My Faith/Teen Faith/Theology/Who Is God? Stop Complaining About God When You Don’t Know Him by Christina Mead You don’t know me. You may have read some stuff I wrote, or maybe you follow me on instagram and see little snapshots of my life. Maybe you know what I did last weekend, or how many sisters I have. But you don’t know me. You don’t know what makes me cry, or what my favorite joke is. You don’t know how I really feel about Christian music. You’ve never hugged me when my heart was hurting. You don’t know the ins and out’s of my relationships. Those are the things only my close friends know about me because I’ve spent time with them, sharing who I am on a personal level. If someone talks trash about me but they only know me through the internet, or they’ve just “heard” of me… I can’t take their criticism seriously. I can’t let their words trouble me because those strangers aren’t an accurate judge of my character or the purity of my heart… they don’t even know me. Complaints About God I think about this reality every time someone complains to me about God. So often I hear things like this: “I don’t pray because God doesn’t respond.” “I don’t feel anything when I pray or when I go to church and I’m so tired of it.” “I feel like God just doesn’t like me.” “God’s all about ‘rules’ so why would I want to have anything to do with that?” Have you ever caught yourself saying/thinking something like this? If so, did you really know the God you were talking about? Or have you based these complaints on some stuff you heard, or read about God? It breaks my heart a little bit to hear those complaints because that’s not the God I know and love. That’s not the God that I’ve gotten to know in the gospels and through my relationship with Him in prayer and through the sacraments. That’s not the God that the saints talk about and write about. The Attributes of the Real God What I wish everyone knew and understood is that God is love (1 John 4:8). This is the first thing we have to remember about who He is. He is love. And He is everything good that love entails and encompases. Which means He is merciful, and patient, and a good listener, and He genuinely wants what is best for us. He is actively working to bring good out of the bad in our lives. But God is also not a magician. We also have to remember this about Him. Sure God can multiply bread and change water to wine but He can’t force the person who sits behind you in Math class to fall in love with you. God can’t force your priest to give more engaging homilies, or force your brother or sister to stop bullying you. If humans didn’t have the right to choose between things like short or long homilies, or good and evil, we would be robots. And robots who are programmed to love and serve God aren’t authentically loving and serving God. God can do all things but He’s not a magician, He respects our free will to choose. God is love and He is not a magician — these two facts about God are like my anchors that hold me down when the craziness of life tries to pull me in directions like not trusting God, or feeling like He isn’t listening, or isn’t looking out for me. He is listening, He is working to bring about good in my life because God is love. And He loves me. And you. Do you know that God doesn’t feel any differently about you than He does about the most virtuous saints and the worst sinners in the world? He loves you so much and wants you to get to know Him! The real Him! Getting to know God Ready to start? Ready to get to know the actual, true God? The real Him… not the idea of Him based on what you’ve heard about Him instead of heard from Him. When you get to know Him, to really know who He is, you won’t complain about how He isn’t listening because you know God is a God who is always present to you and your struggles, He knows them even better than you do! You won’t complain that He isn’t looking out for you because you know He will eventually bring good out of everything. As I grew in my own relationship with God I learned that if He was all good, then He could bring good out of my own failures and brokenness too. As I grew closer to God, He asked me to be patient and to trust Him. It was tough. But eventually, not in my time but His, some of those things that I thought were only wounds in my life — those were the things God used to make me stronger and holier and bring Him closer to His own heart! Getting to know who God is will take time like all good things do. You’re going to have to put in work, and be patient when things get tough — like when you don’t “feel” like praying, or you don’t understand the words of Jesus…etc. I think a lot of people stop trying in their faith and they throw in the towel and give up because they believe all these misguided things that they have heard about God. But they haven’t really gotten to even know Him. Just like getting to know a friend takes time, so does your relationship with God. You can’t think you know God personally if you’ve only heard people talk about Him, or read things about Him. So here are some practical ways to get started on your relationship with Him: Set up a regular prayer time every day, even if you’re just starting with 5 minutes a day. Put it in your schedule to encourage yourself to stick to it. Read the gospels. This is one of the best ways to get to know who God is! When you’re confused about something in Scripture, google catholic commentaries on that verse to learn how the Church has interpreted God’s word for us. Look for God throughout the day. Look for the ways that He is loving you — like through a gorgeous sunset, or that one flower you saw on the sidewalk that’s your favorite color. Acknowledge His goodness and say thanks! Choose to see the world through eyes of faith and not just chance. Pray the Serenity Prayer every day to remind yourself to be patient with God’s way. We have to remind ourselves that God always listens, but His answers are mysterious and glorious and happen on our own timeline. Be patient and persistent with your relationship with God. It will take our whole lives, and still all of forever to get to “know” who He is. But we can start. And we can keep trying. And we can decide to not complain about who we “think” God is… before we really know Him. Because He is love and that love will never fail you.