Relationship with God
|A “Love-Hate” relationship with God. This may seem like a strange phrase. Webster defines a “love-hate relationship" as, “strong feelings of both love and hatred for someone.” Is it possible to have two strong opposing feelings toward God? Yes. How could these feelings develop and can they coexist? A way to understand this is by studying the parent-child relationship. God is the parent and we are the children. Children will display moments of joy, praises, and affection toward the parent when happy things are happening in their lives. This is usually due to receiving a want, a desire, or an unexpected gift; a sense of love and being cared for is felt by the child. When these things happen, feelings of love result. Just as children feel loved by their parent because of the good things they have received, we to "feel" God’s love when we receive goods things from Him. A child develops unpleasant emotions when the parent denies him or her their request or requires the child to learn something that he/she believes is too difficult. Feelings of resentment (hate) can develop when God wants to produce growth or maturity in us, or to remove certain things in our lives, that if left undealt with will bring us harm. This has less to do with God Himself, as much is it has to do with how we handle certain circumstances in our life. The feelings of “love and hate” (resentment) that develop and continue, do not come from God but are from us. Basically, we are the ones who create the unhealthy relationship which is an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. How should we manage these feelings in a way that brings the best outcome, and grows the understanding of our relationship with God and what He desires for us? Nothing is wrong when God pours out blessings by meeting a desire or want. Most would perceive this as His love. This is the “God” everyone wants to know and have. On the other hand, resentment and frustration develop when those things we long for seem so distant, and God is the one we blame for not getting what we want. The disciplinary side of God is the one we would rather not see.
Have you ever witnessed a scene between a parent and a child when the child refuses to accept her parent's correction or denial? We see them at the park, the grocery stores, at birthday parties. Children act out on their parents or say “I hate you” when what they want is not forthcoming. As much as I dislike to admit it, I have been that child lashing against God. Just like a child throwing a tantrum, or the teenager arguing because they believe they are mature enough to handle a certain responsibility, I too have reacted against God for His seeming unwillingness to give me what I want or what I felt I was mature enough to handle. My sister told me a story. She stated that my four-year nephew wanted to play a video game. His request was denied and he reacted with anger, “I hate you”. My sister responded wisely, “You don’t hate me, you are mad because I am not letting you do what you want.” What is your reaction when God denies your request? I doubt that many of us would like to admit that we act as my four-year-old nephew. If we are truthful, we would admit that we do act that way at times. By acknowledging this, and asking God to help us move past such behavior, we move toward maturity. Realizing why we react to God’s “no’s” or to His timing, will help us develop a different way to endure in the process.
Both God and parents have more knowledge of what is ahead. The goal is to prepare us, “the child,” to enjoy a good life. A good parent wants his/her child to reach maturity because this gives the parent a sense of peace. Believing that their children can handle things that life will bring their way helps parents to be more at ease concerning their child’s future. Maturity, both physical and spiritual, is developed over a period of time. Just as the human body goes through changes to reach maturity, God puts us through a process to get us spiritually mature. He does this through tests and trials. God has a picture in mind concerning our lives and understands why we must go through the process. One of the hardest things to learn about God’s love is that it sometimes causes us pain. Not necessarily in a physical sense or in a form that would bring us injury. Because this love is not what we expected, we resist and begin to resent and get angry with God.
When we allow Him to work in areas that may block growth, this may result in a promise He will fulfill for us or a desire being met, but the process as well may be difficult. Let us understand that we tend to see God's love in His blessings, but His love also includes disciplining us to prevent us from causing harm to ourselves and others, and to mature. At times, His discipline or periods of waiting are painful, but remember that His goal is always our well-being. When He withholds certain things, He is demonstrating His love for us. Similar to the teenager who wants to be allowed to drive the parent’s car and is not given permission because they have not yet learned to be a responsible driver, we too are denied certain things because there is a process to go through, and God is the one who decides when we are ready. In both examples neither the parents nor God desire to be dictators, instead, they want their children to be fully aware of the responsibility that comes with what they want. They expect a willingness (on the child's part) to mature enough to receive what they want and that they are capable of handling what will be given. Basically, what they want is for the child to be successful and enjoy life within the boundaries which are given. Without these, we will surely fail. True love watches out for the well-being of the one who is loved even with it comes with being misunderstood or "hated."
