One tough moment after another can bring you to the question, ‘Does God hate me’? But I want to know more, so I sit with those at the coal face and grow in my knowing.
No one knows coal like a coal miner. I could go to a scientist and get a scientific explanation about coal. A commodities dealer could tell me the dollar value of coal. Someone cooking over a coal fire would give me another limited view.
But for me, if I wanted to know about coal, I would go to a coal miner. One of those old-fashioned coal miners who has entered the bowels of the earth and dug away at the dark. Covered in the dust, there is noise, danger, and fear, but there is a camaraderie among fellow miners.
No one knows God like someone who has been at the dark coal face of life.
I suppose that is why I am drawn to people who chisel away at the coal, face the darkness of life, and find God there with them. It’s not the theologians or the pastors that pull me in. More so, those who, in all the struggle of daily life, have found something like a diamond amongst the coal.
I would rather sit and shed tears with them for hours because that is where I believe Jesus the Christ would be.
Does God hate me?
If someone was to ask you that question, how would you answer it?
Would you give an intellectual answer, quoting scriptures such as John 3:16?
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
They are in a dark place and want to know heart truth, not head knowledge.
First of all, I think they would want to be known. To have their world explored and not sidelined. Maybe connection is the best word.
I would like to know how their understanding of what God is like was formed. Was it through various church experiences or parental influences? We’ve all got to start somewhere, so where was their starting point? What winds have blown across their path that has shaped their course?
Whenever I hear the words’ God hates me,’ I am filled with a kind of sadness for the person and the journey they have been on to get to this point of expression.
Quoting scripture upon scripture and getting into intellectual arguments rarely helps. This is because they need to hear words from the heart, not the head.
Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth.
We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody
Alongside ‘God hates me,’ other words are often spoken, such as ‘God is punishing me’ and ‘God doesn’t care.’
I have found that there are at least three ways that people express this belief.
- God never answers my prayers. I pray for all sorts of things, particularly those that cause me a lot of pain. I pray for others, but those prayers don’t get answered either. I pray, but nothing happens. Everyone else seems to have prayers answered for a better life but not me. God must hate me. God withholds good things from me.
- God didn’t stop that from happening. I’ve been hurt, and God could have stepped in and stopped it from happening. I have been injured in so many, many different ways. Where were the angels? Where was the ‘deliverance’ all those silly church songs sing about? I feel like God overlooks my struggle. God simply allows terrible things to happen to me. I wonder if God gets some perverse delight in watching me in pain. God must hate me.
- I can’t reach God’s standard. I believe God has a performance standard, and I can never reach it. He hates my pathetic attempts. Everyone else is accepted, but I’m not. I try and fail.
They go on to say other things.
Look, I know you will tell me that God is love. I know you can quote all the scriptures about God being love. Then you will sing all those sappy songs about God being good.
But my reality is that I am in pain, and I want relief. I can see right through your intellectualism head knowledge, spiritual bypasses of avoidance, and coping strategies. It’s either God is really like Santa Claus, a Sugar Daddy, or a Disney’ wish upon a star’ God or not.
You see, at an early age, I was told that I am nothing, no one, a simple consequence of a couple of cells saying, ‘Howdy, doody.’
Then out I popped. I cried in pain, and I have cried ever since.
What sort of cosmic joke was my conception?
I think of the Christ of Jesus hanging on a cross and crying out ‘My God, why have you detached from me.’
The songs of lament and darkness from the coal miners of the Bible sing back to me.
I’m on a diet of tears—
tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
people knock at my door,
“Where is this God of yours?” Psalm 42: 3
I have a little sentence that I play around in my head that helps me make sense of things.
I am a broken man living in a broken world with broken people making broken choices.
But I am comforted by the coal face knowing of an unbroken God who is in the business of making all things new.
I still have the wafts of perfume from the Garden of Eden filtering through my existence. A beautiful sunrise, a bird that sings, a smile on a face, and then, at times, some droplets of joy touch my face washing the coal dust away.
I am caught between Eden and Heaven. We are a broken and fragile people living in a broken and fragile world, so of course, coal dust will clog our arteries.
I need others who know their brokenness but have somehow learned to dance—people who aren’t ‘happy-clappy’ or who live in theological fundamentalist squares and boxes.
I need people like Marva.
Marva Dawn dances
I once took a paper called Spiritual Formation. It was a week-long intensive, and the lecturer was a visiting theologian called Marva Dawn.
Into the week, she danced.
Let’s be clear; she didn’t physically dance. She wasn’t able to because of the many physical disabilities she had, and she actually danced into the fullness of God’s presence on April 18, 2021.
