God usually does not need information, when he asks questions. He enters our space and seeks to communicate with us. God wants our hearts revealed to us, so he asks us questions to draw us out. God is asking, “is it right (a good thing) for you to be angry that I am a gracious, forgiving, merciful God?”
God gives Jonah a chance to explain how his anger is good or right. Perhaps God is addressing the anger because Jonah did not pass through his anger. The Psalmist and then Apostle Paul echoes, “be angry without sinning”, (Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26). Anger is something we feel, go through, or express; then we move on. What is beneath the anger? Sometimes it is hurt or loss. If this is so, we need to get past the anger and feel the hurt or grieve the loss.
Jonah was angry about what was happening before his eyes in Nineveh. He expressed his anger to God. That was good. Now, it seems, that he isn’t moving on to repentance and reconciling himself to God. Jonah has good theology about God. As he feared it would, his theology about God was confirmed as completely correct when God dealt with Nineveh.
Jonah’s anger was completely out of line with God: who God is, and God’s acts with Nineveh. God was correct, right or true; and Nineveh, who had been all wrong, turned and came into alignment with God through repentance in word and deed. Then God responded to Nineveh and a wonderful thing happened. But then Jonah came out of alignment with God, and so, to mix metaphors, he blew his anger fuse.
Jonah’s capacity for God’s mercy had “blown a fuse”. “I know you are good, but that’s too good”, Jonah might have said.
God’s capacity for mercy should blow ours up. We can only try to grasp that His will and His abilities are so much bigger than ours. God loves the worst people, that we believe or see as “beyond hope”. When we judge people as “beyond hope”, we’re out-of-line.
If we are stuck in anger, living there, rather than just passing through; that is not good. When we feel ripped off or hurt; when we’ve suffered an injustice, or when we are humiliated by the truth that we were wrong and that makes us angry; we need to move on to grief: grieve it. When we continually tell our story of loss or injustice or humiliation (where we were perhaps wrong), but refuse to do our grief work, that is not good and we are stuck.
What is grief work? Grieving is a process that moves beyond the shock, denial, and anger of loss towards healing, spiritual growth and intimacy with God. We need to have funerals, cry, wail, remember, voice regrets, and receive condolences.
The person that refuses their grief work is a forever angry person. They might not rage all the time, but their anger is simmering below the surface. They have not grieved their losses, so they are angry at everyone all the time. That person is overly critical of everything and everyone. They smile, but there is a lack of joy, because of the undealt with losses.