Many people who are suffering from unhealthy behaviors and emotions can see how they began to develop earlier in life, often during their childhoods. Perhaps they were raised without a strong parental background. Or perhaps they grew up in an abusive situation. Maybe they have a past, which continues to haunt them. Perhaps they succumb time and time again to bad and sinful habits.
Many people carry negative feelings about themselves and about life in general. They may even have negative concepts and thoughts about God.
Once a person can view God as God truly is—the kind, caring and loving Ruler of the universe, the healing process can begin. Anyone can benefit immensely when he or she begins to have a deep and abiding personal relationship with this One who rules this universe.
But what if you have many scars from the past? What if your relationship with your earthly father, mother, or stepfather or stepmother was cold, neglectful, harsh, abusive, frightening, absent, unaffectionate or unhealthy in some other way? There are indeed positive steps you can take that will help you overcome the chains of your past. And what if your problems are ongoing—not yet in the past? Is there real hope that you will see the light of day? My prayer is that a reading of certain key scriptures will help you begin the process of seeing what God's attitude is toward you and all humanity.
Coming to see God as God really is!
To overcome negative feelings about ourselves, life in general, and even negative feelings about God, we must come to realize the depth of love God has for humanity. We can find out by reading the Bible, God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. In this article and a follow-up article, we will quote many scriptures to help us see the love that God has for each and every one of us. As we study the scriptures, we come to see that God is the most loving, patient, kind God that we could ever imagine.
God is the absolute opposite of the cruel, abusive, alcoholic, temperamental father or stepfather, mother or stepmother that many people have lived with.
Scripture tells us about the character of God—that He is kind, gentle, loving, and tenderhearted. He is all-powerful, which means none of our problems, even mental and emotional ones, are too great for Him. God is also patient and positive toward us. He is the exact opposite of the tyrant image that many have of Him!
The first concept to understand is that God is loving and kind. One definition of love is that it is an outgoing, unselfish concern for others. It is love toward a person with no strings attached; no concept of: “I'm doing you a favor in order to get a favor in return.” It is love that is totally based upon serving the other person for the best interests of that person.
God knows that our greatest need is salvation, and He earnestly wants to save us. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). “The Lord is…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God of justice and God of mercy
It’s essential to have a full understanding of God’s love. True love has two sides. The justice side has rules, standards, and discipline—for the benefit of others (Isaiah 30:18; Hebrews 12). The “soft” side has mercy, forgiveness, nurturing and affection (Psalm 59:10, 17; Philippians 2:1-2). An ideal parent strives to have this balanced and total love, and God is the perfect parent!
God teaches us by instruction and example to love as He loves. That love must include obedience to the Ten Commandments (1 John 5:3). They are summed up by the two Great Commandments, which are to love God and to love our fellow man (Matthew 22:35-40). So the Ten Commandments teach us how to love God and how to love others.
God holds us accountable according to how much we understand about His will. That is like a parent who expects more from a child as the child gets older and has more mature understanding. But God is so merciful that when we know better and still do something wrong, God will forgive as soon as we are sincerely sorry and repentant.
This article is especially for the many people who have thought of God only as a God of justice—and stern, unmerciful justice at that—and haven’t realized how much God is a “fatherly” God of tender mercy and love.
You can come to trust God's loving and holy character
Let's read the premier scripture regarding this concept: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
This scripture is hard for some to grasp because so many feel so unlovable, so unlikable, or so ashamed of their sins and mistakes. The fact is all people have sinned; we have all been guilty of sin. But God's love is unconditional, even though His rewards are conditional (based on our obedience, service and spiritual growth). He says that He is loving and kind to His enemies and to all the wicked.
Christ tells us: "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). Even those who don't even wish to have a spiritual relationship with God are frequently blessed whether they know it or not. Yes, God tells us that "He is kind to the unthankful and evil" (Luke 6:35).
God has always desired to reconcile Himself with humanity. He is doing so through His Son, Jesus Christ. We read: "For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life" (Romans 5:10, New International Version). It is humanly incomprehensible that God would allow His Son to die for us while we were still His enemies, but this is exactly what the scripture says.
As humans, it is easy for us to carry unhealthy grudges against those who have abused and betrayed us. But Jesus did not do so. He even called His betrayer, Judas Iscariot, His “friend” (Matthew 26:50). What merciful and powerful love this is!
The Psalms tell us how merciful and generous God is toward even fools when they cry out to God to rescue them from the problems that they brought upon themselves!
"Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (Psalm 107:17-20).
So, since God is patient and forgiving toward even evil, wicked people, surely this proves He is willing to give all mankind the opportunity to be rescued by Him!
It is God's desire to heal all people emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
We are aware that Jeremiah described human nature in the bluntest of terms: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). God's word is true—indeed "there is none righteous" (Romans 3:10). But we must realize God gives us great hope as we read in Jeremiah 17:14: “Heal me O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, For you are my praise!" (Jeremiah 17:14). You see, God expects everyone to eventually surrender to Him, confess and repent of all sins, and seek God’s healing and salvation. Repentance is truly a matter of experiencing the pain of knowing that we are indeed sinners; yet it also involves the deepest of spiritual and emotional healing as we realize that is God who will forgive, heal and save us.
No one is who is willing to repent and change is unacceptable to God. No one should feel he must go on living without God's love! We all have the opportunity to begin to realize that we are loved by God.
We are God's children!
God loves us so much that He wants to call us His very children. His Word tells us: "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1).
And in speaking of Christ, John wrote: "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).
Notice please that this passage gives us something practical to do. The first half of this verse tells us that we know what love is all about because Jesus Christ laid His life down for us. And the second half of this verse tells us we are to have the same attitude toward all others. That is, we see here a key ingredient for our own healing because in order to be emotionally healed, we must begin to get our minds off ourselves and onto the needs of others. (We'll take another look at the second half of this verse in a follow up article).
The first epistle of John mentions the love of God nearly four dozen times in just five chapters. Reading it through takes only a few minutes and will help saturate your mind with the truth about the majestic love of God. John says: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:7-10). In other words, we are comforted by God’s love because He sent His only Son to die on our behalf.
We spoke earlier of the abiding relationship with God that is available. In 1 John 4:16 we read: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him."
Let's also notice 1 John 4:17: "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world." This verse means that God's love for us will permeate our minds so deeply that we will come to sense and feel His love! Thus, we will no longer fear the day of judgment in God's kingdom as some kind of a doomsday coming upon us because we are so unworthy, but we will eagerly look forward to the day when we will see Christ and actually eat at His table! Actually, He will even serve us—see Luke 12:37.
And in 1 John 4:18 we learn: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."
There are two types of fear of God. One is the unhealthy fear which views God as a tyrant who enjoys punishing us whenever we slip up. Although many have been treated in this way, God never treats us like this! The other type of fear is best described as reverence and awe towards the loving and majestic God. This type of fear is well described in Proverbs 14:26-27: "In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to turn away from the snares of death.” Think of yourself as a humble little child looking up worshipfully to your heavenly Father. That is the proper “fear” of God that brings emotional and spiritual health.
Reading such scriptures as these—and there are many—will help heal the minds and hearts of the emotional scars of the past.
Did you have a parent who neglected or rejected you? David wrote in Psalm 27:10: "When my father and my mother forsake, me, then the Lord will take care of me." You’ll always be able to count on God to be there for you.
Another Psalm to consider is Psalm 17:7: "Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in you…" Indeed, God's loving kindness is marvelous to behold, and He wants to offer His salvation to all people (1 Timothy 2:4).
And while we are on the subject of God's lovingkindness, let's read Isaiah 63:7: “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.” God mentions His lovingkindness twice in just this one verse!
And in Jeremiah 31:3 we see again: "The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'"
Indeed, God loves us with an everlasting love. The one attribute that summarizes all of God's character is love! His mind is one of total loving concern. All other attributes of God—mercy, compassion, kindness, etc. are summarized by this all-encompassing attribute of Almighty God!
Let's conclude this article by reading from 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, and apply these verses to God himself: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Since we have already seen that God is love (1 John 4:8), we can apply all these descriptive terms to God Himself, because indeed He "suffers long" and is "kind." He "thinks no evil," He "rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Truly, in bringing us into His divine family as His sons and daughters, His "love never fails."
You see? No matter what serious problems you have, you can break free from the chains of the past because a deeply personal relationship with God will bring healing!
In part two of these articles, we will discuss a few more of the attributes of God. We will see that He is dependable and faithful toward us, He is merciful and generous and is totally dedicated to finishing what he starts in bringing His children to glory (Hebrews 2:10). We will also see what God expects us to do, as faith in God includes our willingness to do our part in overcoming human nature. There are positive steps you can take that will help you overcome the chains of your past.