How Bad is God?
What does my anxiety reveal about the beliefs deep in my heart?
What do I really think about God and His plans for me and His treatment of me?
How do I interpret past painful experiences to define how God treats me and feels about me?
What do I believe is the core issue involving the great struggle between good and evil? Is it about me, my sinful condition, my salvation, my perfection, my deliverance, getting me into Paradise? Or is there something vastly more important at stake?
These may sound like just so many philosophical questions. But in truth many of them lie at the foundation of everything that forms each person's perception of reality. And more importantly they give strong indication of the direction in which a person is moving as far as what they believe are the goals they need to strive for, the issues they seek to resolve, the problems that need to be overcome.
I am struggling to perceive reality each day a little more accurately than I have in the past. That means that I have to keep challenging my paradigms, censoring the enormous mass of calculated misinformation constantly bombarding me from every direction both secular and religious. But even there, the filters that I use to censor incoming or past information is the very issue that I am talking about here. How am I to have a reliable source of data or whatever, that will prove to be true and effective to achieve my desire of coming closer to the light of truth and escaping the pervasive atmosphere of deception that enshrouds this whole planet so completely?
There is no quick escape from the tentacles of deception if we exist as a human being. The fact that so many people fully believe that they have escaped and that they alone are the enlightened ones does not mean that they are indeed freer from this curse than others. It most often means that they are simply more thoroughly deceived, not necessarily enlightened. But that should not lead to the conclusion that it is impossible to be undeceived either. I firmly believe that God intends and desires and offers a way of escape to everyone who is willing to cooperate with His design for our restoration. But that escape route is not something I can figure out on my own.
But one of our biggest problems is that we tend to think that our version of reality or our traditions are more accurate simply because they are more familiar to us and we have such long experience with them. I believe that truth cannot be discovered simply by searching for it, though that is a very important activity to pursue. When one is enclosed within a trap that is far stronger and more subtle than their own mind and intellect can even grasp, it is totally necessary for someone else who is bigger and stronger and wiser to come with both the ability and the desire to spring us from that trap. But it is also important that we be willing to leave the familiar confines of that trap when the doors are opened for us. Otherwise we may find that the trap has taken such a hold on our heart that we have become one with the sentiments and character of the evil one who caught us in that trap in the first place.
I believe that Jesus is the one who is sent to spring open the door to the trap or the many traps in which we have been snared all of our lives. That sometimes seems vague and generic unless there are definitive specifics behind such statements, but I believe that is part of the truth about reality. I also believe that because of the nature of deception, that when I am deceived I can't even know I am deceived because that is what deep deception does to a person. For me to ever have any hope of escaping deception I have to have an outside source of truth and reality come to show me that alternative way of believing.
It is at this point that I come back to the core issue which initiated this whole pondering to start with. What I believe about the intentions of the One who comes to hopefully spring me from the snare of misinformation and skewed perceptions of reality will largely determine my response to the opening of the trap doors temporarily. For if I do not believe that this unseen Being has my best interest in mind then I will choose to some degree to side with the more familiar feelings and notions about reality that fit my experience more than I am willing to venture into uncharted territory and believe in someone I cannot see or grasp with my natural senses of perception.
What I am perceiving here is that my gut-level beliefs about an unseen God who seldom seems to reveal Himself to me in ways I would prefer, will determine what messages about the nature of reality I allow to influence my attitudes and perceptions and which ones I will reject. And those gut-level beliefs, not the intellectual ones or the religious ones but the ones that spring into view when I am in a sudden crisis – those deeply embedded beliefs about God and about reality are the ones that must be exposed and radically altered if I am ever to escape the miasma of common misconceptions of reality that blankets the whole world.
The question that lies at the core of everything is how my heart perceives that God feels about me.
Is God really good? And what defines good anyway? Am I using altered definitions of words and concepts that accommodates a counterfeit system of thinking that keeps me from seeing true reality?
Is God totally good or is He sometimes mean, vindictive, punitive, harsh, unpredictable? Does He get mad at people who refuse to cooperate with His desires? Does He run out of patience and finally get so frustrated that He lashes out in anger at those who reject His advances?
These are not questions to be pushed aside by religious platitudes but to be discovered in what the heart reveals when things are going badly. And I am not referring here to the beliefs we have been taught in church or the answers that come off our tongues so glibly; I am referring to the much deeper and more compelling level of belief that very often is hidden behind a superficial facade of what we claim to believe. It is very hard to extract the true nature of our gut-level beliefs because they are often so raw and so frightening or so out of harmony with what we think we are supposed to believe that we cannot even bring ourselves to admit that we feel that way.
Many would say that we should not even go there, that we should simply ignore those deeper feelings and should only focus on the systematic answers from religion that experts have assembled for us to endorse. Our focus then becomes that of trying to argue our way into discovering truth or simply entrusting our souls to others whom we hope will lead us in the right direction. But is this the way to freedom or is it yet another promising path inside a maze designed to keep us securely in the prison of deception we have lived in all of our lives?
