The Problem With Using Reverse Psychology on God

Have you ever used “reverse psychology” to try to get God’s attention? I know I have. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had just gotten used to being around people who would say things like, “It’ll never work” in a way that sounded like, “Now, watch God contradict me. He never gives me what I want and loves to prove me wrong. So I’ll ask for what I don’t want. I told it not to work. Now watch it work.” It was almost as if predicting a bad outcome would make them look humble, thus forcing God to be nice to them.

It’s almost like trying to guilt God into doing something good for you. But you know you can’t make Him feel guilty because He never does anything wrong. Some of us act as if He’s out to get us, however.

In Exodus 34:6 God describes Himself as, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. . .”

Why then, do we tend to act as if He’s out to get us, as if He wants to ruin our lives?

Perhaps a better question is, “What god are we serving?” Is it a god who likes to trick us and kick us when we’re down? Do we need to use reverse psychology on him to get his help?

The baal worshipers described in I Kings 18:26-28 seemed to think so. To get their god to hear them, they cut themselves. It was a mess. They beat themselves up to get their god to send down fire, hoping to bring good out of evil they inflicted on themselves.

I know what that is like. One time someone close to me was acting like a bully. So, I hit myself to try to get him to apologize to me. By means of self-abuse, I try to guilt him into caring. It’s like saying, “There, I beat myself up. That should make you happy.”

But all it did was make him angrier, because bullies don’t respond to reverse psychology – at least, not the way we’d like. Nor can we beat ourselves up and expect God to cheer us on.

“But, wait a minute,” some might say. “What about the man who was beating his chest and saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner?”

Well, he wasn’t exactly beating himself up, for one thing. For another, there’s a big difference between humbly asking God to “Have mercy on me, a sinner” and saying, “I’m so horrible, you must be mad at me. I don’t believe I can expect anything good from you.”

Asking God for mercy is a humble act of faith, but speaking doubt over a situation to try to make God do the opposite is manipulative. It’s like trying to guilt God into giving you your own way.

God can’t be guilted into doing anything, but Jesus paid the price to cover our guilt and sin. His blood shed on the cross enables us to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We don’t need to use reverse psychology in order to find mercy and grace from Him to help in our time of need.




How Will God Do It?: a Faith Lesson

“How will God do it?” That was his question. Perhaps it was everyone’s question.

The city’s survivors had become discouraged.

They needed a miracle but couldn’t imagine how it would happen.

II Kings chapter 7 tells the story.

“Hear the word of the LORD,” the man of God said. The message, directed at those with ears to hear, rang with power. But who had ears to mix the words with faith?

“Tomorrow about this time food is going to sell for pennies,” he basically told them.

But the lord on whose hand the king leaned would not believe his ears.

“Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” he asked.

In other words, “How will God do it?”

He couldn’t see how God would do it, for the famine was too great. Even if He was to rain manna down from heaven, would it be enough?

The famine in Samaria had lasted a long time. The city was