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I suppose if we yelled at God more, we might yell at each other less.

The Book that we Christians are left with is full of faithful people yelling at God. This seems to indicate that God can take the heat.

So. Lord, in your mercy, hear our yell.

Following an evening of explosions in Ukraine, a livestream feed showed St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev set against a brilliant blue sky. I wonder if God forgot that everyone’s lives were unraveling and accidentally left up the backdrop to The Truman Show.

My Lithuania-based in-laws and siblings are grieving alongside 176 Ukrainian students who attend their university.

I received a text from my spouse Katie today: “I am thinking a lot about how my whole life will be trying to enjoy things I know are disappearing.” I did not receive the full context, but the once-technicolored barrier reefs of Cayos Cochinos came selfishly to mind.

Another friend asked me if it’s ok not to feel deeply weighed down by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Her plate is full, and she is mostly worried about her student who isn’t sure he’ll have a meal tonight.

This reminds me to ask God why we suddenly care so much about the unhoused five thousand miles away when we don’t often care about the unhoused five miles away.

Perhaps we’re remembering, alongside South African anti-apartheid leader Allan Boesak, that “if human life is broken in South Africa or Indonesia or El Salvador, there is no way that life can be whole in the United States.”

Sunday I got up in front of two hundred people and welcomed them to worship. Many of them—of us—are likely also hanging on by three threads this week.

Church Historian and author Kate Bowler quotes a friend, Bishop Will, who once prayed a private prayer before he officiated the funeral of a small boy: “God, don’t you make me go out there and lie for you again.”

On Sunday, perhaps I should have added a question mark to my “God be with you.” And should I also ask the people to respond in the interrogative, “And also with you?”

I imagine Bishop Will did not truly mean what he said, at least in the theological sense. But it doesn’t hurt to give God a firm nudge every now and then.

God and I are on relatively good terms today, and I suppose that’s why I bring this all forward. The most bitter arguments are with the ones we love.

So, shall we yell together?

Nathan Groenewold

Nathan Groenewold is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and founding director of Cohort Detroit, a ministry which aims to raise up a new generation of young leaders who love God deeply, work for justice, and humbly serve marginalized Detroit communities. He fills the cracks in his summers with disc golf and gardening. 


  • John Kleinheksel says:

    I agree Nathan. When we raise our voices to God, in anger and lament, God can take it.
    He whispers back, until we “get it” and change how we live, drawing a bit closer to the Way.
    Thanks for what you are doing. Keep us informed about the Way you are going.

  • Marilyn Paarlberg says:

    Thank you for your honesty, and for your reminder that it’s OK, even necessary, not to let God off the hook. If God is God, then God can take the pushback. It’s also necessary not to leave it all — war, starvation, climate degradation, humanity’s inhumanity– at God’s feet. We hear with our ears, but we listen with our hearts, then our hands and feet.

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    The Yiddish expression comes to mind: “If God lived on Earth, people would break His windows.”

    • Nathan Groenewold says:

      Wow! Yep. This also reminds me of a Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, who I came across while preaching on Psalm 88:
      Levi Yitzhak, a well-known Rabbi in the 1700s from Northern Ukraine, earned the reputation as “defense attorney,” often interceding to God on behalf of his people. “A story is told about him, that right before the opening service of the Day of Atonement… he stood for a long time, silent, still, as the evening approached….” His students and disciples became uncomfortable…at the last possible moment, he spoke:

      “Dear God,” he said, “We come before You this year, as we do every year, to ask Your forgiveness. But in this past year, I have caused no death. I have brought no plagues upon the world, no earthquakes, no floods. I have made no women widows, no children orphans. God, You have done these things, not me! Perhaps You should be asking forgiveness from me.”

      He paused for a long time.

      He continued in a softer voice, “But since You are God, and I am only Levi Yitzhak,” Yisgadal v’yiskadah sh’mei rahah

      • Daniel Bos says:

        Please translate for me: Yisgadal v’yiskadah sh’mei rahah
        Appreciate reflections on Psalm 88 ending with “my only friend is darkness”!


  • Cheryl Scherr says:

    God thought highly of David. In many of the Psalms attributed to David, he takes God to task. God seems to have handled that just fine.

  • Fred Mueller says:

    Reading this, I wonder what kind of Prayer of Confession we might write for our liturgies?

    Dear Lord, I might confess my sin to you, but the truth is, we find your actions in the world lamentable – that is to say, the things you have done and the things you ought not to have done. You claim to love us with your whole heart, but as we look at developments in the news, you’d never know it. You alone know how often we have grieved you, well that’s a two-way street. We waste your gifts and wander from your ways? Look who’s talking! If we had your power, we would do so much better. Perhaps you should be asking us for forgiveness, but the truth is the horror and suffering we see around us is inexcusable and we are very upset and not in the least inclined to be merciful to you, Almighty God. So instead of confessing our limited sin, we are going to yell at you for your cosmic sin.
    Lord, have mercy upon you.
    Christ have mercy upon you.
    Lord, have mercy upon you.

    A great start to Lent.
    Count me out of the choir yelling at God. I think I will reread Job and Jeremiah today.

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