Are you afraid of God?
I ask because in a number of my pastoral counseling relationships over the last several years, I’ve encountered a deep-seated fear of God that keeps people from connecting with God.
We’ll spend a few sessions together, talking through their spiritual journey. They’ll confess they struggle to read Scripture (who doesn’t!?) and that they don’t pray much. So we’ll come up with some prayer exercises.
That they don’t do.
And keep not doing.
So I press into that a little bit harder. After all, this person has usually sought me out for some sort of spiritual direction. They want a richer, deeper, more vibrant spirituality. They want to be connected to God.
Or at least they think they do.
But when they stop to engage in those spiritual practices, there’s a barrier. Something keeping them from God.
And not fear like the way the Bible says to fear God. Just plain old fashioned afraid.
Afraid that if they pray, God won’t listen. Afraid that God doesn’t actually want them. Afraid they’re not lovable or worthy. Afraid of what God might ask of them.
The strange thing about that fear is how deeply it’s buried. After all, I didn’t corner them. Force them to talk to me. They want that connection.
What I often find is a disconnect. Between God and Jesus. Friends, a lot of us love Jesus. We love his outsider-embracing, truth speaking, power-challenging, world-changing ways. We want in.
But then there’s God hovering behind Jesus. The God of the Old Testament, we often call him. The angry guy, the one who’s always a step or two away from smiting.
Again and again, I’ve encountered this same fear: how good can Jesus really be if he is with the Old Testament guy?
Let’s talk about Jesus: who he is and how he’s connected to the God of the Old Testament.
We’ve got everything backwards. We don’t try to understand Jesus through the lens of the Old Testament, but rather we understand everything – the Bible, our lives, our world – through Jesus.