From Where Does That Hate Come?
What would cause someone to “hate” (resent) God? Not understanding that our life is not ours but His to direct and plan out. Not yielding to His will causes one to continue these “love-hate” emotions toward God. Sometimes when a person has a relationship with God but has an incomplete understanding of who He is, he or she gets the wrong ideas. Several times I have heard people mention that the way they see or relate to God is based on the relationship they have with their earthly father. I understand not everyone had a father growing up, but not having one shapes our way of thinking and causes us to relate to God in a certain way too.
Let's consider some of God's attributes? Based on upbringing, some would describe him as compassionate, kind, angry, and/or powerful. When we focus only on one or two attributes, we can misunderstand Him. When we do this, we imagine a God who is not real. Instead of looking at the attributes separately, we need to combine all His attributes to know Him. This will help us to see Him as He truly is, the loving God. He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He is everywhere, all-knowing and has unlimited power. But, how is this useful to me in this “love-hate relationship? “
We have a very limited view or understanding of God’s plan for our lives. In Exodus 13:17-14:31, we see how God didn’t take Israel to the promised land by the shortest route but instead makes a detour. Why? In Exodus 13:17 it reads, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” Because God is all knowing, He foresaw the struggle his children would face and knew they were not equipped to fight a battle against the Philistine army. Love for His children caused Him to send them in the direction where they would be protected and still would take them to their destination. If the Israelites had gone the shortest path, which to many would make sense, they would have faced a situation they were not equipped to handle. First, the Israelites were slaves, not soldiers able to fight against an experienced army. Secondly, the thought of having to fight might have frightened them into surrendering and/or go back. A defeat at the hands of an experienced army would have caused the Israelites too much distress and left them hopeless to the point of never moving past this failure. God, in his infinite wisdom, decided to guide them in the best direction, strange as it may have seemed strange at the time.
There are times that, instead of getting the promise or accomplishing a goal that is so close, God decides that the straight path is not the best direction. He chooses to guide us in a different direction. At the sight of difficulty, the Israelites complained, and they continued this pattern, every time things did not go as they would have liked. Why? They had a false belief of how their promise would be fulfilled. Maybe they felt the struggle they endured as slaves entitled them to a smooth and easy life after being delivered. The course leading them from slavery to complete freedom was not easy. Yes, physically they were no longer under the rule of Pharaoh, but their hearts and minds were not completely free. Even though they escaped from Pharaoh’s presence, they carried with them a "slave mentality." As we get to know God, He will begin to correct the misconceptions we have about Him.
Pharaoh let the Israelites leave after the death of the firstborn, but later he changed his mind and wanted to enslave them again. Pharaoh and his army came after them and tried to take them back. At the sight of the army approaching them, the Israelites were fearful and panicked. They cried out to God. Then they complained to Moses by saying, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” Exodus 14:11-12. Does this sound familiar? Do you complain when things don’t go as you expected? If this sounds familiar, please change your focus. What lesson was God's lesson for the Israelites as they saw their enemy approaching? Sometimes we fail to see what God wants us to learn in a test or trial. As He leads us through this life, He will also use different circumstances to mature us and show us areas that block our understanding of Himself.
