Negotiating with a Tight-Fisted God: When God Holds Out On You


Seeing God through the lens of bad circumstances

Last week I posted about viewing God as an open-handed God. This week I am thinking about the consequences of holding the contrasting view.

Many people, even Christians, go through life negotiating with a tight-fisted God. “If I’m good, will you, God, agree to fix that painful part of my life?” Without even realizing it they make up their own definition of “good”. Good might mean go to church, read your Bible every day, evangelize or good might mean help the poor, keep busy doing things.

I have a friend who views the world as a dangerous place. Each person is another potential abuser. Any other view is naïve. She carefully guards what is hers and spends a lot of time arranging her life so that she will have what she needs. She keeps her distance from people and regularly breaks off relationships. When trouble arises her immediate reaction is “why do more bad things happen to me than to everyone else?” She is a Christian but she struggles to trust God with her pain. She feels victimized again and again.

Objectively, I don’t think her life is much harder than average, except that she is exceedingly lonely. Her perceptions become her reality.


For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45

When God says No

The interesting thing is what happens when God says no. Even people who believe God is generous have easy days and hard days. Everyone experiences both pleasure and pain.

People with a tight fisted God evaluate God based on their circumstances. When tragedy strikes they conclude that God must be holding back something good. Maybe he is doing it because they are not good enough or maybe he is doing it because he is not really good. Either way, they are on their own to protect themselves from evil and to make life good. Going through life believing that as victim of their circumstances in the past they can expect to be a victim in the future, they create more pain while trying to protect themselves from it.

Seeing bad circumstances through the lens of God’s love


People with an open-handed God believe that if God isn’t giving them what they want, what they want must somehow not be good for them, at least not yet. Even when the unimaginable happens and they suffer great pain, they evaluate the circumstances in light of their faith, not their faith in light of the circumstances.

They might think, “This is bad. It happened because of the actions of evil people, yet I am in the hands of a good God. I know he loves me. I know his power is limitless. He must have allowed this suffering for a reason. I will trust and wait for God to show me why he allowed this and how he is going to use it for good. Even if I don’t understand until Heaven I will choose to trust.”


No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11 ESV


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