Your God Is Too Small

conception of God

Almost all of our spiritual problems—things like doubt, apathy, unhappiness and insecurity—come from a view of God that is too small.

This is the big idea behind my new book, Not God Enough, and it’s one most of us can probably relate to. As Americans, we prefer a God who is small—a God we can manage, predict and control. That kind of God feels safe to us. We can understand him. We can explain him. He doesn’t embarrass us, confuse us or disappoint us.

But this is simply not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is the opposite of small and manageable. He is big. He is not just big; he is bigger than big. He is bigger than all the words we use to say “big.” He defies our abilities to categorize or describe him.

Most Americans want a God who is only a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us. But the God of the Bible is something altogether different. And here’s the irony: Only a God like that is capable of sustaining our faith, igniting our passions and giving us the confidence that we need to face suffering and the hardships of the world. It’s like the British philosopher Evelyn Underhill famously said, “If God were small enough to be understood, he would not be big enough to be worshipped.”

The Bible speaks of something called “the fear of God,” and Proverbs says that it is necessary for any proper relationship with God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a CSB). This means that without a trembling awe before the majesty of God, we’ll never really develop the ability to know him, love him or trust him.

This is the step that, for years, I tried to skip in my faith. Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with my doubts and have had to be honest with them. There are so many questions I have, like:

A couple of summers ago, as my family and I worked with a group of Syrian refugees, my 8-year-old daughter asked, “Dad, if God loves these people so much, why doesn’t he fix all this?” I told her, “He is, sweetheart. He’s using us to do it.” Not satisfied with my standard pastor answer, she pressed back, “But why doesn’t he do something about it himself?”

I think it’s a fair question. Why not send that army of angels we’ve heard so much about and make the war in Syria go away? Maybe you have had some of these same questions. Maybe you’ve had others.

Before, the fact that I can’t understand or explain these things made me wonder if God even exists. Eventually, I realized that there really was no other explanation for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ other than the fact that he was who he said he was.

But even after coming to that conviction, I had trouble really loving God. How could I love and feel close to a God who confused and bewildered me so much? I wanted to love him, and I knew other people who seemed to love him. I know a woman in our church who tears up every time she starts talking about God’s grace. I wanted to be like that. I knew how to fake it; I knew how to shake my head and squint my eyes and grunt affirmative things that communicate, “I’m spiritual.” Can you relate? I acted the part, but a lot of times the emotions weren’t there.

My conception of God was too small. I thought of God as just a slightly bigger, smarter version of me, and I believed that if he’d just take a minute to explain himself to me, I could understand it all.

That sort of conception of God is just not able to sustain faith. It’s only by grappling with the size of God that we’re able to develop the ability to really believe. And when we see him for who he really is—the God who is big enough to handle our questions, doubts and fears, who is worthy of our worship—it will change everything about our lives.

This article originally appeared here.

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J.D. Greear
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.