The Israelites realized that to be free someone needed to defeat Pharaoh for them. Yes, they had escaped from his grasp, but he still lived. As long as Pharaoh was still alive, he would want to enslave them again. Even though, the Israelites were "numerous" they could not destroy Pharaoh. They needed a "Savior" to destroy Pharaoh. God wanted the Israelites to trust Him with their lives and believe that He was the ruler or authority they needed to continue in their journey. When they cried out to God, it shows that they believed He could help them. But, fear overtook them and they doubted and complained. They decided that God had brought them out of a bad situation only to lead them into something worse. This shows the Israelites had an incomplete understanding of God. Why? Their upbringing and what they were taught of God came from two different sources, the Egyptian culture and what was taught to them about the God of Jacob. This might explain why they wondered if the decision they had made to leave the rule of Pharaoh was the best choice. Had they made a mistake by allowing God to be their new king? God showed them that He would care for them better than Pharaoh ever did. He delivered the Israelites without any help from themselves. Their freedom was accomplished by God alone. They could boast about nothing. In your doubt, pray to God and ask Him to show you what He wants you to learn at this time. As you go through your journey with God, do not allow anxiety to overtake you that you forget to seek His help.
After being in the desert for three days without water, the Israelites struggled to continue. The promise had not yet come and anxiety lead them to go find water for themselves. Fear overtook them and caused them to believe they would die due to the water shortage. If the wait feels too long and the want becomes too strong, we too will probably lean on our own understanding and start making choices based solely on our wants and fears. Anxiety and worry block your understanding and you began to look outside of God to fill your need. The Israelites did find water, and I am sure they were excited that they found it, unfortunately, that water was undrinkable because it was bitter. Immaturity can drive us to move ahead of God. But, instead of enjoying what we get, we may be left with disappointment and regret. The Israelites were not mature enough to distinguish between bad and good water (what they find themselves and what God provides). Remember that a quick fix eases the pain for a moment, but it will never replace the satisfaction of a met need, which has a permanent solution. A temporary fix is not the answer because it doesn’t resolve the root problem. The Israelites’ problem was that they were still enslaved by their own desires. Could that be your issue today? Have you made an idol out of your desires? God knew what they needed water. If you move toward what will satisfy your current need without the help of God, failure and unmet needs will continue. We make a mess of things. Because of God’s love for Israel, He is patient and provides good drinking water for them when things were done in the correct way (Moses threw the branch into the bitter water). He is the only provider who will satisfy your needs. There will be no regrets or disappointments when He meets your need and you will be free to enjoy them.
How It Happened To Me
What caused me to develop a “love-hate relationship” with God was unfulfilled dreams. This has produced what I see as the biggest resentment in my life. I really hadn’t given much thought to asking or praying about choosing a career. Up until now, I wanted to become a teacher. I graduated a year earlier and was in a job that was not in line with my chosen career. I enrolled in an Alternative Certification Program to fulfill my goal of becoming a teacher. In the process of obtaining my state certification, I sought God and asked him what he wanted. During my prayer time, I told God that I wanted to follow him more than see my goal accomplished. I meant those words, but I never expected the response I would receive. The answer was that I should not continue on the career path I had selected. When you are asked to leave something, you worked hard to get or want, it might cause distress. Regardless of the disappointment and anger I felt, I wanted to be obedient. This began one of the hardest times in my relationship with God. Displeased by His choice of where I would work, I developed so much resentment toward God, something I never thought possible. During this period of time, I learned many things about myself that needed change. Keep in mind that this period lasted five years. In this process, I hated (resented) God, and daily I would let Him know how unfair I believed He was. I needed to get rid of an idol I had created; the idea that I was a "good" Christian. I remember cussing Him out one time because I was so upset, and then later regretting it and asking for forgiveness. I would nag him daily, asking the same question over and over for two and a half years. My question was, “Can I leave now?” He was so patient in the process. The answer I got was not what I wanted. He told me to “let it go.” Those words were so disturbing because I wanted something, and His answer was "No." Now I realize later that what I wanted at that time was something I didn’t really want for real. One thing I learned from God when I cussed Him out was that he still loved me and that no one could remove me from His hand as John 10:28 states, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.” This is important to understand because my concept of God and the guarantee of my salvation had been in error. Overwhelming fear came over me in my anger, I had cussed at God. I believed that my salvation was in jeopardy. I remembered being fearful of dying because I believed His wrath would send me to hell. I have learned since that He understands our struggles and why we act a certain way. He is patient with His children and does not always punish us for what we do, that He loves us.
