In January of this year, Camp Gilead hosted a Men’s Retreat. Several from our church attended. Pastor Peter Hubbard from North Hills Community Church, in South Carolina, was the main speaker and brought several messages from Matthew 7. At one point during the weekend, he recommended a book entitled When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer by Jerry Sittser. After the conference was over, my father bought several copies of the book and gave me one to read. (Thanks Dad!)
In this chapter Sittser addresses the emotion that we often feel toward God when He doesn’t answer our prayers. Most of us have experienced that natural unavoidable emotion that comes after a tragedy. We feel like God has let us down. Often we want to express our emotion to God but feel guilty about telling God that we are angry with Him. Sittser explains it well, “The real question, then, is not whether we have emotion but what we do with it, especially when God is the one to whom our emotion is directed. After all, he is sovereign, and therefore ultimately responsible for what happens int he world.” (p. 61)
So, we feel stuck. We know that the solution is to take our emotion and grief to God. But, we don’t want to because we feel angry at what God has done and don’t want to be honest with Him. We feel ashamed and hesitant to ‘let God know’ how we honestly feel. (As if He doesn’t already know!)
Sittser wisely points us to the Psalms. “The Psalms put negative emotions into words. Half the Psalms contain complaints, usually directed toward God. The psalmist does not hesitate to wrestle with God, cry out to God, weep before, even blame God for misery and suffering.” (p. 63) Later he writes, “that we pray honestly seems to be as important as praying properly.” (p. 67) This was the important lesson that I took away from the book. God can handle our complaints. God can handle my brutal honesty.
This book is not easy to read. It is not a book will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling. It will challenge your convictions and force you to examine your heart.