I grew up in New England where historic little churches still stand in the center of some towns. They are situated on picturesque grassy commons, surrounded by rolling hills and red maple and white oak trees. As young students, we visited these lonely and stark structures on field trips. We were told horror stories of how colonial children would sit for hours at a time, straight backed and paying attention, every Sunday morning, through summer heat and winter frost.
Some people still hold to that basic stoic notion of God. He is seen as severe, stern and cold, sitting on His throne, waiting for us to mess up so that He can rap our knuckles with a trial or tribulation. This isn't the God of the Bible, however. Scripture reveals a multi-faceted God who loves righteousness, but also overflows with love, compassion and grace. God’s reputation is sometimes based on hearsay and tradition, not the Truth found in His Word.
When we underestimate God, our expectations of Him are low.
7 Ways We Underestimate God
1. We underestimate how much He loves us. We may know in our heads that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We can believe that, however, but not understand how personal His love for each of us is. We can mistakingly think, “He loves everyone, big deal, I’m just part of the package deal.” Or we can think that He cares more about rules than our best interest, so we fear Him, expecting lightening to strike us when we make a mistake or sin. We may even strive to be perfect to win His approval. God does not expect that of us.
I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” God’s love is unconditional and complete. He actually adores us, wanting to be with us, waiting for us to approach Him in prayer, to interact with us. Jeremiah 31:3 says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” This is perfect love.
In Romans 8:38-39 Paul expresses his enviable security in God’s love;
”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We mustn’t be deceived that the enemy, created by God, can outwit God, even for a moment in time.
Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Jeremiah 32:27 says, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” God’s side is the safe side. He empowers His people and helps them, no matter how desperate things appear.
We may know that God is powerful and able, but may question if He will choose to use His power on our behalf. Paul has faith that God is on the side of His people, and that He is actively involved in our lives. He says in Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Not only is God powerful, but He is for us. Go to Him in your weakness and pray for Him to demonstrate His power in your life. I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
Not only is God powerful, but He also entrusts this power to us through the Holy Spirit.
3. We underestimate His plans and direction for our lives. God did not create us, then take a seat in Heaven, waiting to see what we’ll make of our lives. Psalm 139:1-6 speaks of an intimately involved and concerned heavenly Father;
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”
4. We underestimate His mercy and forgiveness. It’s tragic, but we sometimes carry around guilt and remorse from sins that God has long ago erased from His memory. Psalm 103:12 explains, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This visual contrasts with the picture of the self-condemnation of carrying our sins and regrets on our backs, everywhere we go.
Paul asserts boldly in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And because we make mistakes and may slip up, we are assured in Lamentations 3:22-23;
“Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
We shouldn’t settle to be servants when Jesus wants to bring us into His inner circle.
Revelation 3:20 describes Jesus’ desire to commune with us. He says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” James 4:8 also says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God is accessible 24/7, because He “neither slumber(s) nor sleep(s)." (Psalm 127:4) He always wants to be with us! He actually seeks to draw us to him. (See Jeremiah 31:3, above.)
6. We underestimate His compassion toward us. At times, it’s easy to feel like God is giving us too much to handle and that He can’t possibly understand how hard it can be. If He did, we reason, He wouldn’t make us go through such hard times. We may feel abandoned, overburdened or misunderstood by God.
Jesus walked the earth, fully God and fully human. He gets it.
In truth, no one knows us better than He knows us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.” I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” Jesus walked the earth, fully God and fully human. He gets it. God knows how difficult life is. In John 16:33 we are encouraged by Jesus’ words; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Through trials, we are not alone. He is our help in these times. He offers to carry our burden. We need to cast it to Him. (See 1 Peter 5:7).
7. We underestimate His creativity. If we are in a hard situation and don’t see a way out, we can become seriously discouraged and hopeless. The good news is that God is all-knowing and is not bound by time, so He has our situation figured out even before we realize we are in it. Our prayers invite Him to come into our situation and to work His miracles in our lives. His orchestration of situations and answers to our prayers can blow us away!
Jeremiah 3:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Yes, there is much that we don’t know! Psalms 40:45 speaks of God’s awe-inspiring, above-our-understanding ways;
“Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you.
Were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.”
Psalm 100:5 says of God, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” He never asked our forefathers’ children to sit through long, harsh services on splintering hard gray wooden benches, in order to please Him. Mankind came up with that. Instead, God wants to walk with us, talk with us and encourage us. He loves us. He will always leave us in awe at His love and goodness. Expect great things from our great God. Don’t underestimate Him!