In our resort area there are many gated communities filled with wealthy folk enjoying their summer. Some years ago during a gas crisis I watched a wealthy family leave the dock in their large boat, gunning it for places unknown. The bill for filling such a boat with fuel would run to more than my annual salary. One day’s pleasure on Lake Michigan would cost more than I spend on fun in a decade. I thought to myself at the time, Their wealth shields them from the issues all the rest of us face. But isn't this even more true of God?
Psalm 24 begins, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness!” Because He made the world He owns it. He is, then, more wealthy than we can conceive. He’s never gotten a heat bill He could not pay. He’s never worried about a mortgage payment. No one has ever snuck up to His home and repossessed His car. God lives in the ultimate gated community; beyond space, in a society of holy angels who do His bidding, with no one to argue with, with no one to make Him see our reality.
God’s never had his grandma die. God was never abandoned by a husband, with insufficient income and no future. No wife was ever unfaithful to God. He'll never get a cold or arthritis. He’s just not touched by our problems and issues. Eternal, distant, and invisible, He lives in a palace of light with never an issue of pain or even inconvenience.
It is hard , then, for us to see God as a person who thinks, feels, and laughs. It can be very hard to relate to an invisible God who lives so far away. Particularly when we are going through agony!
Does God care at all about us?
Is He ever touched by the pain we suffer?
Is He only a distant Being who barely knows we are here?
Is he no more than a force of nature, impersonal, unknowing, uncaring?
Is He dead? Was He never there?
We need to know. Everything in our lives depends on who He really is.
Since I can't see God, I know what a heavenly Father is by seeing my earthly father in action. If my earthly father is gone, or distant, then I will take another authority figure for my father-figure: my mother, an uncle, a teacher, a grandfather. But what if I have no father-figure to emulate? And what if the only father-figure I have is a jerk?
Most kids today grow up with fathers who are gone forever, gone much of the time, here but “distant,” or the opposite of everything the ideal father ought to be.
Some dads fight all the time with their wife, their neighbors, their boss, and their kids.
Some dads criticize constantly all that the children do.
Some dads are ballast weighing the family down. They sleep on the couch, or spend their day playing on the computer, not caring what anyone else is going through.
Some dads are leaders, but only in the sense that they tell everyone else what to do. “You work hard, you play fair, you read your Bible, while I take a nap.”
Some dads let their children run the house. Instead of the family following a well-thought-out plan made by a mature wise couple, the family follows the desires of an immature third-grader.
Some dads dream for their kids, but then couch the dream in dictatorial terms; “You will excel at this sport or I will shower you with scorn.”
All dads are examples, but some are examples of all the wrong ways of solving problems, doing jobs, or playing.
When we say, “God the Father,” we always think of Him in terms of the fathers we've known, and too often our dad was a jerk. Because fathers are authority figures we also automatically relate our father to all other authority figures: principals, doctors, policemen, and presidents. This is natural, and automatic. Everyone does it. The problem is that most fathers, and most authority figures, aren’t perfect.
Because people connect imperfect authorities with their heavenly Father they tend to fear that He’s uncaring, abusive, cruel, distant, or critical; all the faults of their earthly authorities. Because the Bible presents God the Father as all-powerful, and there are tragedies around us all the time, their experience tells them that God is at best distant, and at worst cruel. Look in an atheist’s past, and you will usually find a trauma they blame God for. “If God let my sister Sally die needlessly, then either He is cruel or not there. Either way, I reject Him.”
The effect of having a bad relationship with our earthly father can be seen when we look at statistics from our society. Since we relate our heavenly Father to our earthly father, if we have no earthly father we are really at a loss for knowing God. Now, it’s hard to quantify the effect on a bad father on children, for that is largely subjective, but it is easy to quantify the effect of the loss of a father’s contribution to our lives. What happens to a child when he or she has no earthly father, making it impossible for them to know who God is, or feel any connection to Him? It's a catastrophe. This disaster is quantified by statistics from: https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/
This question of God's nature, then, is the most toxic question in the world. Serving God is either a high privilege or a waste of our time. Praying is either foolish or the path to power. Which is it? Depends on who God is. A friend is honest with us, and we need to know that is true of God. A friend likes us for who we are, not what we can do for him. A friend forgives us when we mess up. When a friend commits to us they mean it.
For our lives to make any sense we need a God who is our Friend. We must know that He is honest, just, sincere, and good. Because we do wrong things sometimes, we also have to know that He is compassionate, kind, merciful, and patient. God allowed the Serpent to ask the great question of our existence (Is God good or evil?), and then He wrote the rest of the Bible so He could show us the full answer to this question, the fact of His great friendship for us. It is my mission to help us see how God could possibly be our Friend, even with all the stuff going on around us, and in our lives.