Once upon a time…
…a friend of mine needed some help with the bills. Her life had taken a painful turn, and she was left alone to deal with the fallout. I had some extra money at the time, so I helped her a bit. It wasn’t much, but I did what I could. A few days later, that friend went shopping. She bought something I considered to be extravagant, but in her mind was probably a necessity.
Thankfully, I didn’t say anything, but my attitude changed. Instead of compassion for her situation, my heart turned cold toward her for a time. She’d spent my gift frivolously, in my not-so-humble opinion. I found myself wondering if she deserved her rough financial situation, and perhaps the best way for her to learn was the hard way. And how dare she take advantage of my generosity? I could have spent that money on something frivolous for myself, after all.
And on it went for a while in my selfish, me-centered human heart.
Rethinking My Thinking
As the years have gone by, I’ve come to see that situation from a different point of view, thankfully. And I’ve realized how often I think of God being so much like I acted toward my friend: an angry judge who only gives gifts to those who earn them. And when I mess up, he’s there to condemn and be angry at me for doing something “wrong.” But just as I was wrong in my anger toward my friend, I have been wrong to think of God in such human terms.
How about you? Have you, like me, ever wondered if God is mad at you? Have you ever (or always) had a feeling that God was displeased or upset with something about you?
You’re not alone. Though I don’t have official survey numbers, every person I’ve asked has admitted that they’ve felt this way at one point or another, sometimes all the time.
So, is God mad at us?
Let’s face it. We’re not perfect. We mess up. And since we are thinkers, we wonder how God feels about all those mistakes. I often feel as though I disappoint God. Not just in the big things, either. Little things. Such as when I pray about being better with my budgeting and then buy something extra at the store. Or maybe I pray for wisdom in what to say and blurt out something rude. I feel conviction pouring like concrete on my shoulders. How could I be so foolish? God must be mad at me for being such a failure.
But the truth is the opposite.
Reasons we think God might be mad at us
- We think of God in human terms.
It’s not surprising, with us being humans, that we try to fit our understanding of the Almighty Creator into pictures we understand. So often, we imagine God reacting the same way we would react, or thinking the same way we think. The thing about God is that He is above our understanding. If He weren’t, wouldn’t that be worse? To be able to understand the Divine would make Him so much smaller, wouldn’t it?
Though we can never fully understand God, the Bible tells us in several places that God is not human, nor does He think like a human:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19 NASB
Picture a teeter-totter and how difficult it is to keep one in balance. When one side is pushed, the other side goes in the opposite direction. Human emotions are often teeter-totters. When anger shoots high, everything else is often shoved down.
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God is sinless. He is higher than us. He doesn’t react the same way we do. So, we cannot put our human emotions, irritations and shortcomings upon Him. Even in His righteous anger, His love does not get eclipsed or pushed out of balance.
- We are influenced by the people around us.
Our parents, teachers, pastors and other authority figures tend to influence how we see God. If those people have been harsh, judgmental, or angry, we might see God in that same manner. Or perhaps your authority figures have been distant, lacking, or even lazy. That can color how you understand God. Whatever your experience, if your childhood memories are dominated by scowling, angry authority figures, it would be natural to ascribe the same attributes to God.
Thankfully, as the above Isaiah verse points out, God is so much higher than our ways. God is not human. He doesn’t get tired, He’s not unreasonable, petty, grumpy, or capricious. Those negative human emotions we often put onto God in our imaginations are simply that–our imaginations. We must take God at His word when He tells us in the Bible who He is.
What the Bible says about who God is
In the book of Exodus, God reveals himself to Moses. In order for Moses to survive standing in God’s majestic presence, God hid Moses in a cleft of rocks and covered Moses with His hand in order to protect him.
So Moses…got up early in the morning and climbed Mount Sinai as God had commanded him, carrying the two tablets of stone. God descended in the cloud and took up his position there beside [Moses] and called out the name, God. God passed in front of him and called out, “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation. Exodus 34:5-7 MSG (emphasis mine)
So, God is…
- Endlessly patient
You might be wondering, though, about those last two sentences. “Still he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible…” It might even seem as if I’ve just unmade my point about God’s grace and that God isn’t mad at us by leaving that part of the verse in the quote. But the opposite is true. God is holy. Sin cannot exist in His presence. Therefore, He cannot ignore sin.
