The problem may be that your disciple is bitter at God. Although he may be uncomfortable admitting it (because the idea does have a hint of blasphemy in it), as you dig into the recesses of his heart you will often find resentment towards the Lord.
Over Christmas break I spoke at the Christian Fellowship Church, which is the church in which I grew up and where my parents have attended for 55 years. I took a few minutes after the service and walked through the Sunday school rooms to reminisce. Lillian DeBoer’s preschool department has always held a special place in my heart. It had flannel graph, a table that converted into a sandbox, a goldfish bowl, and an endless supply of Kool-Aid and vanilla wafers. It was in this room that the foundations for my theology and worldview were laid. Mrs. DeBoer would ask our class, “Boys and girls who made the flowers?” and we would answer “Jesus!” “And who made the trees?” “Jesus!” “And the birds?” “Jesus!” Each question was answered with an increasing enthusiasm until we reached the crescendo, “And who made me?” And we would shout “Jesus!!!”
It was and still is solid theology, but as I got older I was able to string concepts together and it occurred to me “So if God made me, then it his fault that I have the body that I do and the brain that I don’t.” Later other questions puzzled me, “Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen to me and could he not have protected me?”
We are created in the image of God and therefore we relate to him in a personal way not dissimilar to the way we relate to others as John describes:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:20)
When I am hurt or disappointed with someone I can easily become resentful towards him or her. When I hurt or disappointed with God I too can become bitter towards him as I would anyone, but maybe even more so. I say even more so because if God is all-powerful, loving, and wise why did he not intervene on my behalf?
Keep in mind that your disciple’s view of God was formed while he was a young child. Andrew said to me, “I pled with God when I was 7 years old to not let my parents get a divorce but he didn’t answer my prayer.” From that point on there was a wedge between Andrew and the Lord.
- The seed of bitterness could have been implanted in your disciple’s heart at a young age.
- Usually if your disciple is bitter at someone or something you can be pretty sure he is also bitter towards God.
- Distance from the Lord and having a hard time drawing close to him is a good indication of bitterness towards the Lord. (It is difficult to be intimate with someone at whom I am bitter.)
Will you build on how you help disciples “forgive God”? and also, how do you reconcile with them on a personal level that a loving Father hasn’t protected them? Do you spend time focusing on the Fathers love through Jesus and then make the connection to their personal hurt? This is just good and hard stuff.
Hi, Lewie, have you read the book “Soul Repair” by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan? I would like to get a male perspective on it. The by-line is “Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life.” (I borrowed it recently from my chiropractor’s office.) It discusses what “distorted spirituality” is, which is generally based on how we were raised, and provides “tools for reconstruction” so that one may experience fully the life God intended. The authors address what they call “spiritual abuse,” bitterness, forgiveness/reconciliation, etc., and encourages getting to the root of the issues in our lives. Would love to know what you think.
I second brent’s question about whether you will build on how to help disciples to “forgive” God