Fear of God's Judgment

Written by Renée Miller

People are frequently anxious about how God is going to judge them for what they have done or what they are doing in their lives. In the worst-case scenario, they attribute the bad things in their life to an angry God who is punishing them for their sinful behavior. But, it’s difficult to square that thought with the concept of a God whose very nature is love.

It is true that God is a just God. But, it is also true that we are more likely to punish ourselves than to receive punishment from that just God. The reason for this is simple. God is just, but God’s justice is not our justice—it does not conform to our narrow limitations of judgment, and it is never meant to cause us harm. Scripture tells us that God does not desire to bring us grief and pain. Over and over throughout the Bible, God’s forgiveness outweighs God’s judgment.

Consider the familiar story of Jonah—the man who was swallowed by a whale because he refused to go and give God’s words to those who most needed to hear them. Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew about God’s forgiveness. He said to God, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”

Jonah did not want to go where God was sending him because Jonah wanted God to keep account of what the people did and didn’t do, and reward or punish them according to how the accounts came out. He didn’t want God to offer them limitless, endless grace. So he chose not to go and preach God’s good news to the people of Nineveh.

Jonah knew that God is always offering us grace, pure grace. Even when we have difficulty accepting it. Even when we are unwilling to give it ourselves. Grace that we don’t deserve or can’t earn and that comes no matter what we do or do not do. Such grace is the result of God’s nature of absolute Love, and it is actually the way God’s justice is lived out.

What we are given by God is not punishment, but a conscience that alerts us to the unhealthy patterns of behavior that separate us from that Love that is beyond our human comprehension. Whenever we are in those patterns of negative behavior, we feel the separation. We feel the uneasiness in our soul. We feel the emptiness and loss. We suffer the consequences of being cut off from God—from Divine Love—not because God has punished us, but because we have made bad choices. Our conscience is not a punishment, but a gift from God. It helps us aright ourselves and move from separation toward union with God. It helps us creep closer and closer into the arms of the One whose forgiveness and love can heal.

Tip to try:
The next time you notice that you are engaged in a negative pattern of behavior, take a few moments to glance at your soul, and then to glance toward heaven. Do you feel a fracture in yourself, or in your relationship with heaven? If you do, imagine for a moment that a warm shaft of light is being passed over the fracture like a laser beam, and when the light passes, there is no longer any separation. Look again at your soul and notice that there is simply no evidence that there ever was a fracture, the healing has been so complete. Offer a prayer of gratitude to God, the Giver of the light.

Copyright ©2007 Renée Miller