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When we have already established a relationship with a God who we thought was all loving and kind, it is quite traumatic to be suddenly exposed to His dark side. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the conclusions we tend leap to about God during this period of shock and see if we can put things back in perspective. We’ll also learn why we are really much better off with God the way He actually is, as opposed to the God we thought we knew who was all smiles and warmth.
1. I thought God loved me. Now I feel like He can’t be counted on. He could start hating me at any moment.
God is not a fickle Being. He has reasons for what He does. He is always in control of Himself. He doesn’t lose His temper like we humans do. He doesn’t just lash out at us for no reason. When you are first exposed to the reality of God’s wrath, Satan tries to get you to start viewing God like some enormous wild beast who will suddenly leap out of the woods and tear you to pieces for no reason at all. This is not who God is.
God loves you very much. If you are a Christian in His eyes, then God does not want you to fear that He will suddenly sever the bond between you and Him because He won’t. When God has a problem with you or He wants something from you, He will communicate those things to you very clearly. God is very reasonable and He understands your limitations as a human being. The things He asks you to do will be things that you actually can do—He isn’t going to burden you with a bunch of impossible commands and then start hurling lightning bolts because you didn’t act fast enough.
Think about the person you love most in the world. If they did something annoying, would you instantly fly into a rage and start beating them with a bat? Of course not. You are patient with the people you love. You don’t expect them to be perfect. God loves you infinitely more than you love other people. He is far more patient than you are. Consider your history with Him up until this point. The kind God who made you feel safe and secure hasn’t gone anywhere. All that is changing is that you’re learning God isn’t a spineless doormat. Is this really a bad thing? Would you respect a God who lets tiny humans walk all over Him?
2. I always thought God was my Friend and Protector. Now that I know He causes bad things to happen to me on purpose, I feel like I can’t trust Him.
Your trust in God’s motivations is what’s slipping here. Back when you thought He was only involved in the good parts of your life, you felt confident that He had positive motivations towards you, and you were right. Now that you’re learning more about who He is, you suddenly fear that His motivations towards you have changed, but they haven’t. God still loves you and He still wants what is absolutely best for you. But instead of being some weenie God who is always getting trumped by demons, God is in control of every aspect of your life. Instead of being some weak Guardian who keeps failing you in your hour of need, God can be counted on to never let any suffering come near you except the kind that will end up benefiting your soul.
Do you want to experience God’s best for you? You have to endure some suffering in order to get there. Pain is part of the growth process, but back when you thought God had nothing to do with evil, where did pain come from? How did your old theology explain suffering in your life? There are only two options: either demons were constantly trumping God, or sin was some kind of force which He just couldn’t seem to manage. “It’s a fallen world,” we Christians like to say. Well, what does that mean? God was the One who cursed this place. Are His curses bigger than He is? Do they end up producing consequences that He can’t stop? Of course not.
The all-good God we start off with is a very pathetic Being who keeps getting His hands tied by the things He has made and the things He has said. The real God is bound by nothing. He can curse and He can un-curse. He can wound and He can heal. He is never overwhelmed by the sin problem—in fact He chose to put sin in this world. That forbidden fruit didn’t show up in Eden on its own, God put it there knowing that Adam and Eve would choose to rebel against Him. God is never shocked by our choices. Do you really want it any other way? How safe can you really feel with a Deity who can’t anticipate Satan’s next move? The all-good God theology reduces our Creators to a frantic clean-up committee who are constantly running along behind demons and wicked people trying to fix the messes that they’ve made. Now you’re learning how ridiculous such a theory is. Our three Creators are always in complete control over everything They create. They don’t ever let demons or fallen humans get in the way of Their Divine agenda. There is great peace and comfort in understanding this. You never have to be afraid of the world spinning out of control or of evil winning the day. Nothing ever triumphs over our Gods. They are undefeatable.
FURTHER READING: Understanding the Limits of Satan’s Power
3. God actually enjoys torturing people in Hell? How can I possibly feel safe with such a Monster?
The real thing you’re questioning here is God’s Character. You’re assuming that God can’t enjoy torturing people unless He is evil at heart. But what is evil about punishing wrong? Do you think a man should be rewarded for assaulting a woman? Do you think it is right for murderers to be treated like celebrities? Of course not. You have an instinctive sense of justice which wants to see the wrong punished. Well, you got that desire for justice from God. God also wants wrong to be punished, and like you, He wants a system that is fair. If a man just tells one a little lie and we end up shoving him in front of a firing squad, that is hardly fair. It’s a massive overreaction and we would be cruel to do such a thing.
When God talks about torturing people forever in Hell, we feel like He is overreacting. We don’t consider any sin to be so offensive that it could possibly deserve eternal torment. Well, that’s the human perspective, and humans are notorious for downplaying the seriousness of sin.
