Knowing God

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Mark Safstrom

O, that we could one day truly learn to know God! In reality there is no one in whom we have so little confidence as God. We are plenty capable of believing in human beings, plenty capable of believing in angels, plenty capable of believing in Christ, but when it comes to God—of him, one expects only judgment, death and damnation. “For the Virgin Mary’s sake he will show us grace,” the Catholic thinks, “but if we didn’t have her help, then we would not fare well with God.”—“For Christ’s sake,” others think, “God will be able to show us grace, but were it not for Christ being our protection and our shield, then we would not fare well with God.” That God for his own sake is merciful, graceful and full of goodness, as well as forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exodus 34:7)—who believes that? No, we more or less fear and tremble before God, as though before something dreadful. If a terrible storm breaks out with rain and gale and thunder and so on, then we have the expression: “This is the Lord’s weather [ett Herrens väder].” The Lord’s weather is synonymous with terrible weather. Just think, what an expression! […] Where does this come from? Answer: Only from that heathendom, which is rooted in our nature, and that heathendom, which has been preached into us since our childhood. O, how far we are from being able to know God as our true Father.

Therefore, let us study—diligently study and practice this truth, that no creature can look upon us with eyes as tenderly as God can; no father can search for his wayward son more mercifully than God searches for sinners; no mother can feel greater joy, when she sees her wayward son return back home, than God feels when he sees a sinner return to him again. There does not exist a father’s or mother’s heart that is more willing to blot out, forgive, forget a lost son’s or daughter’s sin, as God’s heart is willing to forgive the sins of everyone, who, like the prodigal son, will to turn around and come home again. A prodigal son is the sorrow of his father and mother, a source of many tears, many sighs, much anguish, a cause of many anxious conversations and deliberations, many sleepless nights. But what is it that prompts all this? It is a sorrowing love—a mere spark of that fire, which dwells in the heart of God. If the son will return again, then love could not be greater, and sorrow shall be turned into gladness. And this is how God, too, rejoices when he sees sinners off in the distance making their way home.

Paul Peter Waldenström was a Swedish revival preacher, and served as editor of Pietisten from 1868-1917.

See all articles by Paul Peter Waldenström

Mark Safstrom is Chief Editor of Pietisten, and teaches Swedish language and Scandinavian literature at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

See all articles by Mark Safstrom