A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“And yet – this is the other and equally important side of it – this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty… Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in grown-up son. In the same way, he [George MacDonald] said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy’ (p. 202-3).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

We usually err in thinking of God in one or the other of these two categories – easy to please or hard to satisfy – as if they are mutually exclusive. The image that Lewis builds on MacDonald’s sentence is the perfect image because it is the preeminent New Testament image for God – Father.

Consider the father who hears his son/daughter first begin to say words, take a step, speak in sentences, or swing at a ball. Does it matter if the child mispronounces the word, falls down, confuses the verb tense, or misses the ball? Absolutely not! The child is growing and that is thrilling.

When we take steps of faith and obedience that is the heart of God towards us. It does not matter to God where or how we need to mature. It may be something we should have learned 10 years ago, but if we are striving to trust Him in new ways in this moment, God is a proud father.

Consider the father whose son/daughter is satisfied giving partial effort, willing to coast on other people’s work, or fail in important areas of life. Can a good father ignore these life patterns and still say he wants what is “good” for his child? Again, the answer is no. No addressing these issues would either be a form of neglect or enabling (depending on the other forms of parental involvement).

When we fail to steward the skills and opportunities God has given to us, God will not be satisfied. To whom much is given much is expected (Luke 12:48). God entrusts us with life for His glory and anything less bares a severe penalty (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). If we know what ought to be done and fail to do it, that is sin (James 4:17).

But what about when we’ve messed up bad and now life is really hard? How does God view us then? Is he easy to please or hard to satisfy in those moments? The answer is “it depends.”

If we are taking steps of faith and obedience in those moments (regardless of whether we are stumbling like a toddler as we go), then God is pleased. Our sin makes life hard and God does not add shame to those challenges after we respond in humble repentance and begin to follow Him in faith.

If we are giving up out of self-pity or despair, then God is hard to satisfy. His displeasure is meant to startle us from our passivity; the only thing that leaves us “stuck” because His grace is available and able to direct us to hope.

So the questions we must grapple with are these:

  1. Have we let a false view of God the Father hinder our growth?
  2. Do we maintain an accurate view of God even after we fail?
  3. Do we seek to change because of God’s acceptance instead of for it?

To see the first 100 posts in this series click here.