Why God is not an Abusive Heavenly Father ...

About a month ago I came across a blog titled "Desperately Wanting to Believe Again". It is a compelling site that features the writings of Les, a one-time Mississippi pastor baptist pastor who suffered traumatic loss when his wife and son were murdered in October of 2011.

I have loved the way that my interactions with Les have caused me to think deeply about my own life traumas and how I have come to see God in my own pain. Mostly it has helped me to see how a certain view of God can lead some to subliminally see God as an Abusive Father.

Now I am not saying that Les, or others commenting on his blog, say those exact words. But reading there has helped me understand that there is a seemingly widespread subliminal theological view that God is complicit in the painful things that happen to human beings. Following are a few excerpts from my comments on Les' blog.

When I read: “What I want to believe and know again with all of my heart is God’s love toward and protection of me. That God has my bests interests at heart.”

I hear you say: “If God really really really loved me then bad things would not happen to me.”

Is that pretty accurate? I do think that most people struggle with God being a loving God because they embrace a theology that sees God as the inflictor or permitter of their pain.

Personal story: I remember times in 1994 shortly after my first wife died when I hurt so much. I did not understand why she died at age 43. Yet each time I prayed my heart returned to the cross and I began to understand (in a very small way) that God loved me more than I could understand.

Since that time the cross has made such a difference in my life. Each time I want to see Jesus as the inflictor or permitter of my pain I remember the cross where He suffered. And if we accept the idea that Jesus is God incarnate then we understand that God also suffered in this life.

I still struggle with deep pain and heartache but not with God. How can I struggle with One who really really really loves me and comforts me in times of my deepest pain and despair?

That said, I do understand how difficult it is to believe that God really really really loves us when we see Him as the inflictor or permitter of our pain.

Interesting how we rush to blame the creator when a person does something horrendous but we do not blame the creation. As humans I guess we want to cut slack to the parents and grandparents of people who do horrendous things when in truth these had more influence over the person who did horrible things to us than God.

Why not blame these people or society in general? Why blame the Creator instead of the creation? Of course it is nonsense to blame parents and grandparents as these do not have control over people who murder innocents in schools or movie theaters. In my view, it is also nonsense to blame God for allowing people to have free will.

And in a very real sense we refuse and inhibit the comfort of the Holy Spirit when we continue to blame Him for causing or allowing bad things to happen to us. On a psychological level, how can one accept comfort or love from One who they see as an abusive Heavenly Father?

It is a very practical issue for me. Not blaming God has helped me to keep my heart free from bitterness and open to His love and comfort.

1) The only way that one could say that God is involved in the permitting of evil or bad things is to blame Him because he gave humans free will that resulted in them doing bad things.

2) This showed up with the first family when Cain murdered Abel. God warned Cain that sin was trying to grab hold of him but God did not stop Cain. Generally speaking, He still allows those kind of bad things.

3) So God would have had to take away Cain’s ability to choose good over evil to save Abel. Sadly Cain chose evil when he could have chosen good.

4) So God, generally speaking, allows bad things to happen because he has ceded His sovereignty (in a small way) to human beings who can make good or bad choices.

5) If God removes our ability to choose then he not only prevents evil and bad things but He also removes our ability to love and do good things to each other.

6) Our choice is to freely love and not do bad things. Hence my assertion that our problem is not with the Creator but with the created.

I don't see Job, the book, as a commentary on God so much as a commentary on the predominant theology of the culture of that time. The folks of that era framed God as an entity that played the puppet-master with human beings. So I don't find mystery in the idea that primitive human beings saw God that way. I do find mystery in the idea that people who have read the gospels still embrace a puppet-master sort of God.

The best things that I have gotten from the book of Job is the idea that grief is a universal experience. Who cannot see Job struggling with denial as he originally speaks of God in cliches then curses the day he was born. Most of the book is all about bargaining, anger and eventually acceptance - Kubler-Ross' grief phases.

I so agree with you that the issues for folks who hurt deeply are really more about wrestling with God and learning to trust him again. Sadly so many see God as the abusive heavenly Father and may never trust Him again.

It is why a different view of God is required to be able to trust again. Sometimes long-held beliefs need to be explored and changed for healing to come.


  1. I remember asking the why questions when my husband died suddenly at an early age, when my Mom had to suffer with cancer and die too young, why my brother had to suffer with cancer. Studying Joseph today and asking those questions. I think God gave Joseph revelation in his early dreams and that he knew he had a hope and future in spite of all the horrible things he went through and always, that God was with him and his faith and his trust sustained him.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Nonnie! Love Joseph's story! What a great example of a guy who did not get bitter!


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