Wow! Last week's blog, "Distorted Shepherds" really hit a nerve with a lot of people! I think it just goes to show that our view of God is immensely important and a lot of healing can be found when we realize God is so much better than we hope or believe. I found myself going back and rereading it several times last week because writing it and reading it helped me clarify what God is not. If you missed it, you can read it here.
So many of us carry deeply distorted views of God and none of us can see Him perfectly. Because of my story of anxiety surrounding the Christian life and the havoc a deeply distorted view of God had on my life, I am deeply passionate about us finding what is true about Him. We will never see perfectly this side of eternity, but we can keep growing in our view. We can find a new facet of His love every day of our life and still only see fragments of the sum total of His vast love for us. In this life, even the fragments are enough to change us and send us on a quest to find Him more fully.
He loves us, He loves us, He loves us! Not one thing can separate us from this deep, sacrificial, relentless, never-ending love He has for us. Our inability to comprehend it does not diminish it one bit, but our unawareness of it deeply hinders our lives. ALL He does is from the place of compassion and love. His judgment is for the purpose of restoration and always comes from a place of love. It's a far cry from the 'judgment' that is often wielded in His Name. There is a reason we are told not to judge. As humans, we do not have the love or wisdom to handle judgment rightly but He does. His compassion, love, tenderness and mercy are aimed at each one of us every day. Not one of us has gone or can ever go beyond the grasp of His love. Even hatred of Him does not deter it. His love is the antidote to our shame and regret, to our sins and fears, to our never ending desire to matter and feelings of not being enough. Each of us were worth the sacrifice and enough for the Creator of all to die for one. But sometimes we can't see it. (Deep love-Romans 8:31-39; Judgment/restorationHosea 6:1 and a lot of the OT; Judging people -Matthew 7:1-6; His heart towards us every day -Lamentations 3:22-23; love as antidote I John 1:9-10; new creation -2 Corinthians 5:17; Worth the sacrifice -Hebrews 12:2)
For some, religion is thrown out altogether because the god who has been seen is not at all the God who is. We must not mistake the rejection of a wrong image of God for the rejection of God Himself. I think God also rejects many of the images of Him floating around. Many of them are taught in our churches, homes and by our very lives. We live and teach the God we believe in. If we believe in a distorted view of God, our lives become a bit distorted. The more distorted our view, the more distorted our lives.
For some of us, life is spent with the nose to the grind trying to prove the goodness and worth already given. Others of us believe we stand at 'the back of the room' so to speak, and believe God has favorites and we aren't it. Others of us believe God sees us as more special than others and treat others accordingly. There are so many distorted views of God and ways we live because of them. A lot of people live with disappointment and struggle to desire closeness with God.
A nagging sense something is missing is a sure sign something is. If we pay attention we notice that underneath the surface, some deep questions lie. Many have been taught that questions are dangerous and questioning the faith is the same as 'falling away' or 'losing faith.' Sincere questions aren't anti-faith; they build faith.
What if the questions are actually a pathway to a deeper life with God? What if the questions and disappointments are actually the whispered invitation of the Holy Spirit inviting us out of our wrong views and assumptions into ones that are more true and right? I have heard of some proudly declaring they never question, but a quick study of the Bible reveals this is not the way to growth or the way to find God as He actually is.
John the Baptist, after baptizing Jesus and spending years in the wilderness declaring the New Kingdom had arrived, had questions. When that Kingdom wasn't quite what he had envisioned and he found himself in prison awaiting execution the questions came. His faith looked a little different than he had hoped and he began to have doubts that Jesus really was who he claimed to be. (Matthew 11:3)
Peter denied Jesus three times in the space between when Jesus died and Jesus rose. That Friday night and Saturday in between was not at all what he was expecting from the Messiah. (Matthew 26:69-75) If we're honest, all of us have lived in the tension of a Saturday. If we haven't yet, we will.
The Bible is filled with sincere and real people working out their faith and view of God. The Psalms are filled with prayerful questions, yearnings, desires and a depth that built David into a 'man after God's own heart.' The way to God is honesty and honesty always includes questions.
In each of these cases, the questioner had a view of God that wasn't accurate and their questions eventually centered them on the truth. God is not usually what we expect and we often have to travel through disappointment and questions to find He is better than we had hoped.
Questions are what break the coating of the seed that has been planted. If a seed feared the cracking of the seed coat and did everything it could to discourage it from happening, there would never be a plant. Questions can feel like the cracking of our faith, but if handled honestly and somewhat rightly, they lead to growth. 'Rightly' just means we go to God with them. Growth is rarely tidy or easy, but we can trust God with us. It turns out God can do a whole lot with a little bit of trust or faith.
The words 'faith' and 'trust' can often be used interchangeably. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Have you ever noticed, in order to not lean on your own understanding, questions must be asked? Can you ever understand something you didn't before without asking questions? I love how we can ask our questions and trust Him to help us understand Him more deeply. This is 'acknowledging Him.' He doesn't always answer our every question in the way we would expect, but He does center us more deeply on Him.
In order to gain a more accurate view of Him, it often requires a letting go of an old view. This may be a view we have held tightly to, been warned about leaving or taught to never question. It is important to check our fear level. I have found whenever fear is a barrier for me, there is usually something really important on the other side that God wants me to see. Nothing is more powerful than fear in our lives. Sometimes our very fear of misstepping and being led astray keeps us from the very truth we so long for. Fear loves to mask as wisdom, but fear called by another name is still fear. God is a very trustworthy Shepherd. Psalm 23:3 says, "He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake." He is our gentle leader. I have found that dogma and fear often surrounds wrong views of God and these are the 'guards' that keep us from asking questions that lead to seeing Him more truly.
We know a truer view of God is taking shape in our lives when we see what God says is His fruit growing in us (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control - Galatians 5:22) As we see His generosity, kindness, love, and all that He is more clearly, we increasingly live less self-protected and realize we are God-protected. This enables us to live differently and love others extravagantly. Questions become part of our regular dialogue with God because we are increasingly seeing He really is trustworthy like He says He is and we can trust Him with all that we are. God really is who He claims to be! What questions do you have today that may lead you to a deeper place with God?
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