Maybe its just a trait of the generation that preceded mine, but I grew up in a fairly strict household. As I think about it, maybe it wasn’t strict. But I was constantly on the lookout for my dad’s temper. Don’t get me wrong: he instilled really good traits in me: I was raised to work hard, think about others, and work hard. Oh wait. I said that. But if I strayed off course, I’d have to answer for it. And that was scary because dad had a bad temper. That was something else he “instilled” in me.
So when I screw up nowadays – either by accident, or on purpose by rebelling – my “default” setting is to be on guard, looking out for God’s anger and temper. I feel like I have to look out for a “hammer” coming from the hand of my heavenly Father.
I can remember a time, when I lived in Roanoke, before I knew God, when I got caught out on the golf course during a lightning storm. Somehow, I knew instinctively that I wasn’t living a pleasing life. I was in a panic, thinking that God was going to punish me and was going to literally send a lightning bolt.
But as I think about that, I realize that is Old Testament thinking. That is what Job’s friends thought when Job was enduring the onslaught of tragedies that came his way. That was the kind of thinking his disciples wrongly had when they asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” (See John 9:2) Yes, God disciplines those he loves, but he does so as a father does a son he DELIGHTS in (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:7). He does it to shape us and mold us into the image of His Son.
I have to remind myself that he desires to be merciful (Hosea 6:6, Matt 9:13) to me and you. His “default” setting is love, grace and mercy. (James 2:13) A time is coming when He will judge, because He is a holy and just God. The tragic time is coming for that. But as we seek to walk in His ways, He isn’t looking for an opportunity to scold us and punish us when we mess up. He’s not looking to send a lightning bolt.
Lastly, He is not mad at you and me. We may screw up, but He knows how we were made. He delights that we are seeking to draw close to Him. He delights that we think about Him. He delights in the fact that we are trying to walk in His ways. He is not mad at us.
The Gospel is called the Good News. It is good news for everyone. It is good news for the wayward prodigal looking to come home. It is good news for the one (like me once) who is falling off his barstool. And it is STILL good news for you and me today.
He is not mad at you. He delights in you. That is Good News.