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    When I got a text message from a friend the other day, my defenses went up immediately. 

    I thought she was pointing out something I had forgotten to do. I was hurt, offended, and quick to think of reasons she was wrong. 

    Then I read the message again.

    As you could probably guess, I had misunderstood it. She was actually asking me for help, not accusing me of something. I had wasted a significant amount of energy getting angry… over nothing. 

    Chances are you’ve probably had many text-message debacles of your own. I think these common misunderstandings come down to one thing: assumptions. 

    An assumption is something you think you know, without questioning it (No emojis? She’s mad). Unfortunately, assumptions are often wrong, and they cause a lot of pain when they are.

    Assumptions cause misunderstandings in our relationship with God too. It’s very easy to assume things about what God is like, and those of us who attend church regularly (or have done so in the past) are some of the biggest culprits. We often rely on what we think we know about God or what we learned about him decades ago instead of getting to know him better as we go through the ups and downs of life.

    Psalm 51 describes a crucial lesson King David learned about God during a difficult time in his life:

    Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

    Psalm 51:16-17 MSG

    David wrote this psalm in a moment when his pride was shattered. He could have given up on his faith, deciding his guilt was too overwhelming to face and too great for God’s forgiveness. Instead, this moment of failure in his own life became a moment of learning something new about God.

    Assumptions about God (or anyone, really) can be difficult to identify, because we genuinely accept them as fact. But seeing God in a way that’s false or incomplete will eventually cause us a lot of pain; we won’t want to talk to him in the times we need him most unless we see him for who he really is. 

    In this devotional, we’ll identify 6 signs we might need to change the way we see God. As we get to know him better, our faith and trust in him will grow, and we’ll be strong enough to handle any challenges life throws our way. 

    You mix up God and people.

    God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

    Numbers 23:19 NLT

    God is not human, so one sure sign that you need to change the way you see him is if your god looks a lot like a person (or people) in your life.

    We often assume God is like one or both of our parents or authority figures. While the love of our parents can help us understand the love of a God we can’t see, the problem is that even the greatest parents in the world are still human. They have their own sinful natures, their own weaknesses, and their own natural limitations.

    Sometimes, without even realizing it, we project these weaknesses onto God. If we felt our parents weren’t there when we needed them, we might struggle to trust God to be there when we need him. If we feared we weren’t good enough for our parents, we might fear we are not good enough for God. 

    It’s important to make sure that our view of God matches what the Bible says about him so that we don’t falsely assume he treats us like a person would. 

    This verse in Numbers 23 tells us some crucial things about God:

    • He does not lie.
    • He does not change his mind (which means even your failures and sins don’t change his mind about you).
    • He keeps his word.
    • He keeps his promises. 

    These are things humans struggle to do perfectly. So if your view of God is that he might change his mind about you or he might not come through for you, you might be making the mistake of assuming he is like a person in your life. People will inevitably let us down, even if they’re not trying to, but God won’t, and it’s important to understand that God is not the same as even the most loving human being in our lives. 

    Pause and reflect:

    • What are some assumptions you make about what God is like? Do these mirror a person in your life?
    • Start approaching your Bible reading with an open mind to get to know God from what you read. Try to let go of any assumptions you might naturally make, and believe who God says he is in the Bible.

    You think God is ultimately responsible for what happens (or doesn’t happen) in your life. 

    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; [16] Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. [17] Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

    James 1:13,16-17 NIV

    God does not send evil into our lives. On the contrary, every good and perfect gift is from God. 

    The Bible does tell us that God is all-powerful (Mark 10:27), but that doesn’t mean he is responsible for everything that happens in our lives. There are many other forces at work in the world. Believing that God determines most, if not all, of what happens to us is a recipe for resenting him.

    What else is responsible for things that happen to us?

    Our own choices

    People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.

