Getting Safe with God

father-and-child-walking-at-sunsetI hate the title of this post. It feels like the weakest, least eye-catching title for one of the most important things I could possibly learn about God.

This week, our church hosted a seminar by a social worker discussing how to reach “difficult kids”. Youth leaders were amongst those encouraged to attend, so I went. The speaker had a winning, wonderfully self-deprecating way of presenting these oh-but-of-course truths about why kids pull away, why they shut down, why they act out against even the people who love them the most and are trying to help them. Her insights were sobering. Oh, the damage that abuse and neglect can wreak upon the human body and soul. I never experienced either, but by the end of the seminar, I still felt like needed a therapist.

One of the recurring motifs of the evening was safety. This you probably all know: that in order to reach a child, they need to be placed in a physically and emotionally safe environment where trust can be built, and that can take years. Only then, once they’re convinced that they’re safe, will you finally meet the young person deep inside.

Common enough advice.

But it wasn’t until my prayer time that night that I realized something truly devastating.

I don’t feel safe around God.

I’ve known for a while, way back in the recesses of my brain like a mole you don’t really want to talk about, that there are certain human beings I’d rather be vulnerable with before I’m vulnerable with God. You know how it is. You go to your pastor or your parents before you bring something to God. You seek their counsel. It’s almost as if you’re using them as “prep time” before the “big exam”, that moment where you finally come to God hoping to be accepted and heard, hoping to “get it right”, because you’ll be in biiig trouble if you don’t.

How messed up is that?

How backwards and theologically screwy is it to view any human as more generous than God? To treat your pastors or loved ones as the sympathetic party in a cosmic good-cop-bad-God routine?

But I do. Whenever I approach God, I am immediately swamped with criticism and self-reproach. I’m constantly monitoring my words for exegetical correctness. I worry about every sin I’ve committed. I doubt my motives. Even when they’re good. I don’t imagine a welcoming environment; I imagine a skeptical and detached one, more like a loan officer or someone proctoring an ACT.

To an extent, these habits are good. I should use the Word correctly. I should confess my sins. After all, the Bible contains both welcome and warning – the kindness and sternness of God (Romans 11:22) – and part of the problem with to many of today’s churches is that there’s no warning in them.

But when I feel safer and more accepted with my friends than I do with the God whose Son died to make me holy, there’s a problem. I’m lacking the welcome.

It would be one thing if I weren’t a believer. I would then have good reason to fear the lightning. I’d get only rocks, flames, and a decidedly rejecting scene, fully deserved because of my sin:

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” (Hebrews 12:18-21)

But for those who do not refuse him who speaks (v. 25), the scene switches tones gloriously to an inviting scene:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (v. 22-24)

Joyful. Made perfect. Mediator. Far more open and inviting than anything in the previous passage.

Everything covered.

Welcome.

Christians have their hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience (10:22) and get to “draw near to God”. All that’s left is the temporary discipline that proves our sonship and acceptance (12:5-11). There is no human more gracious than God, who, by his own plan and the blood of his Son, has no more reason to condemn us (Romans 8:1).

May this become my reality. Our reality.

We can be ourselves with him. We can approach. We can turn to him for validation, love, mercy, and help. We are children, welcomed and accepted.

And safe.

15 thoughts on “Getting Safe with God

  1. I think we all (if we are being honest) feel this way sometimes, but on the flip side, it means we aren’t acting flippantly either, treating Him like some genie in the sky we just throw a wish list at… we understand and revere Him for being the great I AM. You’ve touched on the beauty and miracle of the Gospel I think – reminds me of Aslan in Narnia, how they didn’t always feel safe necessarily, but they knew he was good – and in getting to know him better, he became the only real safe place. Super post

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “May this become my reality. Our reality. We can be ourselves with him. We can approach. We can turn to him for validation, love, mercy, and help. We are children, welcomed and accepted. And safe.”

    Amen, brother!

    For what it’s worth: For a while I haven’t felt safe around God, either—not nearly as much as I used to, sometimes not at all. But I’m slowly starting to work my way out of that; and as I’m in the process of that journey out, I’ve found your blog post filled with so much stuff I can relate with, and the joyous parts of it resonating with me a great deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brandon, John 4:17-18 and Romans 8:1 plus Hebrews 4:16, these ARE the realities. Here, now, today. God already knows us exactly as we are, actually better than we know ourselves, yet He still loves us BECAUSE we who believe in His Son are now in Christ. I know that you already know these verses, these are not platitudes, they are truth. No condemnation means no condemnation. Over simplistic? Not at all because if we don’t accept what God’s Word tells us, spoken by the Apostles, then what we are doing is casting doubt on not only our spiritual reality but also God’s reality. We take Him at His Word, it’s as simple as that. Sorry for “breaching” to you Brandon but this is really important. Blessings my brother. – Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We are always welçome with God. I have come to realise that the safest place to be is with Him. Understanding His unconditional love is the surest key in this regard. On the flip side, I don’t want to take Him foregranted.

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  5. When Christians believe that God will deliberately hurt them Brandon even if sugar coated they have fleshy fear Him in their heart and they don’t Trust Him no matter what they tell themselves.

    They need to listen to God not what they think or hear contrary to what He tells us in Scripture, His discipline is we will reap the evil we sow just like the prodigal Son experienced until we come to Heart Repentance like he did and than Wow what a Welcome Home.

    Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of Men.

    Isaiah 43:1-3….. Fear not for I have redeemed thee I have called thee by thy Name thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee, when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I Am The LORD thy God, The Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. (KJV)

    Jeremiah 29 :11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says The LORD, thoughts of Peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

    Christian Love – Anne.

    Like

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