The CHRIST model in Journey of the Soul begins with the C Stage, Confidence in Christ. This is the place of discovering a brand-new-like-the-morning you. Your faith in God at this stage is experiential, relational, and imaginative—like a child’s faith would be.
At the C Stage, our Shepherd offers us abundant and eternal life, while Satan vies to steal and destroy that life (John 10:10). We’re in a tug-of-war between the kingdoms of light and darkness (Col. 1:13).
Integral to this stage is what it means to look into the face of Jesus and answer for ourselves the question: Is God trustworthy? Do I experience God as fully loving, even in hard times?
What do you see when you look into God’s face?
The picture of what you see and how you feel is called your heart-image of God. This picture gives insight into where you are emotionally and spiritually in really trusting God.
For many centuries when artists painted Jesus’ portrait they didn’t put a smile on his face. It has been the same in sermons, books, and gospel movies. Almost always Jesus was portrayed as serious, if not somber, as he went about preaching the gospel, healing sickness, and discipling anyone who was interested. Of course, Jesus didn’t always smile, but he smiled a lot!
In my dissertation for a Ph.D. in psychology, I studied the connection between God-images and self-images, because our image of God is the most important thing about us. In fact, research is so powerful that it fosters changes in our brain circuits.
You’re likely to experience God similarly to how you feel about your inner child. If you’re self-critical you’re prone to feel criticized by God. If you’re disconnected from your emotional needs you’re prone to feel that God is distant. If you feel that you’re “too needy” you’re prone to feel that God is impatient with your needs.
Sadly, studying the Bible is not likely to heal these emotional wounds. It’s essential, but not enough to develop enduring, heart-level trust in a God who is totally beautiful, good, just, forgiving, and compassionate.
The Bible shows us Jesus on the cross with his arms open to forgive every person and reconcile us to God’s friendly love forever (2 Cor. 5:15). But how do we trust this ultimate love as a child would?
We need to participate in relationships that show us what love is. Scripture has a word for this love; it is called hesed, which is Hebrew for sticky love. Hesed is love that sticks to us, it provides security and a place of belonging and care. Hesed fosters our trust in God (Psalm 63:3, 8).
Trusting in God’s kindness to you is what activates and guides you to follow God’s wisdom to make positive changes in your life (Rom. 2:4). The Lord is our deliverer, healer, and provider before being our lawgiver.
At the beginning of your spiritual journey and at every CHRIST stage of faith you need a healthy foundation of C Stage confidence in the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Here are some practical steps for putting confidence in Christ’s unfailing love:
- Imagine yourself in a favorite Bible story about Jesus. Look to see him smiling at you with delight. Smile at him and it’ll help you to feel the warmth of his love.
- Look at a picture of yourself as a child and pray to the Father of Jesus about how you felt.
- Take turns being emotionally vulnerable with a friend you trust and look for Jesus’ empathy, grace, and gentle wisdom through your friend.
You’re renewing your heart-image of God as totally loving by “fixing [y]our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2).
Adapted from Journey of the Soul by Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, published by Revell.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: The “C” stage, Confidence in Christ, is the first of the CHRIST model outlined in Journey of the Soul. In this stage, we turn from darkness to light and experience the grace of God’s sticky love. Kristi describes a discipling relationship she had with someone in the “C” stage and how that impacted her own spiritual journey.