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Christian Counseling - Creating God In The Image Of Personal Need

As discussed in a previous blog, the God we serve in Christ is an image or representation of Him that we create from biblical truth, life experience and our needs. That image, of course, is far from perfect. Only when we see Him face to face will we be able to replace that image with the real McCoy.

Joel Osteen is the pastor of Lakewood (Mega) Church in Texas. I refer to him as "Mr. Positive." Twice in the past year I have watched interviews of him, one of which was by Larry King. He is consistent in answering questions about looking at the hard and difficult side of life and helping people cope or work out their personal issues. His answers were along the lines of, "Yes, we all have problems, but God is gracious..." He continued the interviews by talking about the sunny side of live while completely avoiding the dark side. To avoid any part of reality (positive or negative) is done so to our determent. While we need to dwell on the good and encouraging things in life, we, like the apostle Paul, should not ignorant of the wiles of the devil or avoid studying Revelation, which exposes the sinister side of humanity.

I don't personally know Joel Osteen, but his dismissal of negative truth cautions me about why anyone would do so. Whatever the answer, it's not pretty. Possibilities that cross my mind are: he is catering to what some people want, reacting to distasteful negative preaching, fearful of conflict or lacking understanding about the depth of people's pain and the process of healing. In the end, he paints a distorted picture of God--life is wonderful and we don't need and, by implication, shouldn't even consider conflicts or problems. One or more of Osteen's needs create this one-sided view of God, leading people to shun a large portion of God's teachings that come from life's hardships.

In varying degrees, all of us distort the image of God according to our needs throughout our lifetimes. Loneliness drives us to the comfort of God's warm presence. Anxiety looks for God who gives peace. Depression gravitates toward God who offers hope. Chaos searches for the God of order. Insecurity pulls for God who is safe and sovereign. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with looking to God to meet our needs. He wants to be there for us, and in Jesus' words He asks, '"What do you want me to do for you?"' (Luke 18:41). The problem lies in overwhelming needs that drive people to distort the image of God by focusing almost exclusively on one or two of His attributes, and this, over many years or a lifetime. The result is a lop-sided theology of God. It sets people up for spiritual crises when their expectations of God don't meet with the experience of reality. It results in our dysfunctional over use of defense mechanisms to cope with life, which causes psychological problems--depression or personality disorders, for example.

What is your image of God? How do your needs influence your created image of Him? What are the common themes of your prayers? Do you overly focus on specific characteristics of God that lasts for years or a lifetime? What aspects of God are you uncomfortable with or tend to avoid?

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