Sometimes I believe Mark Driscoll.

I’m sorry my writing has been so sporadic lately. I’ve been busy with school and I’ve been fighting off a particularly bad bout of depression for a few weeks now. I’ll try to write as often as I can, but I need the extra rest lately. Thanks for understanding! 

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Driscoll decided to preach a sermon telling people, “Some of you, God hates you,” and I decided to forgive him for that. I wrote a post in which I decided that I was going to show God’s love by loving Mark Driscoll.

That post went on to become the most popular post I’ve ever written, so naturally, it got a wide variety of responses. Some people agreed with what I had to say. Many people also had a hard time loving ol’ Mark. Others defended Driscoll’s views.

And then, there were a few people who responded with something like this, “It’s just Driscoll. He says stupid things all the time. Just don’t let him bother you.”

That’s not bad advice. But it’s not easy for me to let Driscoll’s words go in one ear and out the other. They always get tangled up in my brain somewhere. It’s not easy to ignore his words…

…because sometimes I believe them.

When Mark Driscoll pointed his finger at his audience and said, “God hates you, ” I felt like he was pointing his finger at me. He obviously wasn’t (unless one of you told him about the jacket!), but his words still cut straight to my heart.

My head knows that God is a God of love. My head knows that God loved me enough to die for me (and there’s no greater love than that!). But my heart isn’t as convinced by Biblical evidence. My heart wonders…

Driscoll’s words brought me back to elementary school, when I would sit in my room almost every night and cry, and pray the “salvation prayer” over, and over. I would put inflections on different words, or switch phrases around, because I just couldn’t convince myself that I’d said it “right.” I would try to believe more or feel more sorry. I couldn’t just believe that God really wanted to save me.

Driscoll’s words brought me back to high school, when I used to imagine God sitting up in heaven, looking down at me, just waiting for me to sin so he could shake his head and scribble my latest mistake down in his notebook.

Driscoll’s words brought me back to college, when every “Jesus is my boyfriend” worship song in chapel tempted me to picture Christ as my abusive ex–slapping me across the face across the face when I made a mistake, yelling and screaming and pushing me, telling me I deserved it for the way I was acting.

Driscoll’s words brought me back to every nightmare I’ve ever had about hell. To every cut I’ve ever made on my arm because I didn’t believe God’s grace was enough. To every panic attack I’ve had while wondering whether or not I was one of the “elect.”

The truth is, I’ve spent most of my life believing that God hated me.

Now, I know that isn’t true. But somewhere deep down inside of me, there is fear. Horrible, dark, ugly fear. Fear that is crippling and paralyzing. Fear that makes me wish I were an atheist so that I could stop wondering whether or not God truly loves me.

God’s given me courage over the years to face that fear, and God’s shown me glimpses of his character that help me combat that fear.

Now I know that God isn’t in heaven with a notebook, jotting down all my sins. Now I know that he is walking next to me when I mess up, putting his arm around me and saying, “I remember when I was tempted with that sin. It was hard for me to say no, and I’m freaking God! I’m here for you–you’re not alone.”

Still, even when I can almost physically feel God’s loving arms around me, words like Driscoll’s feed that fear. Words like Driscoll’s are to my fear as water is to Gremlins (I would have owned the SAT, obviously). His words leave me wondering, “Is it true? Does God really hate me?”

Right now I’m at a loss for how to combat that fear. I’ve been depressed and discouraged, bordering on despair.

But I know God’s holding on to me.

Because he loves me.

Do you ever doubt God’s love and grace? Are you ever tempted to believe that his love for you is conditional? What brings you comfort when faced with these terrifying lies? 

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  • I have been everywhere you were and maybe still are…I reached a point so very dark, that you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Nevertheless, I was convinced that God was way up there and I was way down here. I didn’t want to live any longer. I was spiritually dead, and I wanted the torture to end. That is when God reached down to me; I did not reach for Him. I was led through a love affair with the Holy Spirit, reading and meditating on what Scripture said. The fact of the matter for me today is that I can look closer at God the Father and tremble, but not fall. It is still sobering business. Jeremiah is a book about a scorned lover. God pleads and pleads and cries and cries and then threatens His adulteress people…and ultimately…He has no choice…He gets angry. Everybody duck! Christ came to earth to bring redemption, He came not to condemn the world, but to save it. He said so many times. This is the ultimate in love in that while we were yet sinners, He paid the price we could not. Once a person feels the love of their Saviour, you are in His hands…He WILL NOT LET YOU GO.
    So now we stand boldly knowing that we could not save ourselves, and that our God has loved us that much. Christ promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort us, to teach us, to teach us how to pray, to love us…I think most of our dark moments are to give us perspective for the arrival of the light of the Holy Spirit. Many people stop short of what God’s will is…they accept the gift of Jesus but put him on a shelf with all of the other departments of life. All who believe in the name of Jesus will be saved, BUT who is willing to take the next step with Him?

