“Because Your loving kindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.”
Psalm 63 v 3
This is a pretty big deal. I'd even say that around 80% of my troubles in my walk with God stem from the fact that I am a functional unbeliever of the kindness of God. And it is a frustrating problem to have because it is decidedly illogical. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with how I came to realize that I don’t believe in the kindness of God.
Just under a month ago I was on New Word Alive (although it seems like several lifetimes ago for some reason) and I went to Tim Chester’s seminar called ‘You Can Change’. One of the interesting things he talked about was how our sin is always connected in with a specific area of unbelief about God. So for example if you’re the type of person to get really stressed it might be because you struggle to believe that God is really in control of all things. And as he said, it’s not that we don’t know the truth or in some sense ‘believe’ the truth but it’s that we act as though we don’t. The illustration he used was of going up to a Christian in a traffic jam who is losing his temper and asking him if he believed in the sovereignty of God over all things. That Christian would answer yes and yet by his actions would show that he really didn’t.
It is the same with me when it comes to the kindness of God. I believe that on some abstract level God is good but I struggle to see him as being kind. That is to say I doubt in God’s personal goodness to me. To put it another way I believe in the love of God but not his tenderness to me.
And this, as you would expect, causes me major problems. It means that by default if I’m asking for a blessing from God I’ll seek to state my case for it the terms of: I’ve done this so can you do that. And I do this because I don’t believe that God can just give a free gift. Or I’ll assume that every blessing will be a trick or a test or have some sharp point to it. If I ask for a loaf of bread I expect a snake. Furthermore, I usually assume the worst has happened in most situations again because on some fundamental level I doubt the kindness of God. I can only assume that it must affect my own behaviour to others; for if I do not believe in the kindness of God that must make it harder for me personally to be kind or apprecaite kindness in others.
What is worse is that in doubting the kindness of my Father God I find it easy to turn and look elsewhere for goodness. Because I find it hard to see God as kind I must make my own kindness which naturally never really works. And when I pray it is difficult to be expectant of answers because, well, if I don’t view God as being kind on what basis can I expect answers?
But the truly terrible thing, the part that makes me cringe and hide in shame is this: I have NO excuse. Absolutely none. Take for example the last week, I was in a bike accident and walked away without a scratch on me, my bike has been repaired, I was booking rooms for the CU and despite being 58th in line I got better rooms than the one I wanted, my health is, as per normal, excellent, I have very little financial fears, a loving family, superb friends, reasonable prospects for the future and right now I’m doing something I love: writing. I’m surrounded by evidence of God’s kindness to me and yet somehow I can block it out.
“But no!” I insist “God isn’t kind to me! He just isn’t.” Hang on though, maybe I have a point, my life isn’t perfect after all, there have been troubles, trails, temptations and struggles. True, but with hindsight I can see that every single one of them did me a lot of good. And I’m sure that in a year’s time I will look back on my present troubles and think the same. Once again, God’s kindness displayed.
More so, much more so, so much more so, all I need to do is look to Jesus Christ and see him there dying on the cross for my sin and now risen and exalted and my good shepherd and I have even less reason to doubt the all surpassing kindness of my God. As John writes:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
1 John 3 v 1 & 16
So my unbelief in the kindness of God is contradicted both my own experience and more important God’s revelation of who he is. So why, why do I still not believe?
And that too is easy to answer: because I’m a sinner. To believe in the kindness of God to me would involve accepting his kindness even when my prayers are not answered or things go the opposite way I wanted them too. And that would involve humbling myself before God and admitting that his knowledge of what will do me good and what will be kindness to me is far and away above my own. My own pride prevents me from seeing the intimate kindness of my God. In my folly I cannot help but feel that I think that the God of all kindness and compassion is too good to be true; too good to believe in.
What then do I do? What can any sinner do but to come before God and beg for mercy trusting that God delights to show it? I must pray everyday that I would re-learn the tenderness of my abundantly wonderful Father. I must meditate on the passages of the Bible that talk of the God of all love, kindness and beauty (so basically any Bible passage then!) and I must turn my eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith and recall that out of love he died for me so that I might be freed from sin and given new life.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2 v 6 – 7 (emphasis added)
Knowing I mis-see my God I long to see him as he truly is and to gaze upon his kindness and compassion towards me; not in abstract terms but in real terms. I long to believe fully and completely in the kindness of God rather than being a functional unbeliever of it. And, if I may, I encourage you think over your life and ask God to show you if you are a functionally unbeliever in an aspect of God. Speaking as someone who knows it will be profoundly affecting your relationship with God. And once you have identified such an area then bring it before God and fight against it. God is for us in this fight; if we ask to be taught then he will teach us though we be slow to learn and slower still to remember.
“And this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed; his mercies are unfailing. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
Lamentations 3 v 22 – 23, 32 -33