When we continue to feed our “love-hate” emotions toward God by not moving past the selfish, childish, or disappointed attitudes, we remain on an emotional rollercoaster. One day all will be fine, we will be at peace and praise God, and the very next day a mood shift occurs. Instead of praising Him and being as content as the day before, the opposite happens. Anger and complaining become the norm of the day. Depression can also set in. Shifting from feeling-to-feeling is a pattern the Israelites did because they refused to mature and trust God. Through their journey in the wilderness, God was faithful and provided for them in all their needs. Instead of shifting between two emotional extremes, we need to trust God and His plan for our life.
How do we move away from this “love-hate” relationship? A few things could help us. First of all, develop a consistent and healthier relationship with God. For this we need to know that our relationship with God is not one of equality, God has a higher position in the relationship. He is in the authority position. Because all wisdom is in Him, we need to humble ourselves and yield to His plan. Fighting Him is not that the best option because He is all-powerful and we would fail, plus this only brings about more resentment on our part. A better option is to tell Him we are not happy with the plan He has chosen, but that we will submit to His will. Being honest with God will not offend Him, make Him aware of how you feel because the truth is He already knows. In the beginning, this will be hard, but over time you see that He is always right and does desire the best for his children. Sometimes we believe He just wants to take away all joy from us, instead He wants the opposite for us. Sometimes we settle for less than He wants for us, and we do not endure to get the reward. A sign of your growth will be measured by how you act toward His denials. On another occasion, my four-year-old nephew asked my sister permission to do a certain activity to which she did not agree. This time his attitude was different, he didn’t throw a tantrum and said to my sister, “I am not going to tell you I hate you.” My sister answered him by saying, “I know you don’t hate me.” Instead of reacting in a negative way my nephew laughed. Why? He had accepted her decision. You might think this to be something small, but this is progress and shows maturity on my nephew's part.
How long, and to what extent, we desire to continue a “love-hate relationship” with God will be based on how long we choose to keep resenting Him. The truth that we need to realize, as my nephew did, is that his mom was not desiring to hurt or prohibit him from enjoying his life. Just as my sister with her son, God wants us to see that we don’t hate Him, just that at times we dislike His way of maturing us. The Israelites experienced wonderful times with God through the wilderness. He was there protecting, guiding, and loving them. God did many things for them but often there was little gratefulness on their part. Grumbling and complaining was their daily routine. How grateful are we when God is leading us to a promise and we fail to thank Him for his protection, guidance, and love? Don’t be so focused on your desires and plans and lose sight of all He is doing through this journey. Although, God may not get upset at our being honest about how we feel about His plans for us. Make sure you are not addressing Him in a disrespectful manner. Just as your parents would discipline you when you have crossed the line, God will also discipline and correct those He loves. God knows the difference between us lashing out in anger and being disrespectful.
Another thing to do to build a healthier you is to not focus on what God has taken from, or not given, you. Stop blaming God and stop complaining about everything. Instead of focusing on what He has not done, redirect your focus to see what He has given you, and what He has allowed you to do in this season. God will leave you with something that you can be grateful for and will allow you to enjoy things other than the one thing you have obsessed over. If you are obsessing over something, then what God may be doing is removing an idol from your heart so that He may be your only God. This life is a journey of seasons, some are cold and bitter as winter where it seems no growth or change will ever come. Continue, do not give up, endure and wait for spring to come, where flowers blossom and growth is seen. Take time to ask God what He wants you to learn in the process and do what He says. When we humble ourselves and say to God, "Your will be done," we then become more like Christ. Jesus is to one we are to imitate.
Let us look at how Jesus handled the plan God had for Him. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I forget that it was Jesus who spoke these words to Nicodemus. As Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, it seems like He has no alternative to God’s plan. He says God gave his Son, meaning God believed that the Son could accomplish the plan and be trusted. One day as I read this verse, I noticed something I have never seen before. Why would Jesus not fight or rebel against the command? Notice that as Jesus said this He is not a child, but an adult. I understood that, up until that point, the Son had an established relationship with the Father where they had gone through many things together. God showed His faithfulness, and for that reason, Jesus was able to trust Him with His life. Do you see the difference in how the Israelites reacted and how Jesus acts? Two different ways of seeing God and understanding who He really is. Giving Him to a people who would believe and those who reject Him. Maturity is to trust and obey God. I am not saying that God’s will is easy, and it wasn’t for Jesus either. In Luke 22: 42-43 Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Our pain or suffering doesn’t compare with His, but the verse does explain how He suffered when doing the will of God. He tells God can you please take this suffering from me because I would rather not do this, but finishes with "Your will and not mine." That is what maturity looks like. Yes, you can tell God to please take away the suffering, how it hurts, and how you feel like you will fail. Those things are okay to express to God, but always finish with “Your will and not mine.” Just as Jesus was strengthened by the angels because God knew He needed help to continue the journey, you too will receive the strength you need in your growth process. Just as Jesus needed to die for God’s plan to be fulfilled. There are things that need to "die" in us to fulfill His purpose. Maybe you have a promise from God which has not been fulfilled, but just like Jesus went through the process we also must follow in his steps. Jesus had to get up, on a daily basis, go to work and do God’s will, knowing He would be criticized, judged, talked about, and hated. He was aware of those religious people keeping an eye on Him for the purpose of bringing charges against Him and getting rid of Him.
Instead of continuing this unhealthy “love-hate” state, let us surrender and step into maturity. Let us do as Romans 12:2 states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." A thing to look forward to is the fulfillment of God’s promises. Jesus did not remain dead, He rose from the dead and is back with the Father. The Father He knew who would come through for Him because of the relationship He has with Him. You will not be destroyed in the process, instead, you will live. You too will be in a better season because you have an established relationship with Him where He has shown you His faithfulness. But will we follow as Jesus did no matter the cost? If you do, you will see an end to your “love-hate relationship” because your attitude toward His plan for you will have changed and your desire will be His will above yours.
A Healthy Reaction
A healthy reaction to unfulfilled dreams, the waiting process, growth, and maturity is to mourn. Those things hurt, and mourning is part of the process of moving forward. It is normal to be disappointed, wondering what God is doing, and asking Him questions. What is unhealthy is to continue to have these feelings and not move past them. Not only is this unhealthy but indicates rebelliousness in our hearts.
Steps to move past resentment and into maturity.
• Express to God how you feel, but desire His will be done.
• Believe that God loves you and wants the best for you.
• Don’t focus on what didn’t happen, because this brings back resentment and distracts you from what God wants to do.
• Thank Him for those things He currently has given you and for what He will give you
• Ask God to help you see what He might want you to learn in the process.
• Be open-minded and willing to put the work to learn.
• Enjoy those things that He has given you in this present time.
• Wait for Him to do His part.
God knows that the process of maturity is a difficult one, but the sooner we decide to change, the sooner we will begin to see and understand the purpose for all that we have been through. Those things lead us to the promise He has for us. Remember that in the process He never leaves us and will help you through it. Not necessarily move us from it when we want, but He is faithful to help us in the transformation. Through this journey may you grow in closeness with Him who loves you more than you can imagine.
Smith, Carol, et al. Women of The Bible A Visual Guide to Their Lives, Loves, and Legacy. Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2011.
Henry, Matthew. Exodus. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete), n. p., 1706. Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhcw/exodus/14.htm