In Genesis, the Bible recounts the creation of the earth. In that account, we are told that God created man, male and female, in his image and after his likeness. As the purpose of life is taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we came here to have learning experiences that, if we so choose, will help us grow and become like God. So, our job is to become a closer and closer image of our Heavenly Father.
Although I’m sure the desire to make God over into what we want him to be is as old as humankind, I can only truly speak to what I see and observe in the here and now. What I see and observe is a great desire to “re-create” God into our own image. We want God to conform to what we imagine him to be.
What is it that we seem to want? Well here are thoughts and ideas that I have used to distance myself from deity in the past, and truths I have learned that are even better than what I imagined.
Expecting God to take away every hurt and to make everything better for me.
I really only came to understand this one when I had children. In my love for them, I wanted to protect my kids from every hurt or harm that could ever befall them. Fortunately, I couldn’t. If I had been successful, I would have crippled them mentally and emotionally. When we have to struggle, when we have to choose how to deal with tragedy, we gain maturity and resilience. God works with us the same way. He steps back and lets us struggle because the pain is only temporary, but the growth that we can achieve is eternal.
Bargaining with God to get my way.
This has historically been my next resort after the “if you really loved me” prayers didn’t work. I copped an attitude of, Ok, I’ll do it your way, but only if–. It sounds harsh on the surface, but God, through his son, Jesus Christ, sets the terms of the deal. He gave us this life, he has a purpose for us in it. We have fallen natures and cannot even dream of becoming who we need to be to return to Heavenly Father without the atonement. Christ paid the price for every sin, mistake, oversight, etc. that anyone has ever committed. That gives him the right to set the standards and terms. Of course, both Heavenly Father and Jesus are extremely loving and gracious. The terms of the agreement are quite generous toward us, and we have promised help along the way — as long as we are really, truly, trying.
Telling God how to do things.
This one is closely related to what I’ve already typed. Instead of bargaining, I just decide that God needs to be told how to do things because he’s getting it all wrong. I remember hearing life compared to a needlepoint project. In mortality, we’re on the back side of the cloth. Only in eternity can we see the front. Anyone who has seen needlepoint realizes that the back side has messes of thread hanging everywhere with knots and all sort of ugliness. Those are the anchors for the beautiful patterns of thread on the front! I have had many lessons in learning to trust that God’s vision for me is much clearer and accurate than my own vision for me.
Casting God as unfair because I am suffering the just consequences of sins.
This is a classic! This is when I sound extremely childish as I complain that I shouldn’t have to overcome my own weaknesses and shortcomings or repent and turn to come closer to him, because he’s not punishing So-and-so, who is doing things or so much more evil than what I am doing! In God’s eyes, sin is sin. It is true that God himself has listed some sins as extreme, but as far as I am concerned, any sin that I refuse to give up and then turn to Christ for cleansing over separates me from divine influence and stops my spiritual progress cold. It’s not about being better than anyone else, it’s about being ready to go to my eternal home when the time comes.
Expecting to live contrary to God’s standards with impunity.
It is so easy to hold on to every verse of scripture that talks about God’s infinite and eternal love! God loves us so much that he forgives our sins! God loves us enough to heal us! God calls to us and pleads with us to turn to him! God IS love! Yes, those things are absolutely true.
I believe with all my heart that God loves every person, even the most vile criminal, completely, infinitely, eternally, and unconditionally. I believe that means that we will receive an eternity where we, with the characters we have built during mortal life, will be comfortable. That also means that many will not be comfortable with God in the eternities, because they didn’t get comfortable with him here. It also means that sin bring unpleasant consequences that we call punishment.
The only reason that we have any hope of mercy is because Christ satisfied the demands of justice in our behalf. Christ then gave us terms that would allow us to be covered by his mercy, but only if we keep our part of the deal. Sure, there are times when living the gospel feels a little bit like trying to eat liver smothered in castor oil, but those are rare times. Most of the time, living the gospel is beautiful, peaceful, and freeing. However, only those who willingly live the gospel to their fullest capacity can truly know the beauty, peace, and freedom found in the gospel.
This has been short coverage of a very deep topic. If you have more questions, the following links may be helpful:
God’s plan of salvation — https://www.lds.org/topics/plan-of-salvation?lang=eng&old=true
Becoming like God — https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng&old=true
Introductory materials about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — https://www.mormon.org/