How can I change my negative view of God? The picture of God that comes most readily to my mind is that of a harsh overseer, a rule-giver, a relentless judge, a dispenser of punishment. I know that the Gospel is supposed to be good news, but somehow it doesn't feel like good news to me.
There are all kinds of things we could say in answer to this question. We could quote a whole raft of Scriptures in an effort to convince you that God really does love you and that He really isn't a "great executioner" or "relentless judge." But you've probably heard it all before. The trick is to get that knowledge from your head into your heart. We think we may have a helpful suggestion.
When the young Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk in the city of Erfurt, he struggled with powerful doubts and fears very much like your own. His mind was dominated by a terrifying image of Christ. He thought of Jesus as a fiery-eyed judge, seated on the arch of the rainbow. He feared that He was poised to expose all of Martin's secret sins and strike him down to hell with an iron rod. As Luther himself later described this period in his life, "I lost hold of Christ the Savior and Comforter and made of Him a stock-master and hangman over my poor soul."
Martin's overseer, Johann von Staupitz, soon got tired of the young man's constant confessions of guilt. He was sick of hearing Martin's endless complaints about his own depravity and unworthiness. He was desperate to put a stop to all of this, and he came up with a highly original way of doing it. He put Martin to work. He gave him the job of teaching the Bible in the University of Erfurt. In other words, he devised a plan to get Luther's mind off himself by involving him in ministry to others. It worked. While preparing his lectures on the Book of Galatians, Luther suddenly saw, as if for the first time, that God's grace trumps all our sins. His studies convinced him that the just are saved by grace through faith alone. That insight changed his life. It altered the course of Western history as well.
Maybe this is exactly what you need. Maybe if you were to get up out of your church pew and become more deeply involved in teaching Sunday school, leading a prayer group, ministering to the homeless, or reaching out to your neighbors with the good news of the Gospel, you might find yourself gradually forgetting about your negative image of God and focusing instead on the needs and concerns of others. You might even end up in the position of having to convince someone else that he or she is unconditionally loved by God. It's not an easy row to hoe. But it is good tonic for the sort of ailment you've described. You might want to think about it.
If you'd like to discuss these thoughts at greater length, please call our staff of pastoral counselors.
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