A common story line in romantic comedies involves two people who dislike each other on their first meeting — and reinforce that opinion in subsequent interactions — but eventually realize their understanding was inaccurate or incomplete and fall in love. This can happen in friendships as well. First impressions can provide an incomplete picture. Sometimes we must be willing to put our initial reactions aside and look deeper to see the value in pursuing a friendship.
The same can be true in our friendship with God. A distorted view of Him can keep us from pursuing a relationship at all or keep us from deepening that relationship. Here are four ways our view of God can be distorted:
We may think God cannot be a real friend. We may doubt His existence or the possibility of being friends with a spirit. We trust our emotions, which cannot feel Him. We put more faith in people because they seem more present. We may test Him by praying, “If I am not alone, You need to show Yourself to me,” rather than seeking Him by asking, “Lord, I feel alone, help me believe You are with me”. But He is real and Scripture boldly states God is visible to everyone who is willing to look for Him.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)
Far more life seeks out a friendship with God.
We may believe God is distant or disinterested. Our closest friends are usually people we have regular interaction with, those who share both the big moments of life and the dailyness. Because we cannot see God’s body with our eyes, hear His voice with our ears, or touch Him with our hands, it is easy for us to think of Him being far away and detached. It is tempting to test Him, asking Him to prove His presence, interest, and connection. Misinterpreted Bible verses can reinforce our belief that God is distant or disinterested. Consider this verse:
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB)
While it is easy to interpret this as describing God as distant and disinterested, reading other parts of the psalm offers a different perspective:
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth…
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us. (Psalm 115:1, 11-12a, NASB)
Far more life follows the admonition to handle the Word carefully (2 Timothy 2:15) to develop sharp spiritual vision and grow a friendship with God.
We may think God is like Santa Claus. Many religions place high value on works and teach that doing good earns God’s approval. That is how Santa Claus operates, not God. Santa watches to see if kids are good or bad then weighs their actions to determine if they get coal or gifts in their stockings. If you were nervous on Christmas Eve as a child, wondering how Santa would judge you, you can rest assured: you never have to wonder about where you stand with God. He knows we are incapable of being good without His help (Romans 3:12, 6:11-12). He paid the penalty for our sin and invited us into a relationship that can never be jeopardized, no matter what we do (Romans 8:38-39). Far more life knows God is not weighing our good works (like Santa Claus) and confidently pursues a friendship with Him.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)
We may think of God as a cosmic vending machine. This distortion depicts an impersonal God who spits out blessings in proportion to the amount of good we do. It believes logging enough prayer time and believing hard enough leads to answered prayers. It thinks going to church often enough or making a big enough donation, guarantees a life free from trouble. It embraces the idea that if we make God look good, He will give us wealth and success. But this is not how God works!
Paul – also known as Saul – was an influential Jewish man while persecuting and executing God’s people (Acts 9:1-2, 13-14). After encountering Christ and dedicating his life to sharing the truth of Christ with others, Paul was rejected, beaten, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). His good works did not lead to material blessing. But Paul realized the spiritual blessing of knowing God was better:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8).
Far more life desires to love and serve God because of who He is, not because of how it might benefit us.
How do we overcome distortions in our view of God? By doing the work necessary to see God clearly and understand who He truly is. This happens when we:
- Invest time learning about His character and His attitude toward us.
- Welcome Him into every aspect of our life so we can experience Him in action.
- Strive to become like Him in what we think, do, and say.
- Study areas of His Word that are hard until we understand them.
- Obey His instructions.
- Fight through the obstacles that hinder us from making Him our best friend.
Was your first impression of God good or bad?
How has your understanding of Him been distorted?
Which action item will help you gain clear vision and grow your friendship with Him?
Thank God for being available as a best friend and for offering you far more life!
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso