What do I think God thinks and feels about me? Now, what does the Bible say He actually thinks and feels about me?
These are some of the questions that were provoked in my heart while reading Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.
If you have not yet read this book, I highly recommend it. I am still in the midst of listening to it at the time of writing this. I’m in the second to last chapter, and it has been so helpful in revealing the heart of Christ to me. The book covers a lot, but I’ll focus on this: Christ’s attitude toward me in my weakness and sinfulness is one of overwhelming compassion, not the frowning disapproval I assume.
A theme Dane Ortlund continually addresses is how our natural inclination is to think about God as if He has a heart and love like ours: limited, conditional, prone to exasperation, etc. I really appreciate how the book relies heavily on Scripture to demonstrate what God actually reveals about His heart. The Greek and Roman gods I learned about back in my school-aged days had very sinful, human emotions and tempers—full of jealousy and petty anger. I’ve had the self-righteous thought, “I’m glad I didn’t make up a god like that!” And it is true that I serve the one true God (not made up) who is nothing like those gods, but I also can sometimes subconsciously attribute human shortcomings to Him.
Phil VanderWeide recently preached a sermon from Hosea 11, a passage which Dane Ortlund quotes in a chapter on how our sin actually draws God’s heart toward us, not away from us. Verse 9 says:
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
For I am God and not a man,
The Holy One in your midst,
And I will not come in wrath.
It is precisely because he is God and not a man that he will not come in wrath. (Elsewhere in the book Ortlund addresses how God’s wrath is an appropriate response to sin, but that His overall bent is merciful). In a later chapter, he also explains how Isaiah 55:6-9 reveals that the popular Christian phrase, “His ways are not our ways,” is in reference to how He has compassion on His sinful people, rather than treating them how we would expect.
Ortlund writes, “God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts in that his are thoughts of love and ways of compassion that stretch to a degree beyond our mental horizon.”
My heart is all too ready to give in to the suspicion that my failings need to be addressed before coming to and receiving Christ’s love, not by coming to Christ. Often I walk around with a vague feeling of God’s disapproval. The devil uses this lie to create a perceived distance between me and the Lord that isn’t actually there. In my own life, it is the recurring guilt of not doing enough, being distracted by daily to-dos, apathy toward the lost, caring way too much about what others think of me, coveting the lives and possessions of others, giving more time to Instagram than to the Word, and many other things that make me feel unworthy. But that’s where the lie breaks down in the face of truth. Yes, I am unworthy, but that’s kind of beside the point. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. He will never cast us out. Since I’m united with Christ, He is my worthiness, not my own deeds.
You may struggle with some of the same things I mentioned above, or you may have different sins and weaknesses. Whatever they are, my encouragement to you would be to remember Christ’s heart for you, be careful to let the Gospel inform your thinking, and read Gentle and Lowly!
Side note: audiobooks have been super helpful for me so I don’t have to choose between reading and doing dishes or folding laundry. It has actually helped those tasks to become more enjoyable! Also, relistening to Sunday’s sermon has become a goal for me throughout the week, especially since I tend to spend most of the sermon in the lobby these days.