I don’t know about you, but when I go through something difficult, I find myself wanting to vent. Sometimes I vent to my wife, sometimes I vent to a friend, and sometimes I even vent to God in prayer.
But is that okay? Is it acceptable to vent to God? I have come across people that say “No.” Stressing our need to go to God with reverence and fear, they imply that expressing raw emotion is not proper for a true child of God. Christian or non-christian, many of us have been made to feel bad, or less than Christian if we dare voice our deepest disappointments to the throne of heaven.
This idea just doesn’t square with Scripture. The fact is, a great deal of God’s word is filled with venting from many of God’s faithful followers. We call them “laments.” David fills the Psalms with such emotional outbursts. Jeremiah weeps in agony in his Lamentations. And Job throughout his ordeal even goes so far as to beg God to take his life, complaining about the seeming unfairness of it all. Far from being offended or embarrassed by our laments, I would dare say God invites us to bring our deepest laments directly to Him. Over and over again we are charged to come to God with “pure hearts.” One way of reading that word “pure” is to say “holy hearts.” And that would be fine. But part of what it means to be holy is to approach God without a façade- without a mask on. It means to be honest. It means “calling a thing what it is.” I mean, really if God is God, who do we think we’re fooling anyway?
Our omniscient God isn’t fooled by our fake piety any more than he was fooled by Adam and Eve’s fig leaf shorts. He would rather have us venting honestly than faking it.
I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “The Apostle.” In the scene, Sonny, an itinerant preacher (played by Robert Duvall), has just found out his wife is cheating on him and his life is really going to pot.
So He Starts Praying:
“I’m gonna yell at you because I’m mad at you. I can’t… take it! Give me a sign or something. Blow this pain out of me. Give it to me tonight, Lord God Jehovah. If you won’t give back my wife, give me peace. Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me, give me peace. I don’t know who’s been fooling with me, you or the devil. I don’t know. I won’t even bring the human into this. He’s just a mutt anyway, so I’m not even gonna bring him into this. But I’m confused; I’m mad. I love you, Lord. I love you, but I’m mad at you. I. Am. Mad. At. You! So deliver me tonight, what should I do? Now tell me, what should I do?”
Possibly no one was better at venting to God than King David. Listen to the beginning of Psalm 13 as just one of many examples:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)
David simply doesn’t understand his circumstances, and so he laments to His God. The same is true for us: Most of the time, it is from lack of understanding that we vent to the Lord.
But let me get back to the rebuttal mentioned at the beginning of this post: Those who say we should not vent because we should approach God with fear and reverence have a point. I mean, after all, how is it that we unholy brats can expect to come to God with our complaints and not be swiftly rebuked, judged, and condemned?
Here’s how: No matter how you bring your prayers, your laments, your complaints to God, in the final analysis, the reason why this holy, perfect, righteous and entirely just God can deal with that venting is because ultimately it is covered by His Son Jesus Christ.
The good news for us is that we don’t approach God merely on our own in our own strength, in our own eloquence, or our own theological accuracy, but we approach God being completely covered by the ongoing intercession of His Son. We go to God under the substitution of His strength, His righteousness, and His eloquence. Check this out: The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus “ALWAYS lives to make intercession for us.” Do you hear that? There is never, ever a moment at which you are not covered by Him. Why does He do this? Because as 1 Timothy 2:5 says, he is the “one mediator between God and men, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” And so, Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Why? “Because we don’t know what to pray for as we ought.” So we’re told, “the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words and according to the will of God!”
Your venting is acceptable to God because the Spirit and the Son make it acceptable to God.
As 1 John 2:1 tells us, He is “our advocate” standing by our side, speaking in our place. He is our translator before the courts of heaven, so that our honest ranting and venting isn’t merely heard as the complaints of a sinner, but as the request of a beloved child.