. Don’t try to talk them out of their emotions.
- Acknowledge their pain and let them know you care. Phrases like “I’m so sorry you’re going through this” can go a long way.
- Avoid trite platitudes about God’s plan or the afterlife. They usually ring hollow during deep grief.
- Offer practical help and companionship. Cook meals, care for children, go for walks together. Your presence can be more comforting than words.
- Pray together if they are open to it. But don’t force prayer or Scripture if they seem unreceptive.
- Suggest counseling or support groups. Speaking with others who have been through similar situations can help bring perspective.
Debating doctrinal nuances is unlikely to help in the throes of anger, confusion or mourning. Focus instead on validating their feelings, sitting with them in their distress, and exemplifying Christ’s compassion. Theological questions often become clearer with time and healing.
Acknowledge Mystery in Understanding God’s Will
When someone questions God’s goodness during adversity, avoid pat answers and acknowledge the deep mysteries involved in discerning God’s will and purposes. Here are some thoughts:
- Affirm that anger, confusion and doubt are normal responses to suffering. Faith isn’t defined by certainty in every situation.
- Admit you don’t have all the answers. Assure them you want to wrestle with these questions together in a spirit of openness and humility.
- Note that godly people throughout history have questioned God’s ways during trials, from Job to Habakkuk to Jesus himself in Gethsemane. Their honesty is recorded in Scripture as examples for us.
- Point to biblical examples of God ultimately using evil events for good purposes – like Joseph’s story in Genesis. But don’t rush to apply this idea glibly to current circumstances.
- Remind them of God’s proven character – his mercy, faithfulness and redemptive power. This is our rock during storms of confusion.
- Explore resources like The Gospel Coalition and Cru for biblical wisdom on this topic.
Humbly acknowledging the complexity involved in understanding God’s ways honors the person’s grief and questions. Move forward with sensitivity, openness and care – not defensiveness or pat answers.
Discussing the Role of Free Will
Note Evil Comes From Human Choices, Not God
It’s understandable to feel frustrated and question why bad things happen, but it’s important to remember that God gave us free will – the ability to make our own choices. As the saying goes, “God created humankind, but humankind created evil.”
God does not directly cause evil or suffering, but has allowed us to make our own decisions, even when those decisions lead to pain and injustice.
As people grappling with hardship, we have a choice in how we respond. We can choose forgiveness over revenge, compassion over blame, and hope over despair. Making the effort to control our reactions often opens the door for finding meaning amidst the suffering.
Encourage Them to Control What They Can
When someone blames God for the bad things that happen, gently remind them that we cannot control external events, only our response. Encourage focusing energy on what is within their power rather than what is out of their control.
For example, if faced with a terrible diagnosis, one cannot control getting sick, but can choose to focus on self-care, time with loved ones, appreciating each day. If a natural disaster destroys property, while the damage itself cannot be controlled, steps can be taken to rebuild, offer support in the community, reflect on what matters most.
Our power lies in choosing how to move forward.
By taking responsibility for our choices and letting go of what cannot be changed, we reduce suffering. And in the process, we may find that peace and meaning emerge, even in the face of loss. Focusing locally empowers us far more than blaming globally.
Providing Spiritual Support
Offer to Pray Together If They’re Open to It
Prayer can provide comfort during difficult times. According to a 2022 Pew Research study, over half of U.S. adults say they pray daily. If the person is open to it, offer to pray together either silently or out loud. This shows spiritual support. However, don’t force it if they decline.
Some prayer ideas if they’re receptive: thank God for being there in hard times, ask for peace/comfort/strength, pray for healing if applicable. Use uplifting language so they feel hopeful instead of punished. Finish by affirming God’s constant love and presence.
Remind Them God Still Loves Them
People struggling with faith may feel abandoned or punished by God. Gently remind them of biblical truths showing God’s unconditional love, like:
- Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
- Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39)
- God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
You could say: “I know you feel far from God right now. But remember, His love for you is unchanging. He promises to always be by your side. Let’s take things one day at a time and see if reading encouraging Bible verses helps over time.”
Avoid saying they must have sinned or have weak faith. Focus on reassurance using biblical principles. Each person’s spiritual journey is unique. Meet them where they’re at through validating empathy and compassion.
Consider Counseling for Ongoing Spiritual Struggles
When someone is blaming God for the hardships and tragedies in their life, it often indicates they are experiencing deep spiritual struggles. These struggles can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, confusion, and distance from God.
While friends and family can provide support, counseling may be needed for the person to work through these complex emotions and regain spiritual grounding.
Here are some reasons why counseling can help when someone is blaming God:
Gain an Outside Perspective
A counselor provides an impartial third-party perspective, which can help the individual see their situation more objectively. The counselor can gently challenge distorted thought patterns and provide biblical truths that counter accusations against God’s character.
Process Deep Hurts
Often, placing blame on God comes from deep emotional wounds a person has endured, such as loss of a loved one, illness, abuse, or chronic misfortune. A counselor can create a safe space to process and grieve these hurts in a healthy way, rather than allowing the pain to fester into resentment toward God.
Strengthen Spiritual Foundation
A counselor can help identify areas where the person’s spiritual foundation has cracks or gaps, such as misunderstandings about God’s sovereignty, forgiveness, suffering, and the problem of evil. Addressing these areas biblically and theologically can stabilize their spiritual grounding.
Receive Individualized Care
Counseling allows tailored care to meet the specific spiritual and emotional needs of the individual. The counselor can draw from various techniques and resources to promote the person’s healing according to their unique situation.
Develop Healthy Coping Skills
The counselor can teach healthy coping methods to help the person better navigate difficulties when they arise. This may include improving stress management, identifying negative thought patterns, releasing anger and resentment, and learning to cling to God rather than blame Him.
In many cases, the anger and blame directed at God provide a veil for the deep pain and affliction the person is experiencing. Professional counseling can gently lift that veil, creating a safe space for healing and spiritual restoration to occur.
With time and caring support, the individual can move from a place of accusation to a place of trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty.
When someone we care about angrily questions God amidst suffering and hardship, it’s never easy to know what to say. While theological debates may exacerbate their pain, listening with compassion, acknowledging their hurt, and offering emotional and spiritual support can help.
Most importantly, being present with them in their time of need demonstrates God’s unconditional love, even when they feel abandoned by it. With patience and care, you can guide them through anger to a place of hope and healing.