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January 8, 2011

Anger Towards God Linked With Poor Mental Health

Stephanie Samuel
Christian Post
January 6, 2011

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that people are often angry with God in the face of difficult situations.

In the two-year study of 5,472 university students, two out of every three respondents reported being angry with the Judeo-Christian God. Anger against God was found both inside and outside of the religious community. The results of the study mirror those of a 1988 General Social Survey which reported that 63 per cent of Americans said they sometimes felt anger towards God.

Julie Exline, the lead researcher of the 2010 study, entitled “Religious and Spiritual Struggle”, observed that 50 per cent of those feeling resentment towards God said those feelings were prompted by a distressing event or an event resulting in poor adjustment.

The study also revealed distinctive differences in how certain people cope with anger.

“People who are more religious don't get as angry. They may be more likely to think God caused the troubling event, but they're also more likely to put good intentions on the event, saying things like, 'God is trying to strengthen me,'" Exline told the Health Day news.

Exline, who is also an associate professor of Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, reported that atheists and those questioning the existence of the divine are mostly likely to harbour more frequent, prolonged feelings of ill will towards God when compared to believers.

Youths are also more likely to experience more anger towards God than those who are older. Exline believes this finding is because older people were often taught not to question God’s power, compared to the younger generation.

Distressing events are now commonplace among Americans who are unemployed. November 2010 labour statistics revealed that there are nearly two million unemployed people in the United States who are dependent on unemployment benefits.

The inflation in the price of gas, predicted to reach prices of $100 a barrel this year, may also force many struggling financially to make hard adjustments.

John Piper of Desiring God ministries acknowledged that instances of great suffering and loss, be it financial, disease or death, can lead many to question and become angry with God.

However, he shared in a 2002 study that the appropriate response is to confess those feelings to God. Similarly, Exline’s research showed that therapeutic tools to rebuild trust in God include prayer and meditation on texts emphasising the positive attributes of God.

"When people trust that God cares about them and has positive intentions toward them, even if they can’t understand what those intentions or meanings are, it tends to help to resolve anger," Exline found.

The research showed dire effects for those who continued to harbour anger against God. Those who harboured anger towards God were linked with poorer medical recovery, the study revealed. Anger at God was also associated with poor mental health.

Through her research, Exline recommended that those who are angry with God move towards forgiveness. Similarly, Piper encourages those angry with God to seek forgiveness and trust in His goodness and wisdom to find relief from the hate.

See also: "Angry with God?!" ["Who me?! Never! I love God!!!"]