Suppose someone stole a million dollars worth of jewelry from your house. Happily, you had it insured. But when you go to collect the money from the insurance agency, they say “Oh, that wasn’t really worth that much. Here’s ten bucks. That’s reasonable compensation.” How would you feel? Furious of course. Cheated. Wronged. Well, this is how God would feel if people could spend their whole lives defying Him and receive anything less than eternal torment as a punishment for their behavior. Since we don’t even begin to understand how offensive sin is to God, who are we to tell Him that He’s being unreasonable in His choice of punishment? God says He’s being quite reasonable about it. He doesn’t see anything unfair about people writhing in Hell. So when we say Hell is bad, we’re really saying our judgment is superior to His and that He’s not allowed to have a different view of sin than we do. Is this an appropriate way for us to talk to the King? Of course not. God gets to decide for Himself what the just punishment for rejecting Him should be.
It’s more than a little hypocritical for us to complain about God being unfair when we are in line to go to Heaven. What’s fair about Jesus getting brutalized for sins He never committed? What’s fair about God granting us a complete pardon for our sins? What have we done on earth that could possibly have earned us the right to skip around in eternal bliss forever? Nothing. Our good works are minimal and flawed at best. Our heart attitudes are rotten a majority of the time and we spend a good deal of time totally forgetting about God. So by our own human logic, Heaven is a ridiculously unfair situation for God. Yet we don’t ever complain about Heaven, do we? This just proves what little hypocrites we are. We don’t mind a grossly unfair system as long as we’re the ones benefiting from it. But the minute God talks about Hell, well then we start calling Him an unfair ogre. God is not an ogre. We need to stop judging Him and start listening to what He is teaching us about His priorities and passions. The fact that God even created Hell teaches us how outrageous it is to Him when His creatures defy Him. It teaches us how extremely important respect is to God. The fact that God delights in Hell is simply evidence of how fair He is: it pleases Him to see justice executed without compromise. Thinking about Hell really helps us know God better, and the better we know Him, the better we can treat Him.
4. Now that I know about God’s involvement with evil, I feel afraid of Him. I’ve stopped praying and I feel like I’ve completely lost the God I once knew.
Let’s think about this. In order to grow closer to God, we need to get to know Him better. We can’t do that without His help. Now God is starting to teach you more about who He is. He’s starting to educate you about a whole side of Him that you never knew existed. This is a high compliment. He’s doing this because He wants to deepen the bond between you. Yet how are you responding to God’s invitation to become more intimate with Him? You’re shutting down on Him and pushing Him away. Is this really something you want to continue doing?
Suppose you had a really good friend. You talk all the time, and you have a lot of fun together. You’re really feeling a bond growing between the two of you, so naturally you want to share more of yourself with her. One day you tell her something about you that she never knew, excited to deepen the heart bond. But instead of finding the new insights about you fascinating and asking you a bunch of interested questions, your friend recoils with a repulsed look on her face and says, “What?! I never knew that about you! Yuck! Get away from me! I don’t want anything to do with you anymore!” How would you feel? Rejected of course. It turns out your friend is only interested in you as long as you are exactly who she wants you to be. You don’t get to be your own person in this relationship—it’s all about her. Is this really the way you want to be treating God?
There is a whole lot about God that you still don’t know. You’ve just barely begun to scratch the surface of His vast and complex Personality. You’re not going to instantly like everything you learn about Him. There are going to be things about Him that you don’t understand—things that confuse you, things that make you uncomfortable at first. But do you really want to chuck the whole relationship just because you’re a little uncomfortable in the moment? Who are you going to go to instead to replace your magnificent Creator? Some dot of a human? Not hardly.
No one can begin to satisfy you like God can, but you can’t progress in this relationship by telling Him who He can’t be. Look back at the positive history you’ve had with Him so far. Don’t discount everything you’ve already been through together just because you’re feeling a little thrown off balance right now. Recognize these new insights for the compliments that they are: God is drawing you closer in. You need to start talking to Him again. The cold shoulder is hardly a nice response to His generosity.
Okay, so you weren’t expecting Him to be quite this huge, quite this unpredictable, and quite this complicated. Well, He is. And quite frankly, that little pinched up deity you were clinging to was never going to cut it. You were going to find that character seriously lacking as soon as a real crisis came along. You need a God who is truly GOD—not some limited guy who quivers in the presence of evil. The real God is intimately involved in every area of your life and He wants you to know Him better. If you’re willing, He is going help you through this discomfort and bring you out to a far better place where you will feel much more safe, secure, and loved by Him than you ever have before. Don’t miss out on all that He wants to give you because you wanted to keep Him confined to some comfortable little box. He’s God. He’s much too big for boxes.