An Angry Prayer

He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

One day Charlie offers a “prayer” that reveals his lingering anger toward God:

“Lord, we cleared this land. We ploughed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest; it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

Charlie gets high marks for his work ethic, but he overlooks some vital considerations. Who created the fertile valley where his crops grow? Who sends the rain and the sunshine? Who designed us with the capacity to choose what we believe about God?

Charlie’s anger was rooted in the death of his wife. In the Bible, we meet another man with cause to be angry. Known for his patience, Job still had some caustic observations about God and his fellow humans. “My complaint is with God, not with people. I have good reason to be so impatient,” he said. Then he asked, “Why do the wicked prosper?” (Job 21:4,7). Having lost 10 children, he lamented as he said of the wicked, “They live to see their children grow up and settle down” (Job 21:8). This led him to observe bitterly: “They think their prosperity is of their own doing” (Job 21:16).

Both Job and Charlie acknowledged God. Yet Job clung to a dependence on Him regardless of circumstances. God permits the hard questions of life so that we will face our own insufficiency and turn to Him and His sovereign ways.

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An Angry Prayer