What started all of this was my own challenge to question how I feel about my own perceptions. How does God relate to my own struggles to make a living right now? I find myself moving through many interesting, frightening, curious and often conflicting beliefs about what I should be doing and more importantly how I should be perceiving and interpreting events and information all around me. I am becoming more keenly aware at how easily I am influenced in this regard by what I allow to come into my mind as well as what I choose to dwell on and talk about with others. Some things help me clarify what God has been showing me and leading me toward over the past few years, but many things bring confusion and questions and sometimes even depression.
Just because something causes me to question may or may not mean that it is a source designed to keep me in deep deception. I have observed that those who refuse to consider anything that makes them uncomfortable are often those who are the most narrow-minded, close-minded and bigoted, all the while insisting that they are not. This can happen in all, from the most religious to the most anti-religious. But I have been convicted over the past few years to believe that beyond what I can perceive about reality there is a vastly greater reality that I simply cannot grasp very well with my severely limited current mental and emotional capacities. But that does not mean that I should not seek to move toward a better understanding and connection with that much greater and more accurate reality.
But where do I turn to better discover that reality? Who is given the authority to define it for me?
When I find myself worrying about my bills, wondering how I am going to manage in my finances next week or next month, what is revealed about the real beliefs of my heart in those thoughts? What is exposed about my real beliefs about what God has said in relation to those things in my life?
Jesus has many explicit instructions about how we are supposed to relate to these very things. Why do I find it hard to embrace these noble concepts? I am convinced that it is impossible to escape stress and fear and worry until my gut-level picture of God is seriously revised. For behind every fear and anxiety and worry is a hidden belief that God either is not capable or is not interested in taking care of me in some way or another.
And that takes me to the very root, the very core issue that I have come to see as the only real issue of importance in the end. God's reputation, what we believe about His character, His desires, His intentions, His claims about who He is – this is the only real issue from which everything else multiplies. Everything we think about reality can be traced back to what we really believe in our hearts about how God treats us and feels about us.
Ironically, religion has been a miserable source of reliable information about God despite all its claims to the contrary. Every religion on this planet is riddled with misinformation, lies and confusion that keeps us going in circles or crashing into dead ends. Those who reject religion or the existence of God altogether are simply reacting to the lies that religion has promoted about Him, and I believe that many of those who reject religion are actually often closer to the real truth than those promoting religion. But they are judged as being unsaved because they do not subscribe to the confused notions about God as taught by supposed religious authorities on the subject.
I have repeatedly revisited a quotation that I placed on the side of my file cabinet some time ago. In my quest to keep my mind headed in the right direction I need reminders from reliable sources that can steer me in the right direction. This statement has given me important clues to keep me from sinking deeper into deception when things seem dark and foreboding.
When trial comes to prove us,
when we cannot see an increase
of prosperity and comfort before us,
but a probable lessening of these things,
when there is a pressure
necessitating sacrifice on the part of all,
how shall we receive Satan’s insinuations
that we are going to have a hard time,
that everything is going to pieces,
that there is sore trouble ahead of us? . . .
We ought to gather up
the fragments of heaven’s blessings
and tokens for good,
saying, Lord, I believe in Thee,
in Thy servants, and in Thy work.
I will trust in Thee.
This has alerted me many times to the fact that when I am worrying about what may happen to me, that in reality I am being pressured by Satan to believe that God is not as good as He claims He is. I am being lured into the trap of defining God by my experiences instead of allowing God to define Himself. Jesus said that we should not worry about the problems of tomorrow because that is a whole different issue that He will address when we get there. So when I allow myself to begin running scenarios in my head about dire circumstances in my future, I am allowing Satan's insinuations to become my frame of reference, my definition of reality and by extension my beliefs about who God is and how He treats me.
I am starting to see more clearly how my choices and what I choose to dwell on affects God's reputation. It is not only how my life affects God's reputation with others, but what I choose to believe about reality as shown in this statement will largely determine God's reputation even in my own mind and heart. Therefore, it is vitally important that I have a constant influx of God-inspired revelations concerning the real truth about Him to counteract the many false assumptions that are ever-present and seeking to distort my perceptions of reality.
Anxiety and worry are really just symptoms of false beliefs at the heart level about God's declarations that He can and wants to take care of me and supply all of my needs. When I believe that my needs are not being met, I may either be operating under confused ideas about what my needs really are or I may be engaging in activities and choices that remove His protection from my life. Doing that can in turn allow the enemy to rob me of God's promised provisions for me and block some of His blessings. Even though God is very capable and totally desirous of providing for all of His children, the rules of engagement in this cosmic battle prevent Him from doing much of what He wants to do because we refuse to believe in Him, which is the vital precondition for reception of many of His greater blessings.
To what extent does my heart really believe that God is good ALL the time?
Do I subscribe to doctrines that fly in the face of the real truth rooted in the Scriptures and that may distort or inhibit my ability to believe in a truly good God?
How often do I feel that God must be punishing me for some sin when things start going badly in my surroundings? What does that reveal about my real beliefs about how God relates to sinners?
How much do my false beliefs about God prevent far greater blessings of all kinds from flowing into and through me to others?