Seeing God For Who He Really Is

The day wasn’t going well.

We had just learned that my autistic son Matthew’s therapy costs were going to be about a third of my salary.  And, that the insurance company wasn’t going to cover a dime.

As the day wore on, I found myself getting angrier and angrier at God.  ‘God he needs this therapy to make progress, but there’s absolutely NO WAY we can cover it. Wasn’t it enough that you gave us a son with autism?  What are you going to do about it?!’

I wasn’t really asking.  I had been deeply shaken by Matthew’s diagnosis, and this latest bad news seemed to further confirm God’s lack of concern and ability to help.

Can you relate to my microscopic faith and small view of God?  Do you ever feel like you ‘know’ the right answers but wonder if they really mean anything in your real, everyday life?

After 25 years of being in Christ, I’m convinced that our biggest problem is that we really don’t think much of God.  We believe a lot of true things about him, but in practice our confidence in him is pretty low.

I don’t want to live like that, and I know you guys don’t, either.  How can we develop a massive view of God that matches who he really is?

Counting The Costs Of Our Distorted View Of God

If we’re going to find the motivation to change, we need to see what our carnival-mirror view of God is costing us.

Here are some examples:

  • Self-focused prayer life.  When our view of God is small, my prayers are focused on our own/others’ requests.  We don’t spend much time in confession, adoration, or praise.  And our requests are generally pretty tame, things we might be able to do with a little assist from God.  (Check out Faith Like Broccoli, a post by Daniel Im, for a great example of big, everyday faith.)
  • Getting overwhelmed by our problems and schedules.  When God is small, our problems feel big.  And we feel alone in them.  Just last week, for example, on a day I wasn’t getting much done, I had a mini-meltdown.  I was living as if God wasn’t an ‘ever present help in time of trouble’ (Psalm 46:1).
  • Fear of challenging others.  If God isn’t huge, why would I push others to become like him, especially when challenging them makes me/them feel uncomfortable? It’s far easier to have fun and talk about the weather.  
  • Uninspiring times with God.  If we suspect God can’t do much, or isn’t fully for us, why would we want to meet with him?  We might do it episodically out of obligation, but relationships focused on duty aren’t likely to thrive.

When your view of God is small, how do you see that play out in your life?

What can we do about it?

You won’t be surprised to learn that there’s no silver bullet or quick fix.  But in a way, that’s really good news.  It’s not about discovering some secret; it’s about taking a number of small steps faithfully day after day.  Like these:

  • Grow in seeing who God really is.  When we slow down in our bible reading, God helps verses like this sink in.  ‘There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might’ (Jeremiah 10:6). 
  • Confess our small view of God.  If God is who he really says he is, not valuing him like we ought to is a massive problem.  But ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). By ‘cleanse’, God means that he gives us new power to live differently.
  • Talk to God about it plainly and ask for help.  God loves simple, honest prayers like, ‘God, I want care about this more, but I just feel dead…’  Or, ‘I believe; help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24).  Recently I was with a student who wanted to rebuild his relationship with God.  His prayer was uncertain and awkward, but so beautiful in its sincerity.  
  • Meditate on scriptures that show God’s love for us in Christ.  Although this post is about seeing God’s greatness more, that’s not enough.  We’ll see that we fall short and despair.  The wonder of being a Christian is that God is amazing, sees all our sin, and yet still loves us wildly like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
  • Consider your inputs.  Does your diet include books, websites and podcasts that encourage you to see God for who he really is?  There’s a place for Netflix and video games, but consuming too much is like replacing fruits/veggies with dessert at the bottom of your personal food pyramid.
  • Consider your community.  Does your church, small group, and circle of closest friends talk about God’s greatness and holiness in a way that intersects with real life?  I’m not saying we should get rid of people who don’t have a big view of God. (In that case, we’d have to discard ourselves!)  But need real people, in our real lives, to encourage us in the right direction.
  • Think long-term.  In his wisdom, God usually works slowly and quietly.  We don’t notice the transformation he’s bringing day by day, so it’s easy to stop pursuing him in the small ways that add up.  But God calls us to ‘not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Galatians 6:9).

That same night we learned of Matthew’s sky-high therapy bills, one of our new donors was scheduled to come over for dinner.  In all honesty, I wanted to cancel but put on a happy face because I felt like I had to.

As we talked, our friend explained that his father had lived to be 106 and had invested wisely.  So wisely that, when he died, he left my friend with an abundance of resources that he wanted to steward well for God.

‘If you ever have a need, I hope you’ll let me know about it’, he said.

Before he left that night he wrote us a check for his therapy costs for the entire year. And he continued to do that for several years until our school district began covering the costs.

In the most gentle, amazing way, God rebuked me that night.  As if to say, ‘Why are you worried?  I own everything.  Matthew is my son even more than he’s yours.  I will take care of you.  Trust me.’ 

By bringing us to the end of our resources and abilities, God is exploding our bite-sized view of his grandeur and replacing it with a super-sized version that gives him glory and brings us life.

Questions for reflection:

  1. To what extent does your sense of God’s greatness and holiness actually reflect what you see in Scripture?  
  2. What one step can you take to keep moving in a more healthy direction?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Bryan,
    A few things before answering your questions.

    First, thanks for being vulnerable about your family, especially your son.

    Second, have you heard of Samaritan Ministries?

    It’s a Christian share program. We use it and we have a number of families in our church that use it, and we’ve all been very blessed by it.

    Your questions:
    1. That would seem to create a lens through which I read and understand Scripture. If you approach the Word with an elevated view of God it will come out in your understanding.
    2. I’d say regularly practicing the spiritual disciplines: daily Bible reading, prayer, family worship.

    • Thanks for your kind words… I try to be open and vulnerable so that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

      And thanks for the heads-up on Samaritan. I have heard of it, but it’s good to hear a positive recommendation from someone’s who actually familiar with it.

      I like the connection you draw between our view of God and our understanding of his word. It’s not always straightforward or easy to understand, but still definitely true.

  • Aaron

    “slow down in your Bible reading.” Yes! Sometimes when we realize we have a small view of God we tend to look outside God’s word for some great experience to broaden our idea of God. In reality, the glory and grandeur of God is already in the Scriptures. We just need to slow down and see it.

    • Hi Aaron, thanks for reading and commenting. So many times, the most helpful thing is the simple, unglamorous thing… like seeing the glory of God that’s already there in his word. Great point.