“God is love.”
“God is for you.”
“God is forgiving.”
We hear a lot of things about God. Books upon books have been written on his attributes. However, there are some attributes of God that we like to brush under the rug.
These attributes are uncomfortable. They don’t give us the warm fuzzies. They challenge us and remind us of how small we are.
However, all the attributes of God are good. Perhaps the issue here is not that God has some attributes that we need to gloss over, but rather that we need to dig deeper to discover the hidden beauty and goodness He has in store.
Below are five “uncomfortable” attributes of God, and why they are actually amazing promises for us as His people.
1. God is self-sufficient
To be self-sufficient means that a being (or person, or thing, etc.) has no need of outside aid in order to sustain itself.
God is self-sufficient. There is nothing He needs from humans.
We can’t give Him anything on earth. He drives this home in Psalm 50:9-10, giving the Israelites some perspective on their burnt offerings to him: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”
Is He lonely? In need of companionship? That is not the case either. He has existed in the fellowship of the Trinity for all of eternity (John 1:1-2).
We have nothing to offer God that He doesn’t already own.
This can be confusing. How can we be in a loving relationship with a God who has no need of us?
However, the fact that God does not need us points to an even greater love. We can offer Him nothing, but He loves us anyway, and extravagantly so (Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 John 3:1). There is no self-serving nature hiding in His love for us; His love is pure.
We exist as an outpouring of God’s extravagant love. He didn’t need us, but by the overflow of His love and creative nature we were born to love and be loved by Him, and He delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17).
2. God is jealous
We just covered how God’s love is extravagant and unconditional. We love talking about that. But often, we don’t want to mention how God feels about sharing us:
He gets jealous.
God doesn’t keep his jealousy a secret. In Exodus 34:14, He boldly states, “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
We know that we humans are not supposed to be jealous of others’ possessions. Our jealousy is synonymous with envy, a sin of coveting the property of another (Galatians 5:26).
But this is not what God’s jealousy means. God’s jealousy isn’t for something that belongs to someone else. All things belong to Him. He is jealous when we give ourselves to things that are not Him because He is the only one who deserves the worship and devotion of His creations.
Jealousy is an ugly term to us, and we don’t like to use it about God. But let’s put it in another perspective. Imagine a husband who sees another man flirting with his wife. He is justly jealous. This is because only he has the right to flirt with his wife; it is jealousy, or protectiveness, after something that is rightfully his. When God sees us “flirting” with sin or other gods (such as money or power), He is jealous after us as if He were the husband and we were the bride, an analogy made throughout the Bible (e.g. Ephesians 5:25, the book of Hosea).
Instead of making God sound petty, saying God is jealous shows the depth of His connection with His people.
3. God is holy
We sing songs in church about God’s holiness. We like that He’s perfect and good.
But do we really understand what holiness is?
Hebrews 12:29 calls God “a consuming fire.”
The prophet Isaiah had a vision of “The Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne” (Isaiah 6:1). Isaiah described the scene:
"And they [the seraphim] were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; The whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and the thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘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’" (Isaiah 6:3-5).
It was not a comfortable experience for Isaiah. “Woe to me” and “I am ruined” were his responses to the overwhelming presence of God’s holiness in the face of his own sinfulness.
In Exodus 33:20, God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” This is the type of consuming holiness God possesses. He’s not just “good” and “nice.” He is a raging fire of perfection, and all evil must necessarily be destroyed in His presence.
This should be a terrifying thought to us. But it should also be one that gives us joy. We could not stand in His presence and live without being consumed. However, Jesus died so there would no longer be this rift. The curtain separating us was torn in two (Matthew 27:51).
Our God is powerful enough to destroy all evil, but He still wants to be with us and considers it worth dying for.
4. God is wrathful
We like our sweet, forgiving God. We don’t like to think of God being angry.
Unfortunately, God doesn’t fit in that box. “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).
God is described frequently in the Bible as angry about sin. But how do we reconcile this with a God who loves us unconditionally?
The crux of the matter can be seen in the above verse. The wrath of God is revealed against “the godlessness and wickedness of people,” not against people themselves.
Sin makes God angry not only because it dishonors Him, but also because it separates the people He loves from Him.
If we really think about it, the last thing we want is a God who is okay with everything and never gets angry. Do we want a God who doesn’t care about genocide? Who shrugs at abuse?
Luckily for those who repent and claim Him as Lord, God the Father has poured out His wrath upon the Son in our stead.
God’s wrath reminds us that He cares about justice and our wellbeing. It shows how deeply He loves us, that He would be angry that sin separates us from Him and was willing to die to fix the problem.
5. God is incomprehensible
We have thousands of books of theology. We do everything we can to understand God, to categorize Him, to define Him.
It will never work.
Though it is good to learn as much about God as we can, we will never be able to understand Him fully. After all, He is infinite, and we are finite. Our human brains are incapable of understanding the fullness of God, His motives, His nature, His plans.
We should attempt to learn as much as possible, as we would try to learn everything about a dear friend. But we also have to realize that there will be things we won’t understand, and we will have to trust Him in the mystery.
In Isaiah 55:9, God declares, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
As we explore all the attributes of God, even the ones here that seem uncomfortable at first glance, we must remember the majesty of God, and the continuous adventure to be had in learning more about Him.
Photo credit: Pixabay/geralt
Alyssa Roat is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., a professional writing major at Taylor University, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. More than a hundred of her works have been featured in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.
Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. Her debut novel Wraithwood releases Nov. 7, 2020. She has had 150+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.