Don’t you love Psalm 16:11? “In your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Wouldn’t you love to live in the joy and pleasure of God’s presence continually?
That is my goal. Most of my adult life I’ve been undoing the effects of growing up in church, or so I thought.
I was afraid of God, and thought it was what I learned at church and church school. Recently I’ve begun to question that perception. I think it was because I read the Bible too young. The Old Testament and some of the New is not for young, superficial readers. I got scared. I knew God loved me, but I was afraid of Him.
I wanted to be perfect, and my mother wanted me to be also. She wanted that for all her children, and she modeled a real and loving relationship with God. She’d known Him personally ever since her baptism at 12, when she had a personal experience with Him.
My personal experiences with God started when I was six on a perfect late summer morning when I was alone outside imagining God. In my early twenties I had an amazing experience of understanding salvation by faith when I experienced God’s joy, and in my mid twenties I was alone over a holiday and made an experiment of being with God. It was beautiful.
I had a faith venture in my late twenties that was amazing, and having my daughter just before 30 showed me God’s love in an incredible way. I don’t think I had ever really loved before.
But still the fear of God continually haunted me–stalked me.
Through the death of my little brother God carried me. All through my divorce He was right beside me holding my hand. At the beginning of graduate school, God shared a new perspective on Luke 9:23-25 that opened up scripture, and it was about then that I decided I had to address my concept of God. I had to deal with the fear. My masters project was looking at the parenting of God in all 66 books of the Bible. That helped.
But what really caused a revolution was studying the wrath of God and discovering what it was. You wouldn’t think understanding God’s wrath would take away fear. Romans 1 launched it, and Isaiah and Jeremiah clinched it. There I found that the wrath of God was nothing more than God letting us have our own way! Letting us leave Him.
If you understand our context–living in a war zone with broken human natures and freedom, and an enemy that loves to destroy us–that is scary. But it begin to relieve my fear of God.
In a Bible study about ten years ago, I was thrilled to read 1John 1:4 and put it together with Genesis 3:15, and discover there is no evil in God. God is not capable of evil. Since then, I have found three other scriptures that say the same thing. And according to James, God doesn’t even test or tempt us. He doesn’t do bad to get good.
You may have known that your whole life, but for me it was huge. I’m embarrassed to admit it now. But the things I read in scripture always made me wonder. You can even understand the cross as God killing Jesus, if you look at it wrong. It’s all perspective and our perspective is often skewed, tweaked or filtered especially by people who claim to know Him but don’t.
This one thing has made all the difference. I’ll explain more next time.