  • Pam

    From Isaiah 41:

    “I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
    So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

    You are such a courageous woman. Thank you for your honesty.

  • Man, do I ever relate. I’ve had trouble praying for years now because it has felt like God loves everybody… except me, like I was his little toy to play with when He got tired of being perfect. Boy, did that freak out some of the people I told! And so many of them said the solution was to “just trust God”. “Well, yes,” my brain would sarcastically respond (and sometimes I’d say it too, in the most biting tone I could muster). “I would have already if it were really that easy! It’s not just a switch I can flick you know!” I’m starting to get past that, and your blog has helped a ton (I know I say that over and over and over, but I can’t help it. It’s true) Your honesty is so refreshing… It’s good to be able to share the struggle, even if it’s just virtually. By the way, if I ever see you in person, I might not be able to resist running over and giving you a hug, so warn me if you don’t like hugs. 😉 Now get your rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

    • yeah, I wish it were as easy as flipping a switch! I think I could take a hug if I ever see you again. I need to find a way to visit Grace again perhaps.

      And the Princess Bride quote made me chuckle!

      • You visiting Grace again would be cool, and I’m glad you appreciated the quote. I thought you would. 🙂

  • Sometimes, I feel like Jacob – wrestling with God until I finally believe that He did choose me, that He found me so worthwhile that He chose to die for me. While it is a fight not restricted to women, it does seem to have a greater effect on us. But such deception is our weakness – it’s how Eve was convinced to try something she knew was forbidden.
    *hugs*, love and blessings to you as you work through this dark time.

    • I heard Jon Acuff speak this summer and he said something along the lines of, “It’s okay to wrestle with God. You can’t wrestle with someone you aren’t close to.” 🙂

      • That’s a fantastic quote. I love it!

  • Wow, I LOVE what Bekka said about wrestling with the Lord. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because I see my relationships with God a lot like wrestling — sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but ultimately, it is intimate. And I love serving an all-knowing God who WANTS to wrestle with us — to have us ask the hard questions, and sometimes say the hard things.

    I’m sorry that Mark’s words hurt you, and so many others who have struggled with accepting the love of Christ. I guess I’m sort of in the camp of responding to Mark with, “What is your problem? That’s so not true,” and then moving on. But it totally is inappropriate — not to mention COMPLETELY unBiblical (what Bible is he reading anyways?). I ask that God will continue to reveal his abundant love to you, Sarah. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.

    • Thank you for the reminder. I think you’re right–wrestling with God, even when it’s painful, is a way to become closer to him.

  • Hey Sarah

    Thank you for this post. It was very helpful.

    Keep believing.


  • Jenna S.

    Thissomuch!! I spent a long time feeling like bad things happened to me because God hated me because I fell short of the mark so many times and I deserved for bad things to happen to me and I had no reason to feel hopeful because I was a horrible person and I didn’t deserve to ever be happy. And when I’m feeling depressed (like right now I am struggling with), my armor is down and it’s easy for those thoughts to get back in and harder to fight them away.
    Also, do you often suffer depression in the fall and winter months?? Because those are always the hardest times for me. Also the fact it’s freezing outside makes me really have to fight harder to get myself to leave the house and then I isolate more and it’s a whole thing. Hoping you feel better soon and have an easier time of dealing with past beliefs and triggering words. <3

  • Simply brilliant.

  • Sarah, thank you for your transparency. It seems we share a lot of the same ‘afflictions’ (lack of a better word). Here’s my 2 cents, as I, too, have been thinking about what Mark said… I’m starting to wonder these days if the problem isn’t the content of the message so much as the message itself. I’m starting to wonder if we’re getting so distracted by all the voices out there giving us conflicting messages, that we aren’t able to accept the truth that is right in front of us. What bothers me about the delivery of messages like Driscoll’s is that it’s an ineffective method to introduce or re-introduce someone to the loving and gracious God that we know and serve. This is the same argument I’d use with the conversation surrounding homosexuality… at the end of the day, are our actions and message pointing to Christ? Or are they pointing to us and our soapbox? I’m personally trying to seek God out on this. He has never failed me. My closest times with Him are the times when I’m really wrestling with Him on something, and I’m holding on to Him for dear life until things get resolved. I believe He will reveal His character, and a broader understanding of it, to us as we earnestly seek Him. And I don’t believe that He appeases us. He delights in us; all of us.

