Most people in recovery would agree that a strong intimate relationship with God is important for overcoming addiction; however, many of the men I’ve worked with struggle with this. This is often because they have a distorted image of God. If your image of God leads you to fear him or be angry with him, it will be very difficult to trust him. While there are many factors that contribute to the development of one’s image of God, four common factors are:
- How God was presented in childhood: If the way you were taught about God presented him as a strict taskmaster it is easy to learn to fear him. If religion is presented as little more than a long list of rules to follow, it’s easy to become angry with God.
- Your relationship with your own father: We often take our image of our earthly father and attach it to God. Thus, it you had a father who was angry, abusive, critical, cold, rejecting, etc. it can be easy to see God as the same kind of person.
- Losses/Trauma in life: If you have experienced many deep losses and/or trauma in your life, it’s easy to become angry with God. You may ask, “How could a loving God allow such terrible things to happen?” From this can develop an image of a God who punishes without reason or who just doesn’t care enough to protect his children.
- Guilt and Shame: Your image of God may be influenced by guilt and shame you carry from sins you’ve committed in the past or sins committed against you. You may think, “How could God love someone like me?” or “I’m so damaged God would never help me.” People who were abused often feel this way.
Each of these factors can lead to the development of an unhealthy, inaccurate image of God. You may view him as an angry taskmaster, a punisher or one who simply doesn’t care about people. As a result you may fear God or be angry with him. This can lead to avoiding God and even rejecting him.
God wants us to view him as a loving father who cares for us and provides for our needs. If you struggle with this, I recommend finding a good spiritual director. This is a person you would meet with about once a month to discuss your relationship with God. Most often a spiritual director is a priest; however, it can also be a deacon, religious, or lay person who is trained in spiritual direction. To find a spiritual director, I simply ask your pastor if he can recommend one.
With a healthy image of God, it is easy to develop a deep, trusting, intimate relationship with him. This not only helps men in recovery, it also helps them gain the self-confidence that they can overcome any other struggles in their lives. So ask yourself, “How do I see God?” If your image isn’t of a loving caring father, maybe it’s time to work on changing it. You’ll be eternally grateful!