Not surprisingly, there are many teenagers who think their parents are “out to get” them. These youth think they’ve discerned a pattern of parenting over the last couple years in their home and it seems to them that when they make a good choice, their parents only slightly praise them; on the other hand, when they make a wrong choice, it seems as though their parents give the maximum punishment that society will legally allow! Whether this is really what happens in their home is debatable. But they think it is. So, of course, many of these youth don’t spend a ton of time with their parents….
With that picture in mind, you get what I mean when I say that some adults feel the same way about Heavenly Father. They kind of think that maybe God is looking for chances to squash them when they mess up, but they don’t notice much in the way of blessings when they make a good choice. They picture a God who is out to “teach them a lesson” by withholding blessings (to build character) and sending out punishments to “remind” them who is in charge.
I doubt any people would admit that. In fact, I doubt most people would realize that line of thinking in their head/heart. And it is hard to have faith in a Heavenly Father who is grumpy, withholding, and out to “send a message” every day. This view is exactly why I love a balancing idea by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
President Clark was addressing a group of young adults back in 1955 on BYU campus in a talk titled, “As Ye Sow” (link to audio here). This quote is found in a number of places recorded in a few different ways (all very similar) so I went and listened to the talk and wrote it down myself. Pay special attention to the tone of this principle:
“I have a feeling that when the Lord comes to giving us our rewards, shall we say, and our punishments, that He will give that punishment which is the very least that our transgression will justify. I believe that He will bring into His justice all of the infinite love, and mercy, and kindness, and understanding which He has…And on the other hand I believe that when it comes to making the rewards for our good conduct, He will give us the maximum that it is possible to give having in mind the offense which we committed. I feel that very, very strongly.” (President J. Reuben Clark, 1955)
When I’m at my best, I try to catch my children being good. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to express love and minimize displeasure. I’ve found that my children don’t need a mean, exacting father in order to learn life’s lessons. They are also more likely to approach and spend time counseling with a loving father who is trying to help them be happy. They can take a little discipline when needed, but they don’t need a father who is in a bad mood all of the time…
God is always at His best, so to speak. Like President Clark taught, God wants to bless us and be kind to us. Let me be more clear so that no one misunderstands: God loves to bless you. God is looking for you and I to make good choices so that we can feel His love more readily. In fact, we receive the maximum amount of blessings that our choices and intentions qualify us for. And, Heavenly Father isn’t in the heavens just waiting for us to mess up so that He can “bring down the hammer”. Apparently when we sin He allows the least amount of punishment that it will take to help us turn things around. I, for one, love that about Father in Heaven.
We have a Father in Heaven that I believe you and I can look forward to being around. We can look forward to counseling with Him in prayer. To borrow President Clark’s words, I feel that very, very strongly…