Feel Good God
Through his extensive study of youth and religion in America, sociologist Christian Smith coined the phrase “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” to name the prevailing religious belief of youth in America.
“Moralistic” - meaning that “God wants me to be a good person and not a jerk”
“Therapeutic” - meaning that “God or religion should help me feel good”
“Deism” - meaning that “God is a concept to decorate our lives with but not an agent who really does anything”
“God (abstract) will bless you (abstract) if you ________.”
This has created disillusioned Christians who quickly fall away as soon as trials or suffering enter their life. (Mark 4:17). We can’t remove them from the greater narrative. The bigger picture. The whole of Scripture.
Joy in Suffering
James 1:2–4 CSB - Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James says, contrary to the therapeutic view where God exists to make me feel better, we should consider trouble and trials as an opportunity for great joy.
God’s plan for us is not that we will avoid suffering and be happy-go-lucky all the time if we follow him. Instead, God’s plan is that even through our suffering, he is working to produce character, perseverance, and Christian maturity—ultimately forming us into the image of Christ.
A Better Life?
Your level of generosity should cause you to suffer.
Your level of serving should cause you to suffer.
Your commitment to the Great Commission should cause you to suffer.
A Suffering Savior
What is being called into question here is our concept of God.
Jesus is God become concrete. The fullest picture we have of God is Jesus hanging on the cross. He was “a man of suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).
Matthew 10:16–20 NLT - Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
We live in a culture that is becoming more hostile towards what we believe and profess as followers of Christ.
It’s an opportunity—that we should seize with great joy—to declare the Good News about Jesus Christ.
So be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.
John 16:33 CSB - I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
Our highly spiritual culture tends to understand God and religion as “therapeutic." We want God/religion to helps us feel good. On the contrary, the gospel presents us with a suffering Savior who calls us to also take up our crosses and follow him. In this, we can be confident that God is at work through your pain and suffering to conform you into the image of Jesus.