In the 10 years since I left my family I’ve often been confused about God, the Bible, spirituality, and everything that goes with it. It’s not that I didn’t want to believe. I did want to believe. The problem was that I couldn’t believe most of the things I’d been taught because I felt so violated by those beliefs. What kind of God tells someone to beat someone? That didn’t make sense to me.
Back then, my understanding of God was that He was sitting up there, waiting for me to do something that He could punish me for. He is righteous, holy and just, and He must deal with sin, unrighteousness and unholiness.
This picture is not untrue. It is merely unbalanced.
Because, in addition to God being righteous, holy and just, He is also loving, compassionate, gracious and merciful.
I remember being at Cru in college one day, and a group leader asked my group something about what the phrase “God is love” meant to us. A little light bulb turned on in my brain and I, going completely against my very quiet, very reserved personality, spoke up saying, “If God IS love, then if God were to stop loving anybody or anything for even a nanosecond, He would have to cease to exist.”
I don’t think anyone else had a clue what I was talking about, but that thought completely blew me away.
At that moment, my understanding of God switched from Him sitting up there, waving a big stick around, looking for someone to clobber. All of a sudden, the way I understood God allowed me to make mistakes and still approach Him without fear. God was suddenly compassionate. Full of grace. Merciful.
I love the following Psalm because it paints a picture of God as being a BIG, mighty God — where, when He does something, everybody notices — and yet, He is available to us, He is listening, and mostly, He is able and willing to rescue us. This is how He thinks toward us. This is how He responds to us. This is Who God is.
In my distress, I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple He heard my voice;
my cry came before Him, into His ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because He was angry.
Smoke rose from His nostrils;
consuming fire came from His mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under His feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
He soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him–
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advanced
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot His arrows and scattered the enemies,
great bolts of lightning and routed them.
The valleys of sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, oh Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.