    Proverbs 19:3 NLT

    Because God gives us free will, sometimes the suffering in our lives is a result of our own foolish choices. For example, we can cause suffering in our own lives by making choices to be proud, people-pleasing, deceitful, greedy, bitter, or selfish. Unfortunately, making choices to sin will make us hostile toward God:

    Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. [6] So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. [7] For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

    Romans 8:5-7 NLT

    Sin makes us hostile toward God, so if we have a negative or angry view of God it’s important to search for any sinful choices we might be making. We don’t have to get down on ourselves about this; taking responsibility is actually a very empowering way to move forward. We won’t find healing by trying to blame God or other people or convincing ourselves that we are victims. We’ll be able to move on when we can take responsibility for our own choices. 

    Other people’s sins

    I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other.

    Ecclesiastes 8:9 NLT

    Humans are social and emotional, and these things give us great power to connect with one another. But they also open us up to being hurt by one another, often unintentionally. In the times when a person has hurt us, it’s important to remember that people’s choices are not God’s fault and that he gives us a way out of the hurt and pain we experience in relationships: forgiveness (see Colossians 3:12-13 and Ephesians 4:31-32).

    The normal experience of being human

    Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

    1 Corinthians 10:13 – GNT

    Tests are a normal part of our human experience on earth. We are made of flesh and blood; we are not immortal or impervious to the weaknesses and struggles of human life. Some of the suffering we experience is just part of living in a human body. God will always give us the strength to handle these tests. Instead of turning away from him in anger when we experience them, we should draw closer to him and accept our limitations. 

    Forces of darkness

    Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV

    The Bible does talk about a spiritual world where Satan schemes against us and attacks our faith. Sometimes, the suffering in our lives can come from the spiritual battle waged against us. 

    The trouble with holding God responsible for everything

    If we hold God responsible for everything that happens in our lives, we’ll be filled with questions every time something bad happens:

    • Why are you allowing this to happen?
    • Why aren’t you helping me? 
    • Why don’t you care that this struggle is too much for me? 
    • Why are you letting me suffer while other people don’t?
    • Why aren’t you answering my prayers?

    The psalmist who wrote Psalm 73 seems to have held God responsible for not stopping the troubles in his life, and it almost made him lose his faith in God.

    God is truly good to Israel, to those who have pure hearts. [2] But I had almost stopped believing; I had almost lost my faith [3] because I was jealous of proud people. I saw wicked people doing well. [4] They are not suffering; they are healthy and strong. [5] They don’t have troubles like the rest of us; they don’t have problems like other people.

    Psalm 73:1-5 NCV

    He had almost stopped believing that God was good because he had troubles and problems. Through prayer, he realized that his bitterness and envy were clouding his view of God:

    So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! [17] Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. [21] Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. [22] I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. [23] Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. [24] You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. [25] Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [26] My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

    Psalm 73:16-17,21-26 NLT

    It’s essential for our relationship with God that we understand, like the psalmist eventually did, that God is not at fault when we go through troubles and problems. In fact, God’s role is to hold us by the hand and strengthen us, to never let us go no matter how badly we treat him, and to shape everything we go through (even our own foolish choices, other people’s sins toward us, and the tests and trials of human life) into a glorious destiny.

    Even if we are suffering because of one (or all) of these forces, God orchestrates that pain into something good and beautiful. 

    We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

    Romans 8:28 Voice

    He can help us find purpose and a deeper connection with him in even our most difficult moments. That’s why we need to stay close to him in these times instead of letting our distress drive us farther away. 

    Pause and reflect:

    • Do you tend to blame God when you’re suffering? What does it look like when you get mad at God?
    • What are some other forces that might be at work in the troubles in your life now?

    You leave God out of your day-to-day life.

    What is the value of your soul to God? Could your worth be defined by an amount of money? God doesn’t abandon or forget even the small sparrow he has made. How then could he forget or abandon you? What about the seemingly minor issues of your life? Do they matter to God? Of course they do! So you never need to worry, for you are more valuable to God than anything else in this world.

