You wake up daily in fear.
You go to sleep every night crushed by a weight of guilt and despair.
Does he really love you? Can he truly love someone like you?
Can he forgive your mistakes? Can he forget your past?
Can you ever please him? Can you even remember the last time you experienced peace with him?
If these statements were used to describe a married person, the individual would be described as living in an emotionally abusive relationship. Yet, this account aptly portrays the relationship some of us have with God –a relationship rooted in deep fear and unhappiness; one born from need; an association between an unworthy individual and a supreme being. No wonder people walk away from the terrible weight of it.
Such a relationship brings to mind the lyrics of Broken Arrow by The Script:
“When you shoot across the sky like a broken arrow
It’s so hard to keep yourself on the straight and narrow
When you shoot across the sky like a broken arrow
You fall off course,
Yeah when you hit the ground
It’s hard to get to heaven when you’re born hell bound”
It’s difficult to enjoy a relationship when you consider yourself broken, defeated and unworthy in the first place.
Yesterday, I began my day by asking God why many seem unhappy in their relationship with him and why his ideals don’t seem to translate into daily living. The response I got was that many of the things we classify as Christianity aren’t Christianity. I’m still chewing on his cryptic answer. I suspect it may turn out to mean that a lot of the things we do were never asked of us in the first place.
One thing I do know is that a feeling of unworthiness is completely antithetical to the premium God places on human life, especially those he’s forged covenants with. In describing how he views Israel, a nation he penned a contract with, he says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3). He assures us today, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God”. (Full context in Romans 8: 31-39).
Why then do we feel self-flagellated when no one is condemning us? Why are we continually distressed, when joy and peace are the linchpins of our faith?
God tells us in Philippians, “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.
He reminds us that the fruits of his Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness”. (Galatians 5:22).
Peter utters a very instructive prayer in 2 Peter 1:2: “May grace (God’s favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”
What defines our day-to-day relationship with God is our knowledge of him.
Imagine you’ve had conversations with a friend over many years. You’ve taken strolls with him and had robust debates on many issues. You’ve received his counsel and help on many occasions and he’s been there in times of trouble. If someday someone comes along to try to convince you what this dearest of friends finds you unworthy of a relationship with him, what will your initial reaction be? Disbelief! You would demand to speak to your friend one-on-one to clarify things directly. You may even get upset with the person who suggested your friend could ever be disloyal to you.
That’s how your knowledge of God impacts your relationship with him.
But some may wonder, “how do I develop my knowledge of God”?
I can share 3 things I’ve learned:
1. Quality trumps quantity: I’m a restless distracted soul. I find that 5 minutes of genuine face-time with God everyday trumps an hour of distracted prayer.
2. Consistency matters: In college I discovered that whenever I set aside a specific time slot in the week to meet with God, after a while he’d be there waiting for me. If you make out time for him consistently, he’ll show up.
3. He speaks through his word: God’s deepest truths are found in the Bible and you can access them through personal study. Personal study also helps you sift the wheat from the chaff when you hear messages in church.
I sincerely hope that if you are in an abusive relationship with God, you will stop it and embrace a wholesome walk with him instead. That is my prayer for you.