Here is an extract from a tribute.
Dawn’s joy came amid a lifetime of struggles with pain and illness. She faced battles with cancer, chronic pain, blindness in one eye, a kidney transplant, and problems with a foot that made walking difficult or impossible. Remembering Marva Dawn, a Saint of Modern Worship
I remember watching her hobble up to the lectern and clinging to it so she could teach. Words flowed from the coal face.
She authored more than 20 books in her lifetime, covering topics like Sabbath-keeping, the vocation of ministry, suffering well, and sexuality. Still, my favorite is Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity.
We do not understand how God accomplishes using even our brokennesses for the fulfillment of the Trinity’s purposes for the cosmos, but I am convinced that the Holy Spirit does.
Just one little example will suggest much wider possibilities than we could ever imagine.
Before embarking on one trip for a speaking engagement, I was complaining to my husband because a problem with my feet had put me in a wheelchair.
I did not use this specific vocabulary, but basically groaned that my “dream” of ease while fulfilling my obligations for that particular assignment was “shattered.”
During the conference a somewhat cynical man came to me after one of my later lectures and said, “I wouldn’t believe a word you say—except that you are sitting in that chair!”
I’d had too small a dream.
I just wanted my life to be easier by being out of that wheelchair; I hadn’t asked God to fulfill His larger purposes of deepening someone’s faith precisely because I was in it. Marva J. Dawn, Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity
Does God hate you?
No, God doesn’t hate. Quite the reverse there is so much love for you that it is vastly more than you could handle or even come into comprehension of.
God is with you at your coal face, in your ‘wheelchair’, and is in the business of making all things new.
Quotes to consider
- Reality is what we notice on the surface – what we feel or see, what superficial perspectives we might gain, for example, from television’s evening news. Truth is much larger. It encompasses everything that genuinely is going on. The reality might be that our world looks totally messed up, that war and economic chaos seem to control the globe. But the truth is much deeper – that Jesus Christ is still (since His ascension) Lord of the cosmos, and the Holy Spirit is empowering many people to work for peacemaking and justice building as part of the Trinity’s purpose to bring the universe to its ultimate wholeness. The reality might be that you do not feel God, but the truth is that God is always present with you, perpetually forgiving you, and unceasingly caring for you with extravagant grace and abundant mercy. Not only that, but the very process of dealing with our lack of feelings and our resultant doubts about God is one of the ways by which our trust in the Trinity is deepened. Marva J. Dawn, Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity
- One of my biggest problems in dealing with the breakdown of my body is that I keep looking in the wrong direction. I look to the past and the capabilities I once had, instead of looking to the future and what I will someday become in the presence and by the grace of God. Perhaps that is the strongest temptation for you too. Unfortunately, our culture reinforces that mistake by its refusal to talk about heaven, as if it were an old-fashioned and outdated notion. We also intensify the problem by craving present health (as limited as it can be) more than we desire God.
A friend once said to me. “This is so hard getting old—there are so many things we can’t do any more. I guess the Lord wants to teach us something.” Indeed, our bodies will never be what they previously were, and we find that difficult because we miss our former activities. But God wants to teach us to hunger for Him, our greatest treasure. Instead of rejecting the notion of heaven, we genuinely ache in our deepest self to fill that concept with a larger landscape of the Joy of basking in God’s presence. Marva J. Dawn, Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity
- In contrast to our society’s mistaken emphasis on positive emotions in our relationship with God, the great Spanish mystic and poet John of the Cross (1542–1591), who is most famous for his reflections on the “dark night of the soul,” also wrote a piece called “Advice on Disregarding Spiritual Sweetness.” In this work St. John compliments the person who loves God without feeling any emotional sweetness, for that individual is focusing on truly loving God and not the feelings. To set our will on gratifying and soothing sensations, to concentrate on capturing them and basking in them, is simply to set our will on what God has created, instead of God Himself. Thereby, we turn those created feelings into the end instead of a means—and a non-necessary means at that. According to St. John, we are ignorant if we suppose that because we fail to have any sweetness or bliss God is failing us. Similarly, we are uninstructed if we presume that in having such delectable emotions we have God. But the height of ignorance, he claims, is if we would follow God only to seek the sweetness and consequently stopped our yearning for God to wallow in delightful feelings when we acquired them. Marva J. Dawn, Being Well When We are Ill: Wholeness And Hope In Spite Of Infirmity
Questions to answer
- Have you ever felt that God hates you? What formed that idea?
- How would you answer someone who felt that God hated them?
- What coal face experiences have shaped your beliefs?