    Luke 12:6-7 TPT

    When you think of God, do you think of someone who cares about the seemingly minor issues of your life? The Bible says that these things matter to God. He’s not an impersonal, all-powerful being who will get annoyed with you for needing help. 

    I often think that I should only cry out to God for help with major things in my life, and handle the small stuff on my own. The trouble is, sometimes small stuff is big stuff. For example, I get very anxious about building relationships and navigating social situations. It’s humbling to me that I get afraid just to call someone to say hello, so I would rather not admit I need help. 

    The Bible tells us that God doesn’t forget or abandon even a small sparrow. The life of a sparrow matters to him; how much more do we?

    If you struggle to let God into your day-to-day life, you might need to change the way you see him. He’s a God who cares about the details, and when we understand that we’ll worry about those details much less. 

    Additional passages of the Bible about God’s involvement in our day-to-day lives

    If this is a difficult area of your relationship with God, take a look at some of these verses about God’s deeply personal care of our lives:

    • Philippians 4:6-7: God wants us to pray about everything. 
    • Psalm 139: God is intimately aware of our lives and thoughts, even when we try to distance ourselves from him.
    • Psalm 62:8: God tells us to pour out our hearts to him.
    • Psalm 37:23: God delights in every detail of our lives. 
    • Matthew 10:29-31: We are so valuable to God that he counts every hair on our heads.

    You rely on what other people tell you about God.

    Discover for yourself that the LORD is kind. Come to him for protection, and you will be glad.

    Psalm 34:8 CEV

    God wants a personal relationship with each of us. If our knowledge of him or understanding of him primarily comes from other people, it will probably lack something. For some quick musical inspiration about discovering God for yourself, check out this song, “Who You Are to Me” by Chris Tomlin and Lady A:

    Relying primarily on a preacher, a book, or even other Christians to give you faith or tell you about God is a sign you haven’t yet discovered God for yourself.

    The incredible thing about Jesus coming to Earth and dying for our sins is that he opened the door for each of us to connect directly with God. Spiritual friends are incredibly important, but your friendship with God shouldn’t be passed on from someone else. It’s a powerful experience when you read a verse of the Bible that speaks directly to you in a way no one else could. 

    For some extra inspiration about discovering God for yourself, check out our list of the top 16 books of the Bible to master for knowing God, becoming spiritual, and achieving spiritual growth.

    You distance yourself from God when you feel guilty.

    In my life, the way I handle guilt is one of the biggest indicators of the way I see God. The Bible describes God as a forgiver of guilt; in fact, it’s the entire reason he sent Jesus to Earth (see Matthew 1:21). Because he is forgiving and all-knowing, we can come to God freely with any sins or mistakes we make, and he can clear our guilt away:

    Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. [6] Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. [7] For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. 

    Psalm 32:5-7 NLT

    One thing I learn from these verses is that a godly person is not sinless. Rather, a godly person is someone who prays, even (or perhaps especially) when they feel guilty. 

    I remember driving home one night from an event I led that hadn’t gone well. I don’t remember the details of what I had done wrong, but I definitely felt I had fallen short in many ways and felt ashamed. I thought about praying but really didn’t want to.

    Later, I told a friend that I had felt so down about my mistakes that I didn’t want to pray. She looked at me a bit puzzled, and said, “Isn’t that even more reason why you should pray?” She went on to explain that the moments we feel we have messed up are the moments we should most want to draw close to God so he can encourage us.

    I’ll never forget that conversation because her view of God was so different from mine. I thought that I couldn’t talk to God if I sinned because I assumed I had let him down and didn’t deserve his kindness. The truth is that God loves to relieve guilt. He sees everything, so we can openly own up to our sins and mistakes to find love, grace, and forgiveness. 

    If this is a struggle for you in your view of God, take time to read through the following passages of the Bible. What do you learn about God’s heart for us when we feel guilty? What do you notice that God wants from us when we feel guilty?

