If You Were in God's Place
Charles Naylor, 1941
It is very natural for us to think what we would do, if we were in someone else's place. Often we hear people say, "If I were in his place, I would do so and so." Sometimes we even think what we would do if we were in God's place. Sometimes we are tempted to judge God and think that if we were in his place, we would do differently from what he does. I suppose it is natural to think thus, for we do not have the wisdom that God has, and therefore we do not see things as he sees them.
Sometimes we can put ourselves in the place of others in our thoughts, and determine what properly ought to be done under such conditions. Sometimes we can determine what God ought to do under such a condition. He has revealed to us enough of his nature and of the principles on which he acts, so that we can determine how he ought to act and how he will act under certain conditions. Of course, many times we cannot determine what is wisest and best; and if he were to give us the power to act in his place—we would not act nearly so wisely nor so well as he does.
We are sometimes inclined to misjudge God's attitude toward us. Very often this is because we hold the wrong attitude toward ourselves. There are people who are constantly finding fault with themselves and condemning themselves. Sometimes this is not done in sincerity, for if anyone else should say about such a person what he says of himself—then he would be greatly hurt or offended. In such a case, it proves the insincerity of the one who speaks slightingly of himself. Such people do not really believe they are what they pretend to be, or that they have the shortcomings and weaknesses and faults they accuse themselves of having.
There are others, however, who are sincere in their judgment of themselves, but they are harsher in their judgment of themselves than they are in their judgment of others. Some dear conscientious souls are always heaping self-condemnation on themselves. They are always judging themselves by a higher and more exacting standard than they judge anyone else. They have not a proper degree of confidence in themselves. Of course, there are those who go to the other extreme and who excuse in themselves, what they would not excuse in others. There are those who pass over things in themselves, that they, even in their hearts, know are not right. They go on professing to be all right, when they know they are not, and when they know they are guilty of misconduct. Of this class I shall not speak here, but of the opposite class who are visiting heavy judgments upon themselves all the time—those who are being unjust to themselves.
There are many such. They have a feeling that some way, some how, God requires of them more than he does of others, that he judges them by a standard different from that by which he judges others, that he will not excuse in them, what he excuses in others. It is unfair thus to treat ourselves.
Let us put ourselves in God's place. Would we judge someone if we were God, and they were in our present situation; would we judge them just as we judge ourselves? If we were as good and kind and merciful and forbearing and long-suffering as we know God to be—then what kind of attitude would we hold toward one who has the same desires that we have? If we have a sincere desire to please God, does he not know it, does he not respect this desire, does he not take it into consideration in judging us?
If our purpose is to serve him according to the truth, if it is the deep, settled intent of our hearts to do what pleases him, and we were in God's place and could look down upon that purpose in the heart of someone even if that person were coming short of his purposes in some respects, even if he were not carrying out his full intent because of weakness or through force of circumstances, or through other things he could not control—would we judge him as harshly as we are judging ourselves?
Looking down upon a heart filled with the same longings as are in your heart, a heart having the same hopes, passing through the same struggles, having the same disappointments, realizing the possession of the same faults and shortcomings—would we hold just the attitude toward some other person in that situation, that we hold toward ourselves? Would we not rather be more merciful to them, than we are to ourselves? Would we not rather consider the earnest endeavor, the sincere desire of that soul? Would we not see the grief that its faults caused, and the heartaches that resulted from the realization of shortcomings?
Do we think and feel that God condemns us—yet when we think of another in that situation we feel rather like pitying and being merciful and excusing? Are we more just and merciful than God is? Are we kinder than God? Have we more long-suffering than he has? Have we more tender compassionate love for a soul than he, a deeper sympathy, a greater readiness to show mercy? Ah, do not judge God, by condemning yourself. Show the mercy to yourself that you, in God's stead, would show to another in your situation.
If you know your heart is sincere toward God, if you are striving to serve him—yet all the time are condemning yourself, finding fault with yourself, heaping reproaches upon yourself; and then when you think of it you realize that you would not feel toward one in your situation and circumstances as you feel toward yourself if you were in God's place, or even when you are in your own place—then you are judging yourself harshly. You are wronging yourself. You are heaping condemnation upon yourself that you should not.
It is the most conscientious souls who thus wrong themselves. Be just to yourself. Judge yourself righteously. Show the same mercy to yourself, that you would show to another. Do not have a higher standard for yourself, than you have for others. God has the same standard for all. God expects some imperfections in us. He expects us to serve him with all our hearts. He expects us to be obedient to his Word and to the guidance of his Holy Spirit—but he does not expect in us the same moral perfection that is in himself. We can never be as wise or as strong or as able to surmount obstacles as successfully as he.