This is a guest post from my Pastor-friend Matt Mirabile
How you think about God matters.
Is he a tyrant? Do you hold God responsible for past sorrows? Is He your tormentor? Is God indifferent? Callous?
Is he your advocate? Your friend? The lover of your soul? Your redeemer?
There are many things that can hurt our vision of God, keeping us from seeing Him as He really is — supremely good and overflowing with love for us. Those things can include loss, poverty, prolonged suffering, violence, war, even the news cycle (seriously!).
Our concept of God, whether He is kind and benevolent, or cruel and indifferent, is also shaped to a large degree by our parents and other authority figures. How they have interacted with us has shaped our sense of self-worth, how we interpret the world, and how we understand God. Having a positive concept of God is the most powerful tool in overcoming adversity.
Most people have a negative concept of God.
Thirty-one percent understand God as authoritarian. He is judging, unyielding, and harsh. Another twenty-four percent see God as distant — the watchmaker who has set the universe in motion and has abandoned us to our own demise. Then there is sixteen percent who think God is critical. That vision holds God to be punitive and obsessive and ready to find fault in everything we do. 1
Misperceiving God as punishing, critical or distant has a profound impact on your ability to heal from trauma and loss. Past experiences have primed us to fear or distrust God. If you cannot believe that God is for you, how can you believe He will help you? The first step in healing the soul is correcting your image of God.
Believing God is loving activates an important circuit in your brain called the Anterior Cingulate. This region of the brain acts to intervene between the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex. It suppresses anger and opens up to feelings of love and compassion. Fixing your concept of God goes a long way in rewiring your brain. Having a positive image of God helps create emotional resilience, aids in efforts at recovery from addictions, and helps us have hope when we struggle with depression and anxiety. This is why the second and third steps in AA have to do with believing in a power greater than ourselves and turning our lives over to that power. If we believe that power — God — is indifferent, cruel, or critical and judging, how can we begin the process of change? We need a powerful ally to help us overcome our addictions and life-controlling behaviors.
God is Love! Redeeming, self-sacrificing love.
I know that such an idea can actually cause anguish for those who don’t believe so. It actually hurts to think that God really does love you. Let the idea challenge you. It is a healing salve to your love wound. Knowing and believing this is the first step in gaining the sort of resilience and hope that helps us overcome adversity. “If God is love and he loves me, am I lovable?” Why, Yes! Yes, you are!
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 4:9–10, 16, 18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles
What is your default image of God? Good? Or bad?
- How God Changes Your Brain, Newberg and Waldman, pgs 109, 111, 124
Pastor Matt is known as a critical thinker. A pastor and spiritual director examines issues critical to, for, and of believing, in our post-Christian context.
Please leave us a comment. We would love to hear your view of God.
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