Derick, a Junior in high school, lived with his mother, her boyfriend, his two brothers and, one sister. Derick was the youngest of all his siblings and he had been referred to me for counseling because of low grades, depression, and anxiety.
He didn’t have much of a relationship with his biological father, because when Derick was in the third grade, he witnessed several months of consistent verbal, emotional and physical abuse of his mother by his father. His father was an alcoholic and couldn’t keep a stable job, and his mother had two jobs, just trying to keep the family afloat. This meant that mom just didn’t have a lot of availability either, emotionally or physically.
Derick was extremely sensitive, intelligent, funny, and insightful. However, honestly speaking, Derick was a mystery to his mother and everyone with whom he lived. Derick had no friends, kept to himself, and was extremely introverted—so much so that he didn’t have much of a relationship with anyone. Derick seemed to have a really hard time building and maintaining any kind of healthy relationships—with his family and teachers.
On our very first visit, as I was going over all his diagnosis, his treatment plan, and the rules of counseling, he softly mumbled under his breath, “you can’t tell nobody what I tell you, right?”
That got my attention real quick. I put down the documents that I was reviewing, shot up a prayer to God, took a deep breath, and I said, “yeah, that’s right.”
Derick then sighed deeply, looked up. While choking back a flood of tears, he was loud and angry: “Why does God hate me?!”
I took another deep breath, and hit God with another prayer. Derick cocked his head to the side, slammed his fist down on the table, denting it.
“My dad don’t want me. My mom ain’t got time for me. My brothers and sisters hate me. I ain’t got no friends. I’m sad. I’m angry all the time. I’m afraid of everything and everybody. My life is sh**! The only thing I can figure is God’s got it out for me…”, and what was surfacing in that moment wasn’t anger, but hurt and confusion.
“I mean, if God is supposed to be so good, why is my life like this? The only thing that I can figure is that God must hate me.”
If I’m being honest, I have to say that I have asked “why does God hate me?” before myself. You probably have as well. With that being said, it’s important to try to understand the reasons why the question is asked.
The Real Reasons for Hate
I think there are two reasons we think God hates us. The first is internal: we suspect God hates us because of something in us. Maybe it’s the thing you hate most about yourself: that weird habit, how you look, how you talk, how much you weigh. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, maybe it’s the concept of sin. You fall short of the right things that you want to do—not to mention what God wants. So, loaded down with all the muck of guilt, you begin to hate yourself. Once that happens it’s not too hard to see why you think God might think you’re a waste of skin, too.
The second reason is external. As it is for Derick, the circumstances of life pummel us to a powder, until the only logical thought is that God must not really care about us. I mean, if He did care about us, then why would He allow [Insert your name here] to [insert negative life experience here]?
Also, we tend to see others doing well in life, and not us, and then we wrongly assume that they must be God’s “favorite children”. The way we perceive our lives and our experiences—our realities, simply seem to conflict with the idea that God is loving, at least towards us.
So, looking at our internal unworthiness, or our external circumstances, can cause us to think God hates us. That’s why the Bible teaches us not to look in those places. That’s not how to determine God’s feelings about us. But if we shouldn’t look there, where should we look?
Kicking It or Kicking Out?
We feel bad because of bad stuff in the world—and there’s bad stuff in the world because we initially made a bad choice, (see Genesis 2 & 3) because when the first humans, Adam & Eve, were offered the chance to kick it with God, they (and we, by extension) decided to kick God out of our lives; and everything has pretty much been downhill since.
The Bible puts it like this:
“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us”(Romans 8:19-23, NLT).
But, even when we were at our worst—at our nastiest and at our most shameful and sinful, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8, NLT).
Like Derick, all of us have been dirtied by the shame of the trauma of sin in this world. It’s unavoidable because we’ve all been born into it; it’s literally in our DNA!
Now, at this point, I need to make a clear distinction: guilt isn’t always bad. Guilt, if used properly in our lives, can drive us to deeper growth. Guilt says to us: “Hey, you’ve done something bad. You need to fix it!” Shame, on the other hand is always bad. Shame says to us: “Hey, you did something wrong. There’s no way to fix it!” And, like it or not, in this world, each of us has been loaded up with the shame that comes from just living.
The Poo That is You, Through and Through!
No matter how much we talk to ourselves, stand in front of our mirror, and give ourselves a pep talk, we can’t avoid the simple truth that we’re all poo—through and through! A guy called Paul wrote this about his attempts to be better; tell me if you can relate:
“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14-29, NLT).
If you’re being honest, Paul’s confusion, frustration, anger, and despair sounds like you, doesn’t it? Sadly, it sounds like all of us.
Now for the rest of the story, Paul wasn’t just the average, run-of-the-mill screw-up; Paul was a frothy-mouthed super, hyper-religious, conservative ex-serial murderer! It gets worse! He wasn’t just one guy on a vigilante rampage. No, his crimes were state-sponsored and state-approved. I don’t know about you, but if this guy can write about the experience of getting free from all the shame of his own life, and life choices, and ultimately receiving God’s free gift of eternal life, then maybe there’s hope for you and me–and Derick, too!
Paul, one chapter later, goes on to make this mind-blowing conclusion:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39, NLT, emphasis mine).
Does God hate Derick? The resounding response is “no!” I shared one of my favorite verses with Derick:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).
He liked it so much he wrote it down on a sticky note and posted it in his bathroom mirror. Every morning, as he brushes his teeth he reminds himself of this reality. And in doing that, he daily drives away the demons of shame, self-loathing, and sadness. Derick began to believe the fact that God was for him. He recently told me that he learned that he needed to believe God’s facts and not his feelings.
Wow! I told you Derick was deep! He began to let this reality sink in. When he began to realize that God loved Him unconditionally, then he was able to begin to love himself unconditionally. He still struggles daily with feelings of depression and anxiety, but I’m happy to say that they’re not overwhelming to him anymore. He’s generally a happier and healthier young man. He has begun to be able to get along with his family, and has a couple of close friends now.
Derick finally internalized the reality that God, didn’t hate him; in fact, one day, we were reading: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16, 17, NLT).
After reading that, Derick looked me dead in my eyes. “Whoa! God loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to die, for me?”
After that, all Derick had to do was to remind himself of John 3:16, and he realized that the opposite was true: that God loved him so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for him! The amazing truth is that each of us has parts of our lives that are similar to Derick’s, and, like Derick, we can all be certain that God doesn’t hate us, but loves us so much that He died for us.
I would say that makes us all pretty big deals.