My daughter has been struggling for some time with her faith. She has, for the last few years, referred to herself as agnostic though I’ve got her to admit that she really isn’t agnostic. She believes in God and that He created all things, she’s just not convinced He’s a God that loves us all or is just indifferent to anything that goes on here. Last night she wanted to talk more, which is great that she wants to ask questions and discuss faith more, but her question was a difficult one.
She said she thinks God is selfish. Why else would he create billions of people for the purpose of worshiping Him. Why does he need that affirmation? Why did He need to create anything if not just to have an ego boost? I’ve seen and read some answers to this and gave her a basic answer, but I don’t think she was satisfied with it, and maybe I’m not either. Thus, I thought I’d throw the question out here and see what others have to say on the subject.
Why does God expect worship - is God selfish or egotistical?
Why did God create us?
First off, God created us not just to be worshiped, but to know and be known. The same way that two friends or a husband and wife have a deep, wonderful relationship of knowing - so God wants to know us. God did not create us so that we could just be members of a heavenly worship choir - He created us to know Him - to love and be loved.
John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
In fact, Jesus taught that we are no longer just servants - we are friends of God and children of God. We can call on God as father - we are coheirs with Christ. That is so much more than just being a heavenly choir! Wow!
John 15:14-15 - You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Romans 8:14-16 - For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Some of the reasons Scripture gives for God creating us:
to be stewards over creation
to be His chosen people and testimony to the nations
that we might bring Him glory and praise
that He might delight in us and we in Him
to know Him and be known by Him
Is God’s expectation of worship selfish?
I understand where your daughter is coming from - if another person stood up and started demanding worship, we would all think they had either lost their mind or were an ego maniac. But think about this - true worship is not a servile declaration - it is a response to God’s majesty and love.
We naturally worship things that are great or beautiful. When we see a terrific sunset or hear a beautiful piece of music, we stop and stand in awe. When we get to meet a famous celebrity who has inspired us or have a crush on someone that attracts us, that is a form of worship.
The Bible says God is glorious - that word glory means ‘weight’. God is weighty. Just like when a famous person comes in the room everyone pauses for a moment - or how people stop to stand in awe of beautiful scenery. That person has weight - that scene has weight.
God is the glorious One - the weighty One - the source of all that has any glory or weight in this world. Worship is a response to God’s beauty and love - it is not something that is forced.
We see in the Bible 2 things:
When people encounter God’s glory or even an angel, who reflects His glory, they fall on their face and recognize their unworthiness
God loves us first - our worship is a response to His great love for us
I John 4:19 - We love because he first loved us.
Isaiah 6:5 - 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Revelation 19:9-10 - Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!
Job 42:5-6 - My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
What additional questions / thoughts do those raise in your mind? I pray the Lord Jesus grant you wisdom and open your daughter’s eyes / heart so that she can rest in His love and grace. May the Lord’s glory be revealed to her heart.
A good portion of how I think about worship has been shaped by CS Lewis. Instead of just trying to paraphrase him, I’ll direct you to a passage of his that was influential for me regarding a similar question. “Prayer of Praise” by CS Lewis
I’m a bit late responding - I posted this a few hours before I got on a plane and have only been home a few days in the last six weeks. Thanks for your responses. I opened the Prayer of Praise for my daughter and left it on the computer screen when I left. She enjoys CS Lewis’ books, so I thought that might be a good start. I wasn’t sure she would read it, but she did. I asked her when I got back what she thought and she said it seemed a bit “scholarly.” My sense is she wants that relationship but really doesn’t understand how to get it and if she is capable of getting or it, or if God would want that with her.
Next time we chat, I’m going to use some of SeanO’s points. Somehow others always seem to say things that I want to say, but just more clearly and concisely.
@dckmusic Does your Church have a small group of worshipful folks around your daughters age that do fun activities as well as worship together? I think sometimes being in a community of other people in a similar life situation who are actively living out their faith can go a long way where rational explanations fail. Even if she could be in a group not her age but people walking with the Lord, that would provide living examples of what walking with God looks like.
Also, do you guys pray together regularly? If you do not already, I think that would be a great way to get her into God’s presence on a regular basis and be a conduit for God’s love.
Praying that Jesus would open her eyes / heart / mind to understand His love and grace
SeanO, This is a lengthy, winding road. I’ll try to be as brief as I can.
She stopped attending church about 3 years ago. We’ve made regular attempts to bring her out for “special” occasions, but she hasn’t been very receptive. She has come the odd time, but then would leave the service soon after it started and go hide somewhere.
Having said that, she has still been helping the church weeknight children’s program through this whole time, and she even helped the quizzers the last two weeks of this year. It’s clear she does crave community, but she isn’t very trusting.
We had both our kids in a Christian school from K-12 and while we still think it was best, she struggled with some bullying issues and her friends didn’t always treat her well. But they were all she had, so she continued to hang out with them even though it was toxic at times. When she finally confessed to them she was struggling with the whole idea of God and her beliefs, they didn’t really have a good response to that. She befriended another girl who convinced her that hanging out with toxic people isn’t a good thing, and she hung out with her regularly, but I’m not exactly sure where this girl’s faith is. Recently, this girl has gotten a boyfriend and my daughter has kind of been “cast aside” in her view and her depression has risen up again.
In our church, there was only one person the same age as my daughter so there was no real peer group for her. The youth/young adults pastor (and his wife) we had about 6 years ago was really good and she got close to them, but then our church had some difficulties and he ended up leaving and she was quite bitter over that. Going back further, she was going to be baptized (about age 12) and in the interview she was asked if she felt gratitude to God for her salvation. I didn’t think that was a fair question for a 12 year old, as in her mind she just thought God wanted everyone to come to Him so she was so she didn’t think gratitude was the right word. The interviewer then told her he didn’t think she was ready to be baptized. I think that was the start of her depression and detachment from church.
Your point, though, just reinforces what I think we have to do - get her involved in a loving and supportive environment of believers. We’ll have to pray and trust that God will bring her into that. You ask if we pray together, and that kind of struck me. We used to pray but she has been very uncomfortable with it these last few years so we don’t ask anymore. Maybe it’s time I did and just see what her reaction would be.
I appreciate your responses. Certainly given me some ideas, some of which should have been obvious but were not.
@dckmusic Things aren’t always obvious when we’re in the midst of a tough situation I’ve experienced that myself. I look back and think - wow, I really should have thought of that sooner. I think that’s just part of being human.
Your daughter’s story made me think of a few good books I’ve read that are really written for people who are struggling with how to make sense of their faith by Philip Yancey. If the Lord leads, you might consider reading one of his books first and then maybe reading it together with her. It might provide space for some great conversations. Praying that the Lord would grant you wisdom and put the right people in your daughter’s path to bring encouragement and direction.
Just a brief follow-up on this. I’m just finishing Soul Survivor and have found it very good. The chapter on Annie Dillard actually reminded me so much of my daughter (she is an aspiring writer who deeply questions whether she is any good at it) I asked her if she would read it (she initially balked at reading the whole book). I sat beside her as she read it and she clearly enjoyed several parts of it. In our discussion after, it clearly got her thinking a little more. So much so, I think she’ll read the rest of the book which I think will help her further.
She also said she would be open to attending a church that “didn’t look down on her” and could handle her “non-churchiness” - a place she could be herself without being judged and people would accept her. This hit me pretty hard as I realized how unaccepting churches can actually be and how I’ve likely done a lot to be “unaccepting” towards people with difficulties in the church. Really need to work more on that myself.
Please pray that we can find a fellowship for her to be involved in. She is further isolating herself from the world and will only get more challenging for her to open up.
I’m very late to the party, but have just been reading the backstory you’ve given and my heart goes out to you brother. My daughter is still very young and I sometimes dread the coming years when she becomes older and I have to answer even harder questions than the ones she gives me now when she’s not even 5… I don’t understand her now so I’m not sure what I’m going to do later.
Looking at your latest post I was reminded of James 2, which talks about showing favouritism (or not as James would have us do). We looked in depth at those Jesus spoke to and welcomed (which was everyone who wanted to). We did a Bible Study on it last year and it struck me very hard also when I thought about how I (consciously or not) pick and choose who I am welcoming or friendly to at church… how I tend to stick to the people I know and get on better with rather than stepping out and talking to new people or those who I wouldn’t ordinarily chat with. I was certainly challenged and have to keep working at it against my natural instincts sometimes (with varied success). The only reason I bring it up is that maybe it would be an encouragement for your daughter that at the very least that if she does feel looked down on, it’s not a “Christian” thing to do… it’s a “fallen human” thing to do, whether a Christian or not. It is Christ we follow and it is only he who we can look to for complete assurance of salvation no matter who we are or what we have done in the past.
It is also most of the answer I would give to your initial question of “Is God selfish?”. I tend to feel that if God was selfish or egotistical, there would have been any number of ways to make the world where worship was either mandatory or some form of enslavement. But he arranged it, know we would be how we would be… and came down from earth in the person of Jesus, to suffer and die more than we could imagine, in order that we might be saved and receive glory along with Christ.
This has now become longer than I thought it would, but I hope it has been helpful. If I can leave you with one other thing… a quote from John Stott which has always resonated with me. I hope it does for you and maybe for your daughter as well.
“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours…’ 'The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”
I hope and pray that things go well for you and your daughter. May God give you wisdom and patience in what you do and say.