“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” (A.W.Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.)
“Most of us developed our concepts and feelings about our heavenly Father from our earthly mothers and fathers, and these feelings become intertwined and confused. But the guilty and contradictory feelings are not the voice of God. They are often the continuing voice of Mother or Dad or Brother of Sister, or something internalized that puts pressure on us. Most of our basic patterns for relating come from the patterns of the relationships of our family.” (David Seamands, Healing for Damaged Emotions).
According to Tozer, our images of God are critically important to our spiritual well being. And according to Seamands, these images of God are formed to a large extent by our experiences in our family.
Because none of us lived in perfect families, we all have some distortions about what God is like. In times of crises, like the crisis created by a diagnosis of cancer, these distortions can cause spiritual uncertainty, because they get in the way of our ability to talk honestly with God or to trust God’s love for us.
Our images of God are our mental pictures of God. These mental pictures are more powerful than abstract ideas and doctrinal statements, because they are rooted in powerful emotional experiences. Our images of God impact how we feel about God and how we behave in response to God.
Scripture uses images to paint many powerful pictures of God. We can see God as the King, the Good Shepherd, the Mother Eagle, the Rock, the Fortress, the Compassionate Father, the Relentless Lover, the Creator, the Liberator, the Comforter.
An important aspect of discovering peace and hope in the midst of our struggle with cancer is to begin to exchange our distorted images of God, which came in part from negative family experiences, for biblically accurate images of God.
I pray that you, being rooted and established
in love, may have power to grasp
how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. What negative images do you sometimes have of God?
2. What do you think is the source of these negative images?
3. What are some of your favorite Biblical images of God? What significance do these images have for you?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
Read Psalm 103.
1. What images of God does the author present?
2. Which one of these images stands out to you?
3. How could seeing God in this way be helpful to you this week?