SPOTLIGHT - a lackluster love
About the Spotlight Writer
Hi friends! My name is Katie Tjerrild. I attend Baylor University, where I am pursuing a Master’s degree in English and will be teaching freshman composition classes in the fall. I am an INFJ aspiring novelist with a healthy love of books, an unhealthy love of Raising Cane’s, and a deep belief in the power of words.
A Lackluster Love
By Katie Tjerrild
I really struggle to like God. Like, I love Him and trust Him for my salvation. But I really struggle to like Him.
Here’s how I imagine God, if my imagination is left unchecked: God is the ill-shaven, wrist-slapping, no-nonsense schoolmaster, the out-of-touch moralist, the manipulative boyfriend, the triune performer of an unconvincing good-cop bad-cop shtick, and the forgetful, narcoleptic grandpa nodding off on the La-Z-Boy. He’s the neurotic zealot, the queen bee, the prude, the misogynist, the old man who peaked in high school and won’t stop mumbling about how “things were better back in Bible times” with a twinkle in his cataract-clouded eyes.
I think the reason that I find it so difficult to like God sometimes is that I view God as an impediment to my joy and not the source of it. And it’s hardly any help when people go all Psalm 16:11 on me and insist that God’s rules are intended to lead me into fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Because isn’t that the line of every Hollywood villain—the torturer, the rogue doctor, the evil scientist? His head tilts to the side and his lips curl into a cruel smile. “This is for your own good, you know,” he says, flicking a syringe.
The difficulty of delighting in God and His rules shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. We are a fallen people with a fallen people’s resistance to the holy. But, more often than not, our struggle to like God does surprise us—and it terrifies us. I’ve been down the I don’t like God and His rules very much right now and if I don’t like Him how can I love Him and if I don’t love Him am I really saved and oh my God I’m going to hell rabbit hole more times than I care to remember.
We are a fallen people with a fallen people’s resistance to the holy, but we are also a redeemed people with a redeemed people’s knowledge of and love for His goodness. This is the tension that we exist in: we recognize His righteousness but resist His righteous work in us. We recognize His ultimate goodness but resent that He tells us to relinquish lesser goods. It’s the tension that I exist in, anyway.
I think my fear about my struggle to like God stems, too, from the fact that in college, I was surrounded by dear friends who loved—and liked—God without difficulty. All the time. Like, they genuinely, passionately, enthusiastically enjoyed God, always. Which is incredible, and I have so much admiration for women of such strong faith. But it can be a bit isolating when everyone else’s experience of Christianity seems rosy-tinted and rainbow-girdled and yours is so conflicted. I hope that, if anyone else feels isolated and ashamed by their lackluster love for God, this would serve as an encouragement to them that they are not alone.
The Bible itself indicates that we are in good company when we struggle to love God as He deserves to be loved. John reminds us that “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This verse gives us permission to breathe—our delight in God is not the standard for love, nor does it determine the amount of love (if such a thing can be quantified) that God extends to us. His love is the original, complete, perfect thing, and ours the imperfect imitation. We should neither despair to find our own affections lacking, nor be satisfied to let them remain as they are.
How, then, as Christians, do we navigate these feelings of dislike for God and displeasure with His law?
I think we start with transparency about it, both with each other and with God. Honesty with each other benefits other Christians, and honesty with God benefits us. You will not lose your salvation if you admit your frustration, your dissatisfaction, your fear, your anger with God. Cast your anxieties upon Him—even if those anxieties are your insufficient love for Him, your difficulty delighting in Him, your resentment for the righteous requirement of the law. He cares for you.
Second, I think we need to find the things that help us to delight in God more fully, understand Him more rightly, love Him more completely, and we pursue those things to the ends of the earth. We read scripture voraciously, we pray through the apathy and the anger, we chase sunsets and stories that reveal His nature. We spend time with the friends that reflect His character, we camp out in forests and libraries, and we eavesdrop on the world’s every whisper of His goodness.
This is my prayer for us: that we would be honest about where we are in our affection for God, and adamant in our grace-enabled efforts to love Him more. I pray that where we have tended to see tyrant, we would see teacher; where we have seen stricture, we would see savior; and where we have seen an impediment to joy, we would see joy incarnate.