Jeremiah 12:1 (ESV)
Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
God is righteous when we complain to Him. Things are not going our way. We do not like the difficulties we face, the evils that abound, and the hardships that mark the world. So we grumble. We question God’s wisdom, love, righteousness. We speak and act and perhaps think that if we were in charge things would be different.
The prophet Jeremiah knew this temptation. His life was a dreadful compilation of opposition, angst, persecution, ridicule and doubt. But this he knew. Even when he did not like what was going on, God was still righteous.
I attended a function last week where pastors were encouraged to counsel people to be “angry at God” and not sin, when their loved ones died. The impression I got was that the anger at God is much more important than the not sinning. The concept of justifiable anger at God for the things that happen to us or others is growing in popularity. It is considered therapeutic, helpful in the grieving process when one has lost a loved one. And it is wrong.
In Jeremiah 12 Jeremiah makes it known that he does not like the things that are happening around him. The wicked are prospering and Jeremiah does not like it. But he could not bring himself to accuse God of doing something wrong. And anger at God is just that. Anger is directed at others for the wrongs they have done. Our anger can be right or wrong depending on the motives and the reasons. Jesus got angry at the Pharisees and at His disciples. He was right. Jonah got angry at God for withering up a protective plant that he was sitting under for shade from the sun. He was wrong.
This world is a very wicked place. It is filled with unbelievably horrifying acts of cruelty, injustice and abuse. We would be less than human to not feel anger at those who express the sinfulness of their wicked hearts in such awful ways. But to turn things around and charge God with doing wrong because of the evil in the world or because He did not come through for us in the way that He could have and the way that we know He should have, is to believe that we know better than God. It is idolatry.
It can be made to sound compassionate and caring for others. But we are never truly compassionate when we allow people to charge God with injustice, cruelty, or abuse of power. Job lost all his possessions, all his children, all his money, and his health. When his wife suggested that he curse the God who had done this to him, Job’s response was to ask a question “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” The Christian counsellors of our age would say “yes”. And they are wrong. We do not know better than God. It is not for us to tell God that this time He has gone too far and that He is wrong to treat us as He is. It is evil on so many levels that it is hard to find an area of faith that is not effected by it.
Jeremiah did not like what was happening to him, to his city, or to the wicked who were prospering through the hardship. But he would not allow himself to charge God with wrongdoing, even though he was very perplexed. “Righteous are you O Lord, when I complain to you.” What a grand testimony.
You are going to have things happen to you that will challenge your faith in the goodness and benevolence and love of God. If someone says to you that you should be angry at Him, run away. Know that the God who has allowed you to travel through the deep waters is the God who is, in the very thing that hurts you, working it for your good. The God who could have stopped it from happening is the God who calls upon you to find your rest and hope in Him. He has not forsaken you. He will comfort you. He will make you better through this thing.
But He will not surrender up His rights to do as He knows best. He is God. We are not. Find Him to be all that you need in a very distressful life. But do not fall into thinking that you know better. That will not help you. Go with Jeremiah.