Anger and God: What My Sister Learned Through Cancer

My sister’s family in 2004, several months after she finished treatment for Lymphoma (L to R:  Husband David, sons David and John, Melanie, and me)

 

Do you think it’s okay to get angry at God?  In the Releasity course,  we learn how to uncover the unpleasant emotions we have “stuffed down” with food and then bring them to God for help.  My sister, Melanie, recently wrote a piece for her church’s Lenten devotional about a time she shared her true feelings with God and felt His loving response.  It perfectly demonstrates the safety we have in releasing our emotions to God — even the not-so-happy ones.  Grab a tissue and read on!

 
“Shaking My Fist at God” -Melanie Hood

“Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and find yourself shaking your fist at God.”  I nodded and smiled politely, but I was really thinking, “I’m not that stupid.” I’d been raised to fear God and I certainly wasn’t going to jeopardize my shot at eternal life by getting angry with Him, especially since I’d been diagnosed with lymphoma days earlier.   Still in shock and denial over my diagnosis, I had spent my visit with Chris Hill, Trinity Presbyterian Church’s visitation minister at the time, chirping merrily about how this cancer thing was no big deal, how my fun sister was coming to town to be our Mary Poppins, how our friends were bringing us fabulous meals, and how my husband David and I were looking forward to the all-day chemotherapy sessions because we had a stash of movies we couldn’t wait to watch. I almost welcomed this well-deserved “break” for parents of two precious and active preschool boys.

It took one chemo treatment for reality to kick in and just a few weeks for Chris’ prediction to come true. I woke up one morning, wracked by nausea and fatigue from the previous day’s chemo session, and watched helplessly as David fed and clothed our boys, cleaned up the kitchen, started the laundry, got ready for work and took the boys to preschool.   As soon as David and the boys left, I was suddenly filled with anger toward God. Alone in our home, I screamed with rage over my diagnosis and our situation, how unfair it was to the boys, to David, to me. I expressed doubts about God’s faithfulness and even the very existence of God.  When my rampage was over, I was filled with deep remorse. Yelling at God? WHAT was I thinking? What a stupid thing for a cancer patient to do!

As I laid on the sofa pondering and dreading the consequences of my tantrum, the phone rang. It was Karen Newsome, a friend and Presbyterian minister. Karen told me that she felt compelled to share a sermon with me and asked if she could drop it by in a few minutes. “Yes, of course,” I replied, thinking it would be in my best interest to read this sermon and attempt to make amends with my Creator.

Ironically (or not, as I believe), Karen’s sermon was about what to do with “feelings of despair, remorse, anger and fear,” and the “answer” was to honestly pour out our hearts to God, especially sharing “expressions of doubt and despair.” I wept as I read the closing passage from Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”   In that moment, I felt the arms of God embrace me. I knew God forgave me, loved me unconditionally and would always be faithful to me.

 

Melanie with her family in the fall of 2015 (L to R: husband David, son John, daughter Caroline and son David)

Steven Mast