The Bible gives us many examples of God’s people laying it all out on the table. The best place to go in Scripture to see examples of this is the Psalms. Look at just these few verses:

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plea for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I declare my trouble before him.

Ps. 142:1–2

Or consider that we are to

Trust him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Ps. 62:8

Or consider these nine verses and see the absolute gut-wrenching vulnerability of the psalmist here:

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.

    Oh, that God would listen to me!

When I was in deep trouble,

    I searched for the Lord.

All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,

    but my soul was not comforted.

I think of God, and I moan,

    overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude

You don’t let me sleep.

    I am too distressed even to pray!

I think of the good old days,

    long since ended,

when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

    I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

Has the Lord rejected me forever?

    Will he never again be kind to me?

Is his unfailing love gone forever?

    Have his promises permanently failed?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

    Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

Psalm 77:1–9 New Living Translation

Christians are to turn first and most often to God to declare, complain, and pour out our troubles. This doesn’t negate the necessity of pastors and counselors and community. However, even the best of people are still just people. God alone is our salvation, and it is ultimately Jesus who lifts our burdens. It is to him that we are to bring our anxieties, rolling them onto his shoulders (1 Pet. 5:13). After all, “A child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer.”[1]

Did you see the movie The Apostle? Sonny, a southern pastor played by Robert Duvall, is as raw as they come in his relationship with God. The story goes that Sonny has a successful ministry , but then the most unexpected turn of his life happens; his wife cheats on him with another man. Sonny, filled with rage, loses his mind, hunts the man down at a children’s baseball game, and strikes the man with a baseball bat, killing him. Sonny then flees town and goes to live in a rural place with his mother. Late one night, Sonny goes up into the attic of his mother’s house and shouts in uncensored honesty. This is most definitely not a prayer that you’d find in most church services. In all of his pain, his confusion, his total anger with the shape his life, his broken dreams, and cluttered head, Sonny’s passion-filled and completely disoriented heart comes up through his mouth and belts at the top of his lungs:

Somebody, I say, somebody has taken my wife; they’ve stolen my church! That’s the temple I built for you! I’m gonna yell at you ’cause I’m mad at you! I can’t take it!

Give me a sign or somethin’. Blow this pain out of me. Give it to me tonight, Lord God Jehovah. If you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace. Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me, give it to me. Give me peace. Give me peace.

I don’t know who’s been foolin’ with me—you or the Devil. I don’t know. And I won’t even bring the human into this—he’s just a mutt—so I’m not even gonna bring him into it. 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, Lord. What should I do? Now tell me. Should I lay hands on myself? What should I do? I know I’m a sinner and once in a while a womanizer, but I’m your servant! Ever since I was a little boy and you brought me back from the dead, I’m your servant! What should I do? Tell me. I’ve always called you Jesus; you’ve always called me Sonny. What should I do, Jesus? This is Sonny talkin’ now.

Just then the phone rings; a neighbor calls complaining to Sonny’s mother about the noise. His mother replies, “Sometimes Sonny talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he happens to be yelling at him.”[2]

The reality is that God is not afraid of you, your fears, your frustrations, nor your anger. That’s right. God can put up with all of your anger at him and still keep that same look of loving, longing compassion for you. He knows you. So feel free as you bow your knees to let your hair down, too, and join Sonny in a dose of authenticity.

Excerpt from The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What Will Change, What Won't, and Why It Matters, pp. 86-89.

[1] Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt-Out, Multnomah, Colorado Springs (2005) p. 155.
[2] The Apostle (Universal, 1997), written and directed by Robert Duvall. Quoted in Craig Brian Larson and Andrew Zahn, Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 212–213.