What to Do When God’s “Truth” and Your Experience Collide

You “know” what’s right. Or you’re pretty sure you do. Then why does it feel so – wrong? Your head, or at least the logical part of you, agrees with the truth you’ve been told, but another part of you recoils. God’s truth and your experience collide, perhaps even making “truth” seem harmful. Does this make you a bad person? What’s missing?

Your feelings are important. And your feelings also make an extremely poor guide. Nothing I’m saying in this article is meant to question one iota of anything God says.

But it’s right to raise a lot of questions about how our experience colors our ability to understand, interpret, and apply God’s truth. A few examples:

  • You hear and even believe, “God is your Father.” But you cringe because to your soul “father” means someone who is unpredictable, or absent, or harsh and punitive.
  • You hear and perhaps believe, “Jesus says you must forgive.” But your soul recoils because you can’t imagine once again subjecting yourself to the kind of harm you experienced.
  • You hear and may believe, “God invented sex to be good, as a picture of the relationship He desires with His people.” But it doesn’t make sense to your brain because you’ve only known sex being used as a weapon for misogyny, manipulation, and control.

If your heart’s response to what you’ve heard of God’s truth makes it seem harmful, it’s probably your experience talking. Here are some ways to help your heart learn some new things and come into line with who God really is and what He really says.

  1. Invest in Getting to Know God

For thousands of years God has been maligned and misrepresented by His enemies and sometimes even by those purporting to be His representatives. His original and most virulent enemy, Satan, is never more thrilled than when he gets people to believe that the harm he has caused has actually been caused by God in some way.

That’s a big reason why Jesus came in person, to be with us and demonstrate to us what God is really like. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus said (John 14:9). Jesus’ holiness was utterly appealing. And at the same time everyone who came into His presence felt called up into a higher level of being, into a life of righteousness. His presence made that kind of transformation seem possible.

What do you imagine God to be like? Don’t only ask your linear verbal left brain; consider how your nonlinear nonverbal right brain, your heart, feels about Him. John, the human being who was closer to Jesus on earth than anyone else, wrote “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). That means He’s all good, always. Is that how you know Him?

Is the God you know reliable, strong, infinitely loving (not tolerant!), transformative, patient, kind, present, thoroughly good, Someone who is for you and who will not stop until everything is made right? If not, let this be a challenge to you to keep pursuing knowing Him until you know Him like that.

  1. Connect With Others

Your deepest pain, including your distrust of God, almost certainly came through other people. And God has designed that connecting with other people will also be the key to your healing.

In all my work with people this is usually the hardest step for them to take. And it’s also absolutely vital. You may need to start by telling your story to just one person. Feeling felt by another human being begins to change your brain. And over time you can begin to believe that perhaps God can really “get” you also. The broken places in your heart lose their sting and become scars of honor instead of open wounds.

Other people can’t “fix” you. But this transformation process can feel long and difficult, and you need a few fellow travelers to journey beside you. You need a few others to be “God with skin on” to you, to encourage, challenge, support, offer perspective, pray with and for you.

  1. Patience, Honesty, Compassion, and Grace

Patience means God is not nearly as concerned about time as we are. We appropriately want the pain to stop; so does He. But the process of unlearning the false things our brain has come to believe about God, ourselves, and life takes time. It takes time for new brain processes to become established. It takes as long as it takes, and God’s OK with that.

Honesty and compassion is how Jesus looks at you and your story. The stuff that happened to you and the stuff you’ve done all needs to come into the light – not public shame! But into the light in your own heart, to God, and to another human being. You experience Jesus saying to you, “This is a safe place where you can deal with this.”

Grace means you don’t have to stay the same. Yes, grace begins with forgiveness for your past, but it’s so much more than that. Because of Jesus true change is possible. It’s not just trying harder; you can become different on the inside. A truly different next page of your story is possible.

God’s “Truth”?

Those truths mentioned at the beginning of this article? Yes, they are true. And they’ve also been often terribly distorted. Let’s come back to them briefly with a few words about the “rest” of the truth:

  • “God is your Father.” He is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, who is unwilling that any of them (including you!) should perish, and who is with you to bring you to the glory He originally intended for you both now and for eternity.
  • “Jesus said to forgive.” Forgiveness sets you free from continuing to be harmed by the one(s) who hurt you. And it’s also different from trust; you can forgive without continuing a relationship with the one who harmed you. Trust requires the future be different than the past.
  • “God created sex as good.” When marriage is as God intended, both husband and wife are fulfilled. Sex is mutual, a part of cherishing and being cherished by each other. There’s no hint of misogyny, manipulation, or control, and intimacy brings life and goodness.

There’s so much more. If God’s truth seems harmful, remember that there’s more to the story.

Keep going until you find it.

Your Turn: Has there been any part of God’s truth that has seemed harmful to you? Have you experienced enough healing for your heart to feel differently about that truth?  Leave a comment below.

Want More? In this week’s podcast episode I talk with John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, about God’s view of sex and how that intersects with the cultural moment we find ourselves in.

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