    God, give me mercy from your fountain of forgiveness! I know your abundant love is enough to wash away my guilt. Because your compassion is so great, take away this shameful guilt of sin. Forgive the full extent of my rebellious ways, and erase this deep stain on my conscience. [3] For I’m so ashamed. I feel such pain and anguish within me. I can’t get away from the sting of my sin against you, Lord! Everything I did, I did right in front of you, for you saw it all.

    Against you, and you above all, have I sinned. Everything you say to me is infallibly true and your judgment conquers me. [5] Lord, I have been a sinner from birth, from the moment my mother conceived me. [6] I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit. So come into the hidden places of my heart and teach me wisdom.

    [9] Hide my sins from your face; erase all my guilt by your saving grace. [10] Create a new, clean heart within me. Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you. [11] May you never reject me! May you never take from me your sacred Spirit!

    Psalm 51:1-6,9-11 TPT

    This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. [6] So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. [7] But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. [9] But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. [10] If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

    1 John 1:5-10 NLT

    The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. [9] He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. [10] He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. [12] He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. [13] The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. [14] For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

    Psalm 103:8-10,12-14 NLT

    These and many other passages of the Bible can help us learn to draw near to God in humility whenever we see sin in our lives. God knows very well that we are far from perfect. Owning up to our sins brings intimacy with God as well as the ability to bring forgiveness into our relationships with people (see Luke 18:9-14 and Matthew 6:14-15).

    Pause and reflect 

    • What usually happens to your relationship with God when you feel guilty?
    • Which of the passages above helps you most to want to come to God with your guilt? Why?

    Your view of God is based on what you learned decades ago.

    Sometimes, our view of God is based on something we learned in Sunday school or in a youth program decades ago. 

    I grew up without any religious background and started reading the Bible in high school. I had some great friends who taught me fundamentals about having a relationship with God, like reading the Bible and praying regularly, prioritizing God and his church, and serving others.  

    But for many years I relied on what my sixteen-year-old self knew about connecting with God. I didn’t really understand that those were just fundamentals, and that my relationship with God would only be fulfilling and satisfying if I kept getting to know him better.

    I always pray to the great and glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that he will give you the Spirit, who will let you know truths about God and help you understand them, so that you will know him better.

    Ephesians 1:17 ERV

    I find that I constantly need to get to know God better. During the pandemic, I have needed to understand God’s heart in a new way by learning how he feels about me when I am weak, vulnerable, and highly anxious.

    As we go through life, our responsibilities tend to grow, and so does our need to depend on and understand God. In other words, we need to be always learning and not claiming to “arrive” spiritually at a level where we can no longer be taught new things about God. 

    One of the best ways to learn new things about God is to be involved in spiritually engaging friendships. While we shouldn’t base our entire relationship with God on a person’s perspective as discussed earlier, we can’t just go at it alone. Let’s face it – we’re usually not the most objective about ourselves or the areas in which we need to grow. Our friends can give us insight from verses of the Bible they’ve found for themselves and from what they see in our lives. Connecting with friends who share our faith in God and asking them for perspective, insight, and spiritual advice about our relationship with God is a great way to change the way we see him. 

    Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. [15] Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. [16] He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

    Ephesians 4:14-16 NLT

    As this scripture says, we mature and grow when we speak the truth to each other in love. This means pointing out things we see in each other, showing each other the truth of the Bible, and honestly sharing with others the ways we need to grow ourselves. These kinds of friendships are refreshing because they help us continually grow to be more and more like Jesus. 

    Pause and reflect: 

    • When was the last time you saw God in a new way? 
    • What are some things you are going through right now that are challenging the way you see God?
    • Who are some friends you could connect with to help you grow in your relationship with God?

    Our relationship with God should always be changing and growing. That’s one of the things that makes it exciting; we can always learn new things about him and understand him in ways we didn’t before. If you see any of these assumptions about God in your life, know that you’re not alone and recognizing these assumptions is one of the first steps toward invigorating your relationship with him. 

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    Amy is a writer and editor for Deep Spirituality. She studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has over a decade of experience in mentoring, counseling and community organizing.

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