Angry with God?

     “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:20)

Barrenness in the Bible is an image of lifelessness, where God’s redemptive blessing is absent. When Adam and Eve sinned, it brought about a curse on the fruitfulness of God’s creation. The soil of the earth thereafter produced thorns and thistles, requiring painful toil to yield food. Human fertility was cursed as childbearing became a painful and life-threatening event (Genesis 3). In the Bible fruitful land and fertile women are always images of the blessedness of life as God had originally intended it. The opposite of these, desolate land and barren women, are biblical images of the consequences of sin. The image of the barren wife is one of the Bible’s strongest images of desolation and rejection. We find this first in Genesis, where the examples include Sarah (Gen.11:30), Rebekah (Gen.25:21) and Rachel (Gen.29:31). The classic case of barrenness in the OT is Hannah (1 Sam 1), and a corresponding NT example is Elizabeth (Luke 1).
In this Text (1 Samuel 1:20), we find Hannah bitter, angry and deeply distressed! Hannah faced a problem, and it is a problem that can’t find any answers in the human dimension… The literal translation of the Hebrew language says that the LORD had closed her womb (1 Sam.1:5-6). This is figurative language meaning that God “had kept her from having children” or “had not granted her children” Some languages will prefer a more technical term, saying that the LORD had made her “barren.” Now, I ask you this question: “How would you feel if year after year after year the Lord kept you in a barren state for some reason that is beyond your human comprehension?” Think about it…maybe you are facing such an issue now…In this Text Message I would like us to explore a particular struggle that good people have with God: “Is it permissible for a godly person to be angry with God?

     Let’s explore this by looking at the 1 Samuel 1:20 text…We see Hannah’s outburst to frustration at things that didn’t work out in her life…Rabbinic literature tells us that Hannah is the only woman whose prayer to God is recorded in the Bible! Hence, one would expect the male chauvinistic rabbis to seize on her prayer as the definitive instance of how women but not men should pray. The rabbis do no such thing. Instead, they use her prayer to teach how all people, male and female, should pray. Despite their marked gender consciousness, the rabbis never once comment on the fact that Hannah is female when discussing her heart-rending prayer. They seem to look past Hannah's gender to her humanity to emphasize that in personal prayer there is only a human trying to communicate with God with her heart, soul and mind (Deut.6:5)

     Moses also had frequent outbursts of frustration and anger in his life and ministry (Deut.1:9). Regarding Moses’ outburst of frustration, Professor Aviva Zornberg of Jerusalem provides an interesting perspective on the matter… She suggests that Moses complains about God and expresses anger at God to give the Israelites permission, through his example, to express their anger through prayer to God. And they do, immediately—complaining about conditions in the wilderness, accusing God of hating them for subjecting them to forty years of wandering. And then, Zornberg points out that we find something else in the Torah which we have never seen before: “You shall love the Eternal our God with all your heart …” (Deuteronomy 6:5). You see…before the Deut 6:5 text, the children of God were commanded to obey God, to honor God, to follow God’s ways, but never before have they’ve been told to love God, because you can’t love someone wholeheartedly, “with all your heart,” if you are afraid to be angry with him or her. You will be censoring your emotions. There will be a measure of pretense, of concealment verging on dishonesty in the relationship. Being angry with someone is an inevitable dimension of caring about that person you love, caring about what he or she does and how he or she feels about you.

      Even our Lord Jesus Christ faced the pain of frustration…just like Hannah…Hebrews 5:7 tell us: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” Christ was the Son of the Father, and it was in the very struggle of obedience through the frustrations, anxiety, anger and pain in the desert, Gethsemane, betrayals, and the Cross that the identity of the Son was verified, validated and perfected! This was what made Christ the beloved Son (Philippians 2:5-11) – the example for us to follow and embody!

     I have seen many people being angry with God because of problems that inflict humanity— unanswered prayers, lack, broken dreams, incurable illnesses, famine, flood, etc. The wrong people seem to be blessed with more money, more talent, better looks, etc, etc. Life is not fair, and we wonder why God doesn’t do something about it. Hannah’s example can teach us a valuable lesson that being angry and disappointed with someone does not need to fracture a relationship. Anger is a normal part of an honest relationship. We can be angry at our parents or at our friends and still love them…hey, we can be angry with God because we don’t understand some things, and still turn to Him for guidance and comfort and to express our gratitude for all the blessings we do have in our lives. It is all part of growing up in the Holy Spirit!

     “Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”( Psalm 28:6-7)


  • Omanson, R. L., & Ellington, J. (2001). A handbook on the first book of Samuel. UBS Handbook Series (29). New York: United Bible Societies.
  • Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed.) (75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Salkin, Edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. (2012-04-20). Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens (Kindle Locations 4199-4221). Jewish Lights Publishing. Kindle Edition.