I have good news for you—“Is God pleased with me?” is one of the most unbiblical questions a believer can ask. If you have confessed faith in Yeshua and salvation has entered your life, then God is pleased with you. You have Yeshua’s righteousness. You don’t have to wake up and ask, “Is God pleased with me?” because Yeshua secured God’s eternal favor for you through his death and resurrection.
Is Yeshua being formed in me?
The right questions to ask yourself daily are these:
Do I look more like Jesus today than I did yesterday?
Can unbelievers see God's image in me?
Have I embraced the disciplines that will bring this change in my life?
Have I clothed myself with the Lord Yeshua and stopped thinking about ways to gratify my flesh? (Romans 13:14)
God's will for every follower of Yeshua is that they are formed into his image. Adam lost much of the image of God, in which he was created, when he rebelled. Yeshua got it back. It’s not a matter of is God pleased with me? as much as, are we becoming more like Yeshua?
The late Tim Keller tells a story about a woman visiting his congregation in New York City. She would bolt out the door at the end of each service. One day he caught her before she could leave, and she confessed why she was there. She was not a believer. But she told him a powerful story.
Her boss covered for her when she made a career-ending move in her television job. By saving her from losing her job, he lost credibility with his superiors. She went to thank him, and he was extremely modest. She couldn't understand why he would do that. Most people take credit when their subordinates do something good and blame them when they do something wrong. She wanted to know why he would do the opposite.
Finally, he confessed that it was because he was a believer in Jesus. His experience with God shaped his values. Or better said, the gospel had not only transformed his inner life but his whole life in increasing measure, to the point that it had a powerful, positive impact on others. But that type of maturity does not just appear. It is developed in relationship with God.
Then why do I feel like God is not pleased with me?
That's a great question. Yesterday it was 104 degrees in Tel Aviv. Today, it did not even break 80, and a cool wind is blowing. Some days are simply different than others, but it doesn't mean that God suddenly hates me. I may go to one congregational service where I feel enraptured by the presence of God. Then, I go the next week, and I am bored out of my mind. Did God love me in week #1, only to reject me in week #2? That's how a lot of us live our lives. But it's based on a misunderstanding of the ways of God. The children of Israel, at times, had plenty, and at other times they had to trust God. They failed the test repeatedly, and instead of trusting God, they blamed Moses. We need to learn that God loves us even when we can feel him.
There are at least three reasons why you might feel distant from God, but none of those reasons have to do with God being displeased with you. God showed his love to Israel when she was like a prostitute. He says to Hosea, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1). God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3).
So why do I feel rejected?
You could be believing the lies of the enemy.
You may have a need for inner healing so that you can’t see God as the loving Father that he is.
As God forms you into the image of his Son, it can sometimes feel strange.
Let's focus on that last one. Imagine that you are a baby drawing milk from your mother's breast. One day, she decides it's time for you to be weaned. Most of us cannot remember that moment, but there were probably some feelings of rejection. “All my life, there has been this steady supply of milk. Where is my milk? Does that woman not love me anymore?” Of course, your mother knows you can't be 23 and still drink milk from her breast. It's time for you to start eating solid food.
There's this great verse in Psalm 131:2: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” The picture here is of a child who no longer receives milk from his mother's breast but is at peace just being with her. He is at her breast but simply enjoying her presence, not demanding milk. We don't enjoy God because of the good things he gives us; the mature believer enjoys him for himself.
Sleeping through the night
So, when we are going through a weaning or pruning process, we might feel rejected or far from the Lord. When our first daughter was seven months old, she had not slept through the night once. She would wake up two or three times; I would go and get her and bring her to my wife. Elana would feed her, and then I would take her back. Then someone told me that I just had to let her cry. We didn't know that. So, when she woke up crying for milk at 3:00 or 4:00 AM, we did nothing. I had to nearly hold Elana back, as her maternal instincts wanted to run and feed her daughter. “We have to do this,” I told her, “or she and we will never sleep through the night again!”
It took about an hour, but suddenly Sharon fell asleep and slept until morning. When I walked into her room that morning, this seven-month-old looked at me. I can't tell you what she was thinking, but I can tell you how guilty I felt. I had to hurt her for her own good. But the next night, she slept through the night and every night after that. We are that little child that God is raising. We are going to go through moments where it's time to be weaned from milk so that we can eat meat. It might not feel pleasant at the time. (Ironically, tonight, we will celebrate her 34th birthday (and she feels loved, not rejected, because we didn’t feed her when she was seven months old.)
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb. 6:12-14)
As God trains us, it can feel like rejection. But once you know the ways of God, that his love for you is eternal and unending, you can then embrace these moments as opportunities for spiritual formation—that is, to grow deeper into the image of Yeshua.
If you're going through your winter season or what Saint John of the Cross called a dark night of the soul, do not despair. Ask God what he is doing in you. Ask him if there's something that you should be learning or something new that you should be doing. But no matter what you're going through, it is not a lack of God's love or facing his displeasure.