I asked the young rabbi, “Are you angry at God?”. He responded curtly that he wasn’t angry. “There is nothing between me and God. Nothing. To be angry would mean we are in relationship. We are NOT in relationship.” He and his wife had experienced the broken heartedness of many miscarriages. With his experiences came disbelief, isolation, and profound grief. He seemed beyond angry, but not at God. There was no God in his life.
As a rabbi, spiritual director and hospital chaplain, I often ask this same question of people who struggle to connect with their spiritual practices because of a new catastrophic diagnosis, a long difficult illness, a sudden death, a betrayal. My hope in asking “are you angry at God?” is to help them explore some part of their own truth. Maybe in so doing, they can find a path to walk at a time when no paths seem tolerable.
Recently I shared my sadness and exhaustion of what it is like to live with the profound uncertainty of our family’s future due to my partner’s incurable cancer diagnosis. Due to the nature of her disease we have no map for what her disease progression will look like. We have many possible scenarios, none of which are reliably going to be her story. I find this very unsettling to my spirit. A weight hovers over me, pressing down, often showing up as an uneasy despair.
My spiritual director asked me “are you angry at God?” and I didn’t know how to respond. “Oy,” I thought, “this is the question I often ask!”
God isn’t responsible for my heartbreak or her diagnosis. Therefore, I can’t be angry at God. I feel God through experience. Hands in the soil nurturing plants. Cooking a nutritious meal for myself and for those I love. Being able to walk after an injury. Surviving a close call. A dream. Moving my bowels. Medicine that takes the headaches away. The ocean and all that lives within it. Family of all kinds, those chosen and those I was born into. Torah. Watching a movie holding hands with my beloved on our double recliner. A good night’s sleep. A nap in the middle of the day. A good argument. That’s where I experience God.
I have a path I walk while experiencing God. For today I put my hands in the soil, listen to newborn birds, sit in the quiet, study Torah with dear friends. The arms of the Mother gently walk with me. I still have exhaustion and despair at times, but I am not angry at God.