    • “…are our actions and message pointing to Christ? Or are they pointing to us and our soapbox?”

      That’s such a needed reminder. Thank you!

  • you’re one of the elect, so God doesn’t hate you…

    A heretic like me, that’s another story…

    • some of my favorite people are heretics! hah

      • Calvinism is a condemned heresy in the Eastern Orthodox church.

        All protestants were heretics in the time of the reformation anyway…

        And now everyone outside of the neo-reformed tradidition is heretical according to some.

        Makes all a lot of sense…

        (And still I believe God does not hate us, He loves Hid creation, and that’s why He hates sin so strongly. Sin destroys us. I said earlier that the more He loves us, the more He’ll hate anything that destroys us. So He musy be pretty angry at our sins….)

  • KMR

    I spent most of my teens and 20’s doubting my salvation. What finally fixed it was my adultery , subsequent divorce and remarriage. Sounds odd I know but I fell off the pedestal so badly that getting back up according to fundamentalism was impossible. I was going to hell. One weekend a few years later after yet another alter call at a church telling about a life-long deacon who had somehow managed not to be saved until two weeks before the sermon, about how so many people think they are saved but aren’t (apparently that prayer is really tricky to get right), I had a mental breakdown. Spent the whole weekend taking long walks, crying and praying. And I was honest. Finally admitted to both God and myself that if I could go back, I would do the same thing all over again except marry my first husband. That’s the only thing I was really sorry for (besides the pain I caused so many people when I screwed up). And I apologized for not being sorry. However, I also said I would rather die than do it again. Anyway I left it all there that long weekend and for the first time felt peace. I was who I was and no one was any better or worse than me. And I’ve never doubted myself again not even now when I sometimes flirt with atheism.

    • I felt the way you did when I slept with my first boyfriend at age 16. Looking back it doesn’t seem like THAT big of a deal. It was a mistake, but it happened. But, then, it felt like there was no way I could ever be right in God’s eyes again. It felt like there was no way I could ever be a good Christian again.

      I’m glad you’ve found assurance in yourself and peace despite everything else. I hope I can find that too, someday.

      • Anonymous

        I think you will. As people get older for the most part they develop wisdom both about themselves and others. It’ll get better, Sarah. Perspective coupled with experience are amazing things.

  • Thank you for this post, moonchild. Are you considering changing churches? It seems like it would be better not go to church than to have to go and hear unkind, untrue, mean things like this. What a waste of time and space! Surely God would be fine with NOT attending churches like this. Blessings to you. I hope you find true peace and comfort.

  • Christine

    One of the most wonderful things I discovered about God after a life time of abuse and feeling like I was worth nothing–was that He loved me absolutely and always!! He can not hate a person–the only thing he ever hates is SIN and not people!
    Our sin and failings sadden His heart because WE GET HURT in the process and the guilt etc alienates us from feeling close to God who is actually the most kind and loveing and forgiving being we will ever encounter.
    After a lifetime of being programmed to think negatively about myself by an abusive father and husband, I decided to fiond out who God really was and read the Bible cover to cover–I discovered life is about choices– and so I chose to start repeating out loud what scripture says a bout me ( I am fearfully and wonderfully made) and about God–His LOVING KINDNESS is better than life. etc.
    Each of us need to build up our own image of God, and the best place to see Him clearly is through Jesus–tender, kind, forgiving, always reaching out, doesnt make a big deal of mistakes etc.
    We each need to retrain our brain and thinking patterns to a healthier place.
    Self doubt will always be with us–feed yourself positive stuff and stay away from negative thinking.
    Personally I would find a fellowship group that built me up and didnt break down my trust in a merciful God. God’s goodness leads us to repentance where we are freed from the weight of sin and move forward more lighter and ready to learn and make more mistakes…..
    “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”–or somehting like that has kept me sane at difficult times.

  • Seth

    Word of God > Word of Mark Driscoll

    Depression . . . despair? Maybe you should consider asking God and yourself why this Mark Driscoll seems to have some type of power to influence your mental state.

  • Christine

    I used to feel the same way a few years ago. Any time a religious “leader” like Driscoll would start in on the latest version of sin management floating around, it would make me sick with the knowledge of all the things I SHOULD be doing/thinking/feeling.

    Having left the evanglical fold since then and found a great deal more peace, my reaction to Driscoll usually entails muttering “douchebag” and rambling about people like him giving Christians everywhere a bad name. Clearly I’m in a different headspace these days 🙂