The Prodigal Son, by Ernst Henri Dubois, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

What is my image of God?

One of the most crucial features of any discernment process is the image I have of God: is it one that inspires trust and love, or fear and suspicion?

I may see him as my loving and merciful father, or maybe I prefer to keep my distance. Perhaps I feel angry at him, blaming him for all sorts of mishaps. The quality of my discernment evidently hinges on how positive is my image of God.

This can be quite complex, for our real image of God might in fact be quite different from what we may think it is, or from what we express in words. I may say that I believe in a loving merciful God, while in my heart of hearts I am afraid of him, finding it difficult to trust him.

I may think that what I am really called to is a strict observance of God’s law, believing I need to gain heaven through my own efforts rather than through his loving and compassionate grace.

Because of this way of thinking, God’s will for me is reduced to a perfect conformity to rules, and my relationship depends on how many mistakes I manage to avoid. This relationship turns out to be extremely difficult, and I end up feeling totally discouraged and always fearful of sinning and losing God’s love.

When God wanted to tell us who He is, He sent Jesus, who once said, ‘Who sees me sees the Father’. So the best way to acquire the correct image of God is to look at Jesus, as we find him portrayed in the Gospel.

If we look really well we will probably be shocked, just as His contemporaries were: He is ‘too’ friendly with sinners and with all sorts of outcasts, . While his harshest criticism was to those who considered themselves morally superior to others, convinced they did not need God’s grace to be saved. We see Him washing the feet of his disciples, and dying on the cross for our sake.

As I mature as a person and as my relationship with God becomes more personal, so does my image of God. Slowly I discover that God’s will for me is the best thing that can happen to me, the fruit of His love for me. The desire to seek and find it then becomes vitally important for me, a way to respond to this love. I also discover it is a never ending process, and that God always remains a mystery. Yet, a mystery of love and mercy.

From God’s word:

‘The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.’ – Psalm 103

‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?’ – Mt 6:30

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ – Jn 3:16

Questions

  • What is your image of God? Can you feel the infinite, compassionate love that He has for you?
  • Jesus said it is enough if our faith was as big as a mustard seed: it will grow into a big tree. Would you be happy if your faith was only as big as a mustard seed, or would you be very concerned?
  • When asked, Jesus said that the biggest commandment is love. Do you agree? What do you consider your most important obligation?

More resources:

Seeing God in New Ways: Recovery from Distorted Images of God by Juanita Ryan

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