In the book of John, Christ tells his disciples:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Understanding the nature of God is essential to moving forward in life. However, even with restored gospel truths, many struggle with the fear that God is actually an angry God. This is more common than a lot of people realize. Many Christian sects have focused on punishment for sin and the scriptures themselves (we’re looking at you Old Testament) can seem vengeful. This understanding of God goes against the greater understanding of God’s nature revealed in these latter days. What can we do if we are in a place where our merciful and loving God seems far away?
If you think God is mad at you, here are some things to keep in mind.
Guilt and Shame are Two Different Things
Guilt, while unpleasant, serves a purpose. It is our conscience telling us that we have done something wrong. Shame, on the other hand, tells us we ourselves are wrong. We don’t just do bad, we are bad. Shame makes us feel unworthy, unlovable, and can paralyze us. We feel we are so terrible God’s only choice is to be mad at us and need to punish us. Guilt, when placed in a gospel context, can help us change for the better.
It is important to discover whether you are feeling guilt or shame and how to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to move forward. You can read more about this principle here.
God Rejoices in Sincere Repentance
If we have sinned or made a mistake, we need to repent. Often, there are consequences we’d rather not endure. However, repentance is described by Elder D. Todd Christofferson as a gift and, according to the Bible Dictionary, “denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.”
This fresh view about God is the understanding that God’s glory is our exaltation and that he rejoices when we repent. In the parable of the lost sheep, Christ says, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
God Only Gives Us Bread
Anything that comes from God is good. In the book of Luke, Christ talks about this principle when he says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
When our prayers aren’t answered the way we want or seemingly at all, it is easy to think God has given us a serpent or a stone or a scorpion. We may even take the bread God has given us turn it into a stone.
God only gives bread, fish, and eggs. We are given experiences which may be hard, but they are necessary and for our greater good.
God is a Fourth-Watch God
It seems the times we most often think God is angry at us is when we feel he is absent. By looking at scriptural examples, we learn that God is a fourth watch God. S. Michael Wilcox describes what this means: “The Hebrew night was divided into four watches. The first watch—six o’clock at night to nine [p.m.], second watch—nine to midnight, third watch—midnight to three in the morning, fourth watch—three in the morning to sunrise.”
There are multiple scriptural examples of God coming in the fourth watch, including Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, the widow of Zarephath, Hagar and Ishmael, and Lazarus. He often comes long after we have survived a much longer night than we are able. Brother Wilcox goes on to say:
“We worship a fourth watch God. So when the trials aren’t over and the blessings don’t come, don’t assume that He is not there, or He is not listening, or He doesn’t care, or you’re not worthy. Always assume you have not yet reached the fourth watch.”
Understanding that God is a fourth watch God can help us put our trials into perspective.
What ways have you come to understand the nature of God more fully in your own life?