This question is not a foreign one for most Christians. It’s also a question that can feel a little awkward to even admit or verbalize. Asking if it’s okay to ever be angry at God is loaded with pitfalls. Saying “yes” seems wrong intuitively for many of us. Saying “no” could come across as unfeeling to the individual asking the question (because it’s often hurting people who pose the question in the first place). This article is my attempt to interact with the question “Is it ever acceptable to be angry with God?” and arrive at a biblically faithful and nuanced answer.
For those who answer yes (that it is okay to be angry at God), my observation is that their rationale is often some form of “God is big enough to handle your anger.” However, God’s power has nothing to do with whether or not it is right for us to be angry with Him. For those who say no (which is where I would ultimately land), there’s often a risk of sacrificing compassion and understanding at the altar of theological precision. Is there a way to be compassionate towards individuals who are hurting and honor God appropriately with our theology involving emotions like anger?
There are at least two biblical examples that can make it confusing to answer, “Can anger at God be acceptable?” The first one is that of Job. Perhaps no other individual in the Bible suffered as much as Job did. The second example is comprised of some of the Psalms, often collectively known as lament psalms. It is perhaps fitting that the book of Psalms (which Jesus Himself quotes so often, and which find their fulfillment in Him) comes immediately after the book of Job in the Old Testament.
It is debated by some as to whether or not Job sinned in the aftermath of his suffering. Was he simply pouring out his heart to God (the way a child might tell their parent that their scraped knee hurts), or was he accusing God of being unfair? If the latter is the case, then Job was angry with God. I think this latter interpretation is likely accurate (based on Job 27-31). Job’s final response to God in chapter 42 is one that vindicates God of all His actions. Job states, “It is I [who spoke with ignorance]—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about.” (v. 3). He goes on to say, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (v. 6). Job repented. Repented of what? Of ascribing ill motives to God (30:21) and presuming his own perspective was the accurate one (42:3). These are different ways of Job saying he was angry at God, and admitting he was wrong for being so.
For various psalms of lament, let’s take Psalm 73 as a representative example. Asaph, the psalmist, in this case, is describing his pain. Specifically, he is describing the way he was tempted to envy the wicked when it appeared wicked people around him were prospering and those who revered God were hurting. He says, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain” (vv. 13-14). Whether or not Asaph sinned at some point in his internal turmoil, he never gives himself permission to be angry at God or to question God in such a way that God is put behind the dock in the courtroom of Asaph’s own judgment. Instead, he counsels himself with wisdom such as, “Then I realized that my heart was bitter…I was so foolish and ignorant…My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (vv. 21-22, 26). There is no indication that Asaph’s circumstances improved. (For that matter, the same thing is true of Job when he humbled himself before God.) However, what helped him was a recognition that God was good, wise, and sovereign.
In summary, we are not to ever be angry at God. We do not hold Him accountable. He is not answerable to us. To be angry at God (or at anybody) is, by definition, to make a moral judgment against Him, to say that He is wrong. It is to assert ourselves as judge over Him. When viewed in this light, the answer to the question “Is it acceptable to be angry at God?” is clearly no.
As true as it is that a Christian shouldn’t have anger directed at God, the reality is that in times of trouble and pain, sometimes Christians do have misdirected anger at God. Job experienced this, and he called his expressed and misdirected anger “words for the wind.”
Thankfully, despite our “words for the wind,” God is amazingly kind, compassionate, gentle, and patient. That phrase—“words for the wind”—comes from Job 6:26. Job’s three friends—Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz—have viewed Job’s suffering in overly simplistic, cause-and-effect terms. They see what they perceive as the effect (Job’s immense suffering) and wrongly assume the cause (Job must have sinned egregiously). They have heard Job’s sorrow and have attempted to correct him. Job at one point responds by saying, “Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind” (Job 6:26)? What’s Job’s point? The point is, when someone is suffering, they may say things that aren’t true or theologically accurate (and deep down, they may even know it).
There is wisdom for us in Job’s response. Referencing this verse, pastor John Piper states, “If we had discernment, we could the tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind. There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by pain and despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real and dark within where they come from. But it is temporary – like a passing infection – real, painful, but not the true person.”
So, while we do not ever want to give ourselves permission to be angry at God, we can lean into a God who knows our pain and hates evil even more than we do. When we are in a position to help others who are tempted to be angry at God, we want to marinate in what Piper is getting at above. Let’s not be so quick to “defend” God that we squirm or get uncomfortable with the rawness of the pain of others. May God give us wisdom to discern “words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.”
 I am indebted to a podcast interview with Robert D. Jones where the question of anger at God was brought to my attention, and to Jones’s examples of Job and the psalmists. Interview found at https://biblicalcounseling.com/resource-library/podcast-episodes/a-biblical-view-of-anger/.
 John Piper, “Words for the Wind,” Desiring God, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/words-for-the-wind. Cf. also Piper’s sermon on Psalm 42, “Spiritual Depression in the Psalms,” Desiring God, 1 June 2008, https://www.desiringgod.org/scripture/psalms/42/messages. Cf. Brad Hambrick, Angry with God: An Honest Journey Through Suffering and Betrayal (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2022). Hambrick takes the reader on a guided process for understanding and wisely dealing with the anger that can result from suffering. Instead of being angry at God, he encourages a perspective of being angry with God who sees and identifies with His people when they experience pain.