But that’s part of the beauty of grace and why we need it! Sin is serious. Aside from the way sin affects each of us, our sins also affect other people. When we lie, other people are hurt. Sin also has a domino effect. If I get extra change back from a store and don’t return it, I am stealing from the person who owns the store. The cashier might get fired or have to pay back that money. Someone else might not get paid what they are owed. Sin has consequences. But all that being said, Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin on the cross–all of our sins.
[Jesus] himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins–and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. 1 John 2:2 NLT
Therefore, sin no longer separates us from God. And that is grace–Jesus taking the penalty in our place. Living under Jesus’ grace means God is not mad at us.
Other attributes of God
God is love.
But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love. 1 John 4:8 NLT (Emphasis mine)
God is eternal.
Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the King of the ages, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God, and full of wisdom. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17 NLT
God is unchangeable.
God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. Hebrews 6:17 NLT
God is sinless.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
If God is unchanging, He is not going to decide on a whim to get mad at us because of that mistake we made. Nor is He going to go back on His promise that Jesus covered all our sins on the cross. God is sinless, so He doesn’t lie. When He said Jesus’ sacrifice was enough, He meant it. The fact that He is eternal means there is no expiration date on His promises.
And He is perfect love, which is something we as humans have difficulty fully grasping. God doesn’t suddenly stop loving someone because they do something He doesn’t like.
A bit of perspective on the majesty of God
It’s difficult with our finite human minds to contemplate something so huge and majestic as God. When I need some perspective, I think in terms of something much bigger than myself.
One of the biggest stars we’ve been able to see is VY Canis Majoris (the “Big Dog” star). When we compare the size of Canis Majoris to earth…well, there’s just no comparison. The earth is not even a dot on the screen compared to the giant star. And what about a human in comparison? Obviously, the difference is staggering.
Genesis 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.” God, the Creator, breathed the enormous Canis Majoris into existence. We must remember the star-breathing God of the universe is so much bigger than the humans around us, bigger than anything in our experience. His ways are so much higher than ours, it’s unfathomable.
We must put God in a different category. Even though we seem to try to shrink Him into our human mindsets, we must realize God does not fit in those small constraints of acting like a human. He is big enough to breathe the universe into existence. He is big enough to keep His promises. Always.
So, how can we be certain God isn’t mad at us?
We hold onto grace–the gift of grace and what it means.
We may talk about grace as a gift, but so often humans tend to think of gifts with strings attached, just like I did with that friend. And that is often how we think of grace—a gift, but one we have to somehow earn. If I only do the right thing, I might be worthy. But that’s not what the Bible says about us and grace.
First, as humans, we are never going to be perfect. Take comfort in that. You can’t be perfect. God is not surprised when we make mistakes, nor does He watch us with a mad face.
Romans 3:23 tells us: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But verse twenty-four goes on to say “[we are] justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
So, we’re not perfect, but Jesus offers us grace. That means He no longer holds all our wrongs against us. We can’t exhaust grace. We can’t outrun it. We can’t outlive it. And we can’t fully comprehend it.
The Bottom Line
God is not mad at us. He’s not mad at you. Yes, you. There are times we think we can out-sin grace, but grace is inexhaustible. It’s another of the infinite aspects of God we can’t comprehend with our human minds. But His grace is enough for us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for all sins.
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) (Emphasis mine)
That means all. Yes, even that, whatever you just thought about when trying to make an exception.
Through Jesus, who was perfect and never sinned, we are made right with God through the sacrifice of Jesus. That means God isn’t mad at us.
In the above example of me giving money to my friend, I’ve come to see that a gift given is that—a gift. As humans, we have difficulty giving something for nothing. But God is above us as humans. He is sinless. He can hold many things in his heart all at once. Yes, He has boundaries, but if He has shown us anything about himself, it is that He is grace. God isn’t mad at us. He is in love with us.
The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Psalm 145:8 NLT