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Yesterday in bible study, a question was asked, "How do we help someone who says, 'God hates me because life isn't going well for me. Everything that could go right is going wrong..'" How do we comfort someone who believes in their conscience that God hates them? How do we comfort ourselves when we have the same belief and feeling?
Well, first, does God hate people? We have to answer this question both for ourselves, and in order to better help those who believe that God hates them. Does God hate us? Well, yes and no. Yes, God hates the reality of sin. He hates when we hate our brother, when we lust, when we are jealous, covet, ignore His Word, lie, steal, and trust in the things of this life and love the things of this world over and above Him. So, God does hate when we sin and the reality that we are sinners. He hates sinners so much that, for His wrath to be satisfied against sin and sinners, Jesus had to die His sacrificial death by shedding His blood on the cross. So, yes, God does hate sin and sinners. However, that wrath was satisfied and taken care of in the death of Jesus. Jesus assumed everything the Father hates about human nature and, on the cross, put it to death. So, in Christ, God does not hate sinners, but loves them as His beloved saints. In Christ, God loves and cherishes we who make mistakes, fail time and time again, and continue to increase in transgressions. Yes, we struggle with these sins now that we are the baptized, but we still sin. Rather than punish us for our sin, God forgives us in Jesus and loves us unconditionally.
But, if God loves us in Jesus, why do bad things still happen to us? Why does it feel sometimes like God hates us? Why, when we look at our lives, does it feel like God hates us rather than loves us? Well, think about who hates the reality that God loves you. The devil can't stand the fact that you are a beloved child of God destined for eternal life in heaven. The world can't comprehend the reality of your forgiveness and the joy you have in absolution, an unburdened conscience. Your Old Adam, that pesky flesh, won't accept the reality of who you are in Christ and daily desires to drag you into a life of love for this world and despair of the things of God. Does God hate you? Well, it feels like it sometimes, but that is because the devil, world, and our sinful flesh would have us believe we are not children of God. Do things not go our way in this life? Yes, all the time. It would be nice to have perfect health, a peaceful family that never fights, money in the bank account that let's us live in comfort, and a host of other things that would supposedly make life perfect and right. However, no matter how many things make us think life is going the way it should, there will always be something that brings us despair because we are still living in a fallen world, struggling with our sinful flesh and the devil. Remember the Psalm which prays, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2). The man is blessed who meditates on God's Word day and night because that then becomes his greatest treasure. The man who meditates on God's Word then sees the good things in life are those things that come from God. Yes, we lament in this life, and we have sorrow in this life, because we have real suffering and real loss in this life. Women have miscarriages, husbands lose their wives to early deaths, parents bury their children, countries are ravaged by war, and a host of other real pains that would lead anyone, no matter how strong their faith, to believe and feel that God hates them. No human thought or reasoning will silence the devil, quiet the world, and comfort the conscience. Lament is a real thing for real people, including we the baptized. Yes, we know we are going to heaven when we die and we will live forever with Jesus. However, in the mean time, we struggle with the feelings of being hated by the one who loves us. The only thing we can comfort ourselves with, and others in this time, is the reality of how God really is towards us. God does not hate us, but rather loves us in Jesus. He loves us because we are robed in the righteousness of Jesus and forgiven all of our sins. God loves us because we are created anew in the image of His Son, our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
So, how do we comfort those who believe that God hates them? Well, first you have to realize that aren't there to fix them, but to bear the burden with them and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). We are there to bear burdens with people, just as Jesus bore the burden of sin for us. We sit with them, hear them vent, dry their tears, and hug them until their sides hurt. We are there to exhaust ourselves in sacrificial love for them to let them know that God loves them, we love them, and that everything in Jesus is going to be okay. We don't try to comfort them by making God into some little house kitten that doesn't harm anyone. No, we comfort them with the reality that Jesus has taken care of everything and that He desires this struggling person to be saved and assured in the forgiveness of their sins. We remind each other of who we are in Christ and where our final destination is. We read Revelation 7 which says, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation to St. John 7:16-17). We struggle in this life, not alone, but together with those of the household of faith. We comfort each other in the reality of Jesus' love for us, and the love we have for each other. How do we help those who believe that God hates them? BY telling them God loves them, we love them, and living that love of Christ with them as we bear the burden of their despair, no matter how long it may take to bear it.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam drowned anew so that you hear only the peaceful voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.