Correcting Your Perception of God

Laura Raney tells the story of a couple of mischievous boys who had a misunderstanding about God:

“Two young boys were forever getting into trouble …disrupting classes in school, teasing neighborhood children, taking what didn’t belong to them. One day their mother asked the pastor over to see if he could talk some sense into them. Rather than threaten or reprimand them, the pastor decided on a more subtle approach. He would try to help the boys see that God is everywhere, that He is aware of everything and is displeased when they acted wrongly. But the pastor wanted the boys to come to this conclusion on their own, so he began by asking them some questions.

‘Young men,’ he intoned after having the boys sit down, ‘I have a question for you. Where is God?’

The two boys just sat there, unsure how to answer.

‘Where is God?’ the preacher repeated, a bit more firmly. ‘Surely you know that!’ The boys remained silent, too frightened to speak.

‘I’ll ask you one more time,’ the pastor said, this time even more firmly, ‘WHERE IS GOD?’

At that the older boy jumped up and grabbed his brother. ‘C’ mon, let’s get out of here!’ he whispered. ‘God’s missin’ and they think we did it!’ [1]

Yes, it’s easy to jump to some wrong conclusions about God…

The Biblical homework manual of the Minirth-Meyer Clinic notes,

“It seems obvious that there is a connection between our automatic concept of God and the perceptions we have of our natural father or whoever else was a father figure to us in our formative years … The word ‘father’ identifies early in life with what we feel and believe about our earthly father. This perception of God continues, even into adulthood, unless we really dig into God’s Word and get to know God intimately.” [2]

Like the beveled mirrors at an amusement park (that make you look 12 feet tall, 6 inches wide, or 3 feet tall, 6 feet wide), our perceptions of God can be severely distorted. To some He is a harsh, austere God who is eager to punish every sin, to others He is like a Santa Clause who knows if you’ve been bad or good but just sends blessings.

Conference speaker, Mike Wells, once asked if those attending the meeting would like a personal audience with God in the next room. Many would not jump at the chance. Why not? Because–if they stop and consider it–they consider the Lord to be less than the loving, faithful Father that He really is. This distorted view of God’s character throws a wet blanket on the heart’s desire to fully trust and worship Him. [3]

The author of The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life observed the need to honestly evaluate our concept of God.

“It is of vital importance now and then to drag out our secret thoughts and feelings about the Lord into the full light of the Holy Spirit, that we may see what our attitude about Him really is. It is fatally easy to get into the habit of wrong thoughts about God, thoughts which will insensibly separate us from Him by a wide gulf of doubt and unbelief. More than anything else, more than sin, wrong thoughts about God sap the foundations of our spiritual life, and grieve His heart of love. We can understand this from ourselves. Nothing grieves us so much as to have our friends misjudge and misunderstand us, and attribute to us motives we scorn. And nothing, I believe, so grieves the Lord.” [4]

Consider the primary roles of your earthly father: to protect and provide for you. If he did not fulfill these responsibilities- whether intentional or not–there would likely be an implicit doubt regarding the heavenly Father’s nature as protector and provider.

Perhaps this extends to the mother’s role also. Since a child looks to its mom for love and nurture, if these qualities were noticeably missing, could there be a reluctance to trust God’s love and support?

How can we correct our view of God? This primarily involves renewing our mind through the Scriptures. As Paul exhorted the Romans, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2 emphasis added).

For example, one of the qualities that is most reassuring to us is God’s goodness. Consider these verses from Psalms:

“GOOD and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
[God] loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the GOODNESS of the LORD.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is GOOD;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
You are GOOD, and do GOOD;
Teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 25:8 33:5; 34:8; 119:68).

And the prophets declared,

“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD
And the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us,
And the great GOODNESS toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,
According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7).

“The LORD is GOOD, A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7).

To deny God’s goodness is the essence of unbelief, since Paul warns, “do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

Hannah W. Smith recalled the difference such Biblical renewal made in her fellowship with God:

“I shall never forget the hour when I first discovered that God was really good. I had, of course, always known that the Bible said He was good, but I had thought that He was religiously good; it had never dawned on me that it meant that He was actually and practically good, with the same kind of goodness He has commanded us to have … And then one day I came in my reading of the Bible across the words, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good,’ and suddenly they meant something … And I saw that, since God is omniscient, He must know what is the best and highest good of all, and that therefore His goodness must necessarily be beyond question.” [5]

Perhaps you have been taught correct doctrine about God’s attributes, but it hasn’t sunk down into your heart. A helpful strategy to restore an appreciation of God’s goodness is to read the Gospels with special attention to the qualities of the Lord Jesus. The New Testament draws attention to Christ’s unique role in revealing our Creator: “God … has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who [is] the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power …” (Heb 1:2-4).

J. B. Phillips confirmed how Christ’s manifestation of God’s character enlarges our perception of who God really is: “We can never have too big a concept of God, and the more scientific knowledge (in whatever field) advances, the greater becomes our idea of His vast and complicated wisdom. Yet, unless we are to remain befogged and bewildered, and give up all hope of ever knowing God as a Person, we have to accept His own planned focusing of Himself in a human being, Jesus Christ.” [6]

Think of it: the One who opened the eyes of the blind, gave the leper that healing touch, fed the 5,000, rebuked the false teachers, cleansed the Temple, invited the little children to come to Him, calmed stormy seas and frightened hearts, wept at the grave side of His friend Lazarus and raised him from the dead, who laid down His life for us–this is who God really is !

As we renounce false ideas about God and affirm true characteristics of Him, we find truth that sets us free! (John 8:32). We then increasingly love Him, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

So, cultivate a heart for God. Regain an accurate perception of His attributes and echo the faith of Jeremiah:

“Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I hope in Him!'” (Lam. 3:22-24).


[1] Rust Wright and Linda Raney Wright, 500 Clean Jokes and Humorous Stories (Barbour), pp.205-06.

[2] Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Richard Meier, and Don Hawkins, The Healthy Christian Life, (Baker), p 77.

Like other sciences, psychology–when correctly interpreted–can be of value in gaining information (“general revelation”) for diagnostic use, however, God’s Word alone has the answer for man’s ultimate problems (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Although suffering of human life in a sin-cursed world will seem inconsistent with God’s goodness, we must see it in the context of Adam’s rebellion and the Fall (Gen 3). God originally created everything “very good” (Gen 1:31). Even our Lord Jesus was despised and rejected by the free choices of sinners, yet His tearful prayers in Gethsemane were answered through the Cross, His bodily resurrection, and ascension (Heb. 5:7-9; Matt. 26:39; Phil. 2:6-11). By His sacrifice, all true believers will experience God’s eternal goodness! (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

[3] See

[4] Hannah Whitall Smith, The God Who is Enough, (Moody Press), pp.97-98.

[5] Smith, pp.94-95.

[6] J. B. Phillips, Your God is too Small, (Wyvern), p.124.

This article is also featured in John Woodward’s book, Blessed Reasurance: Finding Security in Christ. has a 50 Bible verse script about God’s love and goodness. This is also woven through a testimonial video available from them on DVD or on YouTube: “Journey Home to Love.

Copyright 2001 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).

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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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