Have you ever felt abandoned? Unloved? Unwanted? Have you ever thought it was your fault or believed you deserved it? I can’t count the times I’ve been in that darkness. Many of us only learn one aspect of God’s character as we are growing up. Many churches or families focus on one aspect of Who He is, and that part isn’t wrong – but it’s not a complete picture either. None of us can fully understand God’s character, but we can continue to learn more about Who He is every day. When challenges and difficulties come, we often have a small-view version of God and sometimes that’s not enough to get us through.
God is Love. This is a true statement, and the world loves to focus on how loving He is. And that is not wrong. He does love each and every one of us exactly where we are. We do not have to do anything to earn His love. We cannot do anything to make Him love us more than He already does. But our flawed view of love and our singular focus on this one aspect of His character do not show us the entire picture.
God is Just. He cannot and will not abide with sin. There are religions that, through this singular teaching, lead us to believe that we aren’t good enough, that we have to live a life trying to earn His love. Our sin separates us from Him so we must spend every day working to be better. This is a human attempt to obtain a spiritual approval. We cannot ever be good enough for a perfect God. So we strive and we hope. This belief that He demands perfection we cannot attain, by itself, is not enough.
God is Forgiving. This is where the two meet. Because He is just, He wants our repentance. Because He is love, He offers His forgiveness. He is both love and just. He is forgiving. So what does that look like in real life? When we make the wrong choice, there are consequences. Because He loves us He forgives us, but He doesn’t wave a magic wand to remove the consequences. Instead, He offers us a safe place, a sanctuary, in the painful parts of our lives. Because He is love, He disciplines us when we go astray. He is not a permissive parent; He is a perfect and loving Father.
The nation of Israel’s biggest and most frequent sin was idolatry. Simply put, idolatry is when you put something else above God. In the time and culture of the Old Testament this was often quite literally idols; they turned from placing their full trust in God and started placing some of it in the religions of the nations around them. This was a constant back and forth in their faith story. In the book of Ezekiel, God raised up a man to be His voice to the people. The back and forth was about to end. God was going to allow them to experience the full consequences for their continual sin. He allowed them to be conquered and taken captive by the Babylonians and as Ezekiel is telling the people about the devastation to come (which they disregarded) we find this statement “I will be your sanctuary during your time in exile.” Even though they abandoned God, God was not abandoning them. Even though they rejected God, God was not rejecting them.
This is true for us today. When we choose sin, we also have to acknowledge that we deserve the consequences. My choice means my fault. I can turn to my Father and confess my sin and He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Jesus paid the eternal penalty for my sin and I will see Him one day face to face. But in this life, sin hurts both God and other people. There is an impact we make in this world when we sin and sometimes it is a hard road to walk. If you are in that season, please remember “though your sins are like scarlet, [He] will make them as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) You can be fully forgiven. If you are walking through a wilderness of your own making, He is a sanctuary for you until you can return home.
- Where did my picture of God come from? What parts are accurate? What parts may not be?
- Which of the these three attributes (love, just, forgiving) do I struggle with the most? Why is that?
- What aspects of God’s character do I need to learn more about?
- God is love:
Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37-39, Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 136:26, Proverbs 8:17
- God is just:
Deuteronomy 8:5, Hebrews 12:5-6, Proverbs 3:12, Proverbs 13:1, Job 5:17, Psalm 94:12, 2 Timothy 2:3-5
- God is forgiving:
1 John 1:9, Isaiah 1:18, Daniel 9:9, Isaiah 55:7, Psalm 103:8-13, Psalm 86:5, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Micah 7:18-19, Colossians 2:13