Understanding God (unabridged)

It is not a very nice thing to say, but just between you and me, does it seem that God is two-faced? A bundle of contradictions? When the subject of God’s identity comes up, conflicting traits are attributed to Him with straight faces, nods of consent, and few questions. But the issue remains: Is God merciful or is He just? Loving or wrathful? Forgiving or vengeful? Holy or understanding? Is He jealous or is He longsuffering?

Depending on whose opinion you consider, God exhibits somewhere between two and 300 characteristics. Regardless of the number, each is absolute and raises the question: Can God really be all of these without contradiction?

The answer is, yes! It has to be. God must be all that He claims without contradiction.

We tolerate inconsistencies in each other with little notice until some high ideal is compromised. But when it comes to God, we need and expect Him to be true to Himself. Exactly. True. To Himself!

But while we must hold a clear conviction that God is exactly who He says He is, and believe with all our hearts that He is true to each trait characterizing Him, this does not mean we fully understand Him. This is a critical point. Knowing God to be who He says He is and understanding Him are two different matters.

When it comes down to it, God’s ways are beyond our full understanding (Is. 55:8-9). In fact, were it not for the revelation of God in the Scriptures, and His dealings with those who came before us, we would find God totally incomprehensible. Perhaps the biggest mystery is why God wants us to know Him at all.

James describes God as the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (ref. Jm. 1:17). In other words, there is no inconsistency in God. He is exactly as He claims. And there is nothing occluding the light of His truthfulness such that a shadow is cast upon who He is.

As I wrote in my previous note to you, we must take the Scriptural message about God for what it says versus projecting onto it what we feel it should say. I confess that I am tempted to conclude based upon my experience that God is not everything He claims. There is much about Him and about my life in Him that makes no sense to me; much that I wish was different. For example, why do I suffer physical pain all the time? If He heals those folks on TV, why doesn’t He heal me?

If I go to the Scriptures from my perspective of pain, I must rationalize them and compromise God to gain an understanding that suits my experience. On the other hand, if I come from the Scriptures and let them speak to me concerning my pain and my Heavenly Father’s understanding, my perspective on pain changes.

The first approach changes the Scripture and God’s reputation. The second approach changes me. Sure, I’m left with questions about God as Healer, but I gain understanding of Him as Transcendent. But just because God’s ways don’t make sense to me doesn’t mean His ways are contradictory.

John said Jesus was the realization of grace and truth, the explanation of God Himself (1:17-18). Hebrews goes a step further and says that Jesus is the exact representation of God (1:3).

So, if you want to understand God, understand Jesus. If you want to understand all 300 of the characteristics of God, understand these two absolutes of Christ Jesus: grace and truth.

The father of a gravely ill boy said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” and that is my heart as well. Note: The dad’s prayer begins with belief in the Lord’s character. Then he asks Him to help his unbelief. We should follow suit. Otherwise, we are destined to be tossed like corks on the stormy seas of doubt.

Some say God is two-faced, a web of contradictions, and they turn away to seek meaning based upon circumstantial evidence. But I cannot help believing that the mysteries of God are not only an invitation to know Him but to understand Him. Not fully, mind you. Rather, to understand Him better now than we did a moment ago.