Do you ever want to just throw in the towel?

A number of years ago I was talking with a woman who was going through a painful divorce. She said she was angry with her husband, angry with herself, and angry with God. At that last point, she stopped and said, “But I know I shouldn’t express my anger to God. That’s just wrong.” I told the woman to go ahead and let it out. God can handle it, and He already knows anyway.


Sometimes we wonder if God is okay with our rantings and ravings. Will He be upset with us if we really let Him know how we feel? 


One of the beautiful characteristics of the Bible is its honesty in portraying human emotions, even when it recounts stories of frustrated followers and sorrowful saints. Moses cries out to God in desperation: “What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? . . . If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:11, 15).


This is raw, real and unfiltered. 


Centuries later, Elijah the prophet has a “mountain-top experience” as he calls for fire from heaven to consume the altar he built, and people shouted out, “The Lord, He is God!” Elijah then prays for rain, and God opens the floodgates of heaven to end a severe draught (1 Kings 18).


After such a display of God’s power and Elijah’s courageous faith, we would expect Elijah to extol God in grateful euphoria. But at this point, the story takes a dark turn. Elijah discovers Queen Jezebel’s plot to kill him, and this man of fearless faith crumbles emotionally. 


We read that “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life… He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. `I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. `Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep” (1 Kings 19:3-5). Elijah falls fast and furious from a life of sacred power to the valley of despair. 


As Jeff Manion writes, “[Elijah] was completely spent, emotionally drained, and feeling as if his life and leadership have been a colossal waste” (The Land Between, 72).


Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. If so, may the stories of Moses and Elijah reassure you that you are not alone. Remember, these are spiritual heavyweights—heroes of the faith, but they, too, hit the wall and wanted to throw in the towel. 


It appears from these stories, and many others like them, that desperate prayers are a sign of spiritual health rather than spiritual deficiency. When we acknowledge our weakness and dependency on God, that’s when His power is made perfect within us (2 Corinthians 12:9).


God wants you to cry out to Him in your pain and anger. He won’t condemn you for your brutal honesty. In fact, when you are honest with Him about how you feel, He doesn’t bring a rebuke but a tender response, inviting you into His rest. Jesus offers this invitation, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 


Receive His invitation, and keep the communication lines open, even (and especially) if your words are a desperate cry for help.