How do we know for sure whether God is loving and gracious, or cold and distant?
I understand that you had some input on the story-line of the book the Shack. I have read the book and watched the movie. Do you think that is who God really is? It just seems too good to be true on so many levels. I know some people struggle with the Old Testament God versus the gracious Jesus. However, for me even Jesus seems a little cold and distant in ways when I read about Him in the gospels. Nothing really like the Jesus in the Shack. I’m not sure how to change my mind about the religious beliefs I’ve had for so many years. I still have a hard time believing that God is that good.
I love The Shack, and, yes I did help in the collaboration that produced the book and movie. Is that who he really is? That’s the best the three of us—Paul Young, Brad Cummings, and myself—could come up with, but I’m sure it falls way short of expressing all that he is. I keep discovering in my growing relationship with him that he is more loving, more gracious, more patient, and more powerful than I can conceive.
If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read He Loves Me. I published that book almost a decade before I got involved with The Shack, and it is a great way to explore the theology behind our collaboration. You’ll find some phrases pulled directly from that book became part of Mack’s story as well. I don’t know where you’re getting “cold and distant” in the Gospels, but when I see him with Peter and John, the woman at the well, Zaccheus, Mary of Magdala, Nicodemus and others, I’m touched by his tenderness and patience as he invites them into the transformed life of following him.
At the same time, please be assured that knowing who he is doesn’t come from making conclusions out of reading books or even the Gospels. I value the Scriptures, but they alone can’t teach us who he is. Look how many different conclusions various traditions come up with about God from reading the same book? Some see him as a demanding deity, always disappointed in the failures of humanity. Others see him as an amorphous blob, uninvolved in humanity’s story. I see him as a gracious Father, rescuing his children from brokenness and transforming us over time to take on his glory.
How do we know for sure who he is? He is his own person and he has presence in the universe. He wants to show you and in fact has been doing so since before you were born. Unfortunately we find it too easy to block him out in pursuit of our own ambitions or trying to manage our own pain. But whoever turns back toward him, he will begin to make himself known again. Ask him to show you. It is this revelation of Christ that gives us confidence in his nature, and sets us free. The Scriptures show us how we can open our hearts to him, but they invite us to follow him. As we do, we can then check back what we’re learning to make sure we are still inside what Scripture revealed of his purpose and nature.
Jesus wants to show himself to you. But don’t expect a blinding light from the closet. Let him soak into your consciousness as you simply look for his fingerprints in your life. What is he saying to you in your worst moments? In your best? What is his demeanor toward you even when you fail? What is he nudging you toward or warning you to back away from? These are all knowable, though it takes some time to let that relationship develop. God knows how hard it is to see that through the religious lens you’ve been given. And he’ll be patient to show you. This is a big deal, letting the God of the universe soak into our consciousness where we grow increasingly aware of God-With-Us!
So, to answer your question, the Jesus I know is way better than the one we wrote about in The Shack, and at the same time he is marvelously consistent with what I read in the Gospels as well.
Ask him. Watch every day for the little ways he seeps into your consciousness. Be patient. He’s really good at this.
11 thoughts on “Is He Really That Good?”
“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”
~ C. S. Lewis ~
Maybe part of the problem is that when reading what Jesus said we might “hear” it in the voice of abusive people – “ye of little faith” can be said tenderly but heard harshly… or the sentence about bread taken from kids and given to dogs sounds different in the original context…
The Bible says that God is love. We need to live like we believe that. Live loved!
I struggle daily with whether God loves me. I have been reading your book, He Loves Me! and I have had to stop and reread it again, and again. I haven’t made it past page 108. I just cannot grasp what I have read so far. I am beginning to get it, but it is slow. I am only just learning to trust God. I have an extremely abusive history and am in recovery. Everything has always been seen through these lenses. I am thankful to have a Christian trauma therapist who is showing me God’s love and patience, and teaching me who our God truly is through my therapy. I can see where others believe He is harsh. I read it too. It has to do with how we have been raised, treated, and taught. It is not easily undone. I just wrote about it recently in my blog. The struggle to understand God’s love. Your book is the first thing, besides The Shack, which also confused me, which has begun to make me think twice about who I believe God to be. There are many people who don’t know this wonderful God you speak of. Many Christians. I am just getting a glimpse and praying He is really this God of love. You really can’t imagine how hard it is to undo 41 years of thinking otherwise. I understand the comment made to you. There are many of us out there. Thank you for sharing this post with us and your book. Your journey. I’m praying I have one to share soon too.
And thanks for writing, Susan. My heart goes out to you. Yes, it is hard to reverse 41 years of indoctrination designed to get us to fear God, thinking that will change us. But it doesn’t. It only creates standards we can’t meet and then God looks like not only a scary being, but a demanding one as well. I pray God will show you who he really is, as Jesus made him known to the people he touched in Israel. You are loved. Deeply so! And he will teach you how to rest in that love and in doing so your trust in him will grow. It’s not something you have to do. He’ll win you to it. It does take time. Be easy on yourself as God invites you in to the most amazing journey.
Thank you for your words.
Yes…… Watch & wait. HE is indeed good at “IT”. You’ll be surprised at how simple it all is. Amen. Selah!
Love this! He really is good at this loving us thing that he does.
That was really cool…and so true. Thanks Mr. Wayne…. 🙂
I have found that there are most definitely seasons when it is easy to believe that we are loved well and seasons in life when it it seems unbelievable. The way we were raised, how we were loved determines how we actually define love and how we now convey and enact love with those around us . Life events, successes, failures, and random circumstances can easily twist up the emotions of the flesh. Life in the spirit is ‘supposed’ to cure the ailment of the flesh but even that is fleeting at best for most people. What does it even mean that God loves me? Does it mean that he gives me what I want when I want it? Does it mean that all my relationships are good? Does it mean that I’ll always have a sense of the warm and fuzzies of being all tucked into my ‘snuggy’, curled up next to Pop’s in front of the fireplace? Or are we at war, and the love we feel is that of the soldier next to us in the trenches as we fight for each other’s lives and for the lives of those who aren’t able to fight in this moment. Could be a bit of all that but I am most comforted to trust that whether I understand the love or not, and whether I think I understand God or not, He’s got this all sorted out…”and is (somehow) redeeming it”(pg128shack). I am also comforted by how Job came to see God and how God then responded to Job: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…”, and then God said to Eliphaz: “I am angry with you and your two friends because YOU HAVE NOT SPOKEN OF ME WHAT IS RIGHT, as my servant Job has. What right thing did Job say??? “I’m sorry for thinking I can speak for all or anything that God is.” Just my perspective…
Love your thoughts, Kevin. It’s not easy to find our way to a loving Father behind all the brokenness our world deals with every day. But it is a journey well worth the taking. God is the redeemer in our lives that keeps working his good in spite of how much humanity works against him….
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