Yes, You Can Hurt God – Deeply

Posted on October 5, 2022

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By David Ettinger

God’s Emotions
Though God is eternal, all-powerful, and the creator of all things, He has feelings and emotions.

I imagine the depth of God’s feelings and emotions are on a level mortals cannot fathom. Yet, we can recognize something of God’s anguish in that He has created us with the same emotions He possesses, just not in the same degree.

Therefore, when God tells us He is angry (Numbers 32:13), we get the gist. We can likewise relate when God tells us of His jealousy (Exodus 34:14), compassion (Hosea 11:8), and love (Isaiah 43:4). We can assume that when God experiences these emotions it is to the extreme, and in perfection.  

And what is most amazing of all, it is His children – you and me – which causes God to experience these emotions.

Hurting God
This is difficult to grasp considering the unimaginable nature and power of God, but one verse in particular helps.

In Ezekiel Chapter 6, God expressed His deep anger to Israel for engaging in pagan worship at shrines throughout the nation rather than in His Temple at Jerusalem. God vowed to “bring a sword against you, and … destroy your high places. … and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols” (vs. 3-4).

This punishment was just as the Hebrews deserved it. What they didn’t deserve was God’s mercy: “However, I will leave a remnant, in that you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries” (v. 8).

It was to this remnant that God expressed His pain:

Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be taken captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me …” (v. 9, emphasis added).

There it is in Ezekiel 6:9: God can be hurt emotionally, and it is His people who do the hurting. Unfortunately, the NASB (from which I quote), does a weak job in expressing this.

The Deeper Meaning
In the Hebrew, the English word “hurt” is sabar (pronounced shaw-bar), and expresses something much stronger than what we think of as “hurt.” Other meanings of sabar include “break,” “destroy,” “tear,” “crush,” “quench,” and “maim.”

Just about every other Bible version of the phrase “how I have been hurt (sabar)” does a much better job in expressing the true nature of God’s pain:

  • I am broken with their whorish heart” (KJV, ESV, Amplified).
  • “… how I was crushed” (NET, Holman, CSB, ISV).
  • “… how I have been grieved” (NIV, Geneva Bible).

Broken. Crushed. Grieved. These are the connotations of the word sabar God employs to communicate His deep sadness over the spiritual infidelity of His Chosen People. And notice how God does not hold back, how He makes no effort to conceal the pain He feels, unconcerned He will somehow be regarded as “weak” for this earnest revelation.

Difficult to Fathom
It’s difficult to fathom that mere humans can stir such emotions in God. It’s difficult to comprehend how we as His blood-purchased children can break His heart. We understand how our sin hurts those around us, but little do we discern the depth to which we are capable of hurting God.

This truth goes back to Genesis 1:27, where we read that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him …”

This does not mean we were made in God’s physical image, but in the image of His “substance” – what God is. The idea is that people have the capacity to think, feel, and act in a Godward manner. (Read my blog: “What it means to Be Made in God’s Image.”)

When considering this, we gain deeper insight into how God can feel such pain over how we mere mortals can break His heart by our sinful endeavors.

What does this mean to you?

For me, I would hope to do everything I can to NOT contribute to God’s pain. I hope to be more cognizant of my behavior and regard for God. Am I honoring Him? Am I living a life that glorifies Him? Am I spending enough time with Him in prayer? Am I giving Him the supreme place in my life?

I know I’ll often fall short, but if I set my heart to never hurting, breaking, crushing, or grieving God’s emotions, perhaps I’ll fail far less often!

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