Why Can’t I Experience God’s Love?
A Gun Is a Gun
To suggest that the sovereignty of God is about control is a little like saying, “God carries a gun but never uses it… or rarely uses it, or, well, you never know when He is going to use it.”
Eventually it breaks down to, “God carries a gun just in case.”
A gun is a gun. Its implication is in its design. While a gun can provide a sense of safety and security, it does so through threat, or act of violence. It can only be used for good if the person holding it is actually willing to pull the trigger.
When we use the word control to define the sovereignty of God, we put a gun in His hand.
If we insist that God’s sovereignty has something to do with control, then whenever He interacts in our lives, He is being sovereignly controlling. Actually, everything we experience, be it positive or negative, must be attributed in some way to His controlling nature.
Much of the Church believes God is in absolute control and also that God is always good. These two opposing thoughts have positioned many believers in a fractured, compromised state where their faith can become undermined by circumstances and disappointments.
A good God in control forces us to justify the Tsunami as God’s will, and then we are left with how to navigate the aftermath.
The sinner that died? Well, that was a just God acting from sovereign control.
The six-month-old who drowned? Well, that was a horrible tragedy… or was it more? Was it somehow God’s will? You just never know…
And trust is eroded. And without trust we cannot have intimacy…
Created for Intimacy
“How do I experience God’s love?”
Because I write and speak on the always good love of our heavenly Father, that is a question I am asked often. It’s a question I believe many sons and daughters have wrestled with, particularly in the Western Church where we have had to puzzle out God’s role in the devastation of the most recent Tsunami…
Much of the church has had to navigate the disparity inherent in a theology of control. I believe this has birthed a great crisis regarding intimacy with God; we don’t know how to experience His pleasure. We have little access to His good love.
Many of us know the names of God, we know His attributes, we are intellectually certain He loves us, and yet we are not confident in His affection. While we all desire closeness with God, for many, closeness with God is far from a daily, moment by moment experience.
For many, the Christian faith is based more on an acknowledgement of God’s love than an actual encounter. But love goes beyond intellect; love is an emotive experience with a Person.
Have you ever noticed that at least two thirds of the Kingdom can be felt? “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (6)
This scripture in Romans reveals that the Kingdom can be emotionally experienced. Joy and peace are not just theological positions in God; they are also actual felt responses to experiencing His presence.
We are designed to experience God’s presence, His closeness, His affection. He created us for relationship; not a theoretical relationship, but an experiential knowing. We were born to know and be known, to commune with God, to have an honest, true, whole, authentic, affectionate relationship with our Savior and Friend.
It’s called intimacy.
And I would like to propose that much of the church is unable to access this intimacy for one reason. We have a theology of control.
Intimacy and Control
Control can be a good concept when applied to things or situations.
Jason was in control of the car. That’s good.
But control is a broken idea when applied to relationship, it undermines intimacy.
Jason was in control of his wife, his kids, his friends, his parents, his neighbors, his subjects… That’s not good.
Intimacy can’t be experienced in a relationship where one person is controlling the other. Intimacy is only experienced where there is trust. And trust isn’t possible if one of the people in a relationship carries a gun.
You can’t have intimacy with someone you can’t trust. And control undermines trust. It is the antithesis of intimacy.
A God-in-control positions humanity in insecurity. It undermines trust in the One who we are most designed to know and trust. Why? Because a God in control is a controlling God.
A theology of sovereign control erodes our ability to trust, making intimacy with God something we are promised but never actually experience.
But Jesus powerfully modeled the way into intimacy by surrendering His very life. Jesus rejected the gun; the very idea of control.
If we aren’t convinced that God is love and His love is sovereign, perfectly good; if we think God is in control of particular areas of our lives, then we are forced to navigate those areas of our lives outside of intimacy. And it effects everything!
The Subtle Erosions of Control
The theology of sovereign control doesn’t just undermine our faith in God’s good love when facing tsunami-size problems; it subtlety erodes access to trust in our everyday life.
If He is in control, then when we stub our toe, the car needs new brakes and we don’t have the cash, the neighbor doesn’t like us, someone else gets the closer parking space, the dog escapes from the backyard and it’s getting dark and he’s not that bright; even in the subtle context of daily life, we are forced to wrestle over something that is (and should be in our minds) an absolute – the goodness of God. Ultimately our trust is compromised and intimacy is lost.
We are designed to live, move and have our being in the confidence that He is always good – that His love is sovereign. And yet our very misguided definition of His sovereignty undermines our ability to trust in His goodness. Our faith is subverted by our misunderstanding.
But, if we are willing to step away from the flawed narrative of control and lean into a greater revelation of His love, it opens up for us an opportunity to trust His goodness in ways we have never been able to trust before.
And in this trust, we will begin to know His affection in ways we have never fully known but always longed for. And when we begin to discover His affection truly and fully, we will experience intimacy with God.
Jesus came to make us sure. Jesus revealed sovereign love and He came to give us access to intimacy.
The whole world needs to know this!
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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Amen brother! I believe there are so many Christians out there who have no connection with Jesus. Without connection we can’t truly experience his goodness and love. We can fill our minds with biblical promises but unless we actually experience God’s goodness and love these are just words and ideas.
Times can be hard but we need to spend less time looking through our worldly eyes and turn our gaze to Jesus. Only by building intimacy can we glimpse the true character and nature of God. God does not control. If he did we would all be robots.
Thanks for your thoughts Lori! Yes and amen to discovering God’s goodness and love. Yes to growing sure in His love, yes to experiencing His affection and kindness.
Praying grace over you tonight. Blessings!
Ahhh what a joy to know that the life in His affection is possible 😉
Somehow I always knew that in my spirit. Any tips how to grow in this intimacy ?
Hey, Kamila! Amen to life in His affection!
For many years I would wake up in the morning with a simple prayer that went something like this,
“Good morning Father (Jesus, Holy Spirit) reveal your great love to me right now, show me who you are, let me grow sure in your goodness, at this moment let me sense your kindness and great affection.”
I would rest just briefly. Some mornings his grace swept over me in a felt way, other mornings I leaned into faith. Then I would pray one more thing.
“Father (Jesus, Holy Spirit) show me how you see me.”
This was a prayer that was packed with the conviction that God saw me as lovely, stunning, the one He loved. But I would again rest and wait for a sense of grace or until I could see myself the same way.
For a season of my life, I actually did this every day.