How Does God See You?

Trust your heavenly Father — he loves you more than you can imagine.

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), "The Return of the Prodigal Son"
Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), "The Return of the Prodigal Son" (photo: Public Domain)

Some time ago at a local nursing home, I spoke with a 96-year-old Catholic woman (I’ll call her Claire) who was suffering from various ailments, including the loss of her eyesight. I’d grown to know her and her family very well over the past few years. And we talked this day about life, and one day meeting God. Claire was one of the sweetest and kindest people I’ve ever met. Yet, when I spoke about God’s great mercy, her head drooped down, her brow furrowed, and she said to me in a deeply worried tone, “Oh, I hope so. I really hope so.”

It broke my heart that this dear woman who was well loved by her family and others had such obvious anxiety about how she would fare when she met God at the end of her life. She’s far from alone in my experience. So we spent some time discussing what Jesus taught us by both word and action about how God sees us. I thought it might be worth sharing some of it — especially these days — because we are increasingly bombarded by a culture that seems obsessed with discovering and publicizing the faults of others in order to destroy them and to appeal to our own vanity and self-righteousness. 

This is not the way of God. 

So, here are a few thoughts Claire and I discussed that I hope you might find helpful if you struggle with fear, doubt and anxiety about how God sees you. 

1) Know that this is a common fear and anxiety that goes all the way back to our first parents: Adam and Eve. So you’re not at all alone. Satan managed to plant doubt in their minds about our Father’s love and trustworthiness, leading them to believe that he didn’t have their best interests at heart, and wanted only to maintain power and control over them for selfish purposes — a terrible offense and wound that any parent will instinctively understand:

“But the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly will not die [if you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil]! No, God knows well the moment you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Rather than trusting Our Father, Adam and Eve chose to believe the ugly accusations of the adversary against him. And that wound — that tendency to lack trust in God’s love, goodness, concern for our welfare, and mercy — has been passed on to all of us. It leads to fear and anxiety. 

2) In order to remove all doubt about how much he loves us, how trustworthy and gentle he is, and how far he is willing to go to save us, God the Son became one of us. He emptied himself and subjected himself to us to the point of willingly accepting even torture and eventual death in the cruelest way imaginable. At any point, he could have stopped the evil being perpetrated against him and destroyed the perpetrators. Instead, he went so far as to plead to the Father for mercy on their behalf: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

God is not watching you in order to catch you slipping up so he can condemn and humiliate you. He is watching you in order to catch you when you slip so that he can heal you — if you will allow him.

3) God is really and truly waiting and watching for you to return to him, so that you can be healed and reconciled. He wants to shower you with his love. If you have any doubt about that, carefully read the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and pay close attention to how the father reacts. This powerful and moving parable is the model for the sacrament of reconciliation/confession.

Think about it. The son essentially tells his father that he doesn’t care about him — he only wants his money. He effectively wishes his father were dead so that he could have his material inheritance instead. What could be more hateful and hurtful to a parent than that?

But after he had wasted his inheritance and returned home, seeking his father’s mercy, what did his father do? Did he wait with his arms folded and blast his son for being so hateful and foolish? Did he send him away or tell him to live with the servants? He would have had every right to react in such a way. 

No. Instead, Jesus tells us that the father saw his son while he was “still a long way off.” In other words, his father was looking for and longing to see his son. And Jesus tells us the father was “filled with compassion” and “ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” — all before his son could even get out a single word of his apology! And then he had the family ring put on his son’s finger along with fine robes and sandals. To top it all off, he had a party in his son’s honor!

Does that sound like someone who is stingy with mercy to you? Waiting to condemn you?

4) The only sin that is unforgivable is the one for which you refuse to seek God’s forgiveness. God has given all of us free will, and he respects it:

“I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” [Mark 3:29] There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1864).

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit involves a hardened refusal to seek God’s mercy. God doesn’t force anyone to seek his forgiveness or to be with him in heaven. 

So, the Good News of Jesus is that as long as we are willing to repent and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, there isn’t a sin that is so terrible that he won’t forgive it. 

5) It doesn’t matter how many times you struggle with a sin and fall back into it. You can always seek and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness:

Then Peter approaching [Jesus] asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Seven is the number of perfection. So, by saying “seventy-seven times,” He meant “infinitely.” Like the parable of the unforgiving servant (which immediately follows the quote above in Matthew 18), Jesus was teaching us that we are to imitate God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness.

And this parable also teaches something God does require of us in addition to repenting and seeking his mercy and forgiveness. If we seek and expect God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must also be merciful and forgiving with others. We can see this teaching echoed in other places, such as Matthew 6:9-15. In the Our Father, Jesus teaches us to pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He then goes on to say very clearly, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (14-15).

So, it’s very clear and simple. In and through Jesus Christ, God is a loving and merciful Father who wants nothing more than to heal and be reconciled with you — regardless of what you have done or how many times you have done it. 

Anything? Really? 

Yes. Anything

He loves you as his son or daughter and wants to spend eternity with you. He’s pulling for you, not waiting for you to fail.

To receive his mercy and forgiveness, all he asks of you are two things: Turn to him (repent) and seek his mercy and forgiveness. And strive to give that same generous mercy and forgiveness that he has kindly shown you to his other children — children who are your own brothers and sisters in the most profound sense.

Trust him. When you fall, run to him. Have faith. Your heavenly Father loves you more than you can imagine:

I am love and mercy itself. ... Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. ... My mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the   entire world. ... I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain. ... The graces of My mercy are drawn by the means of one vessel only, and that is trust. 

The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. ... Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask (Jesus, as recorded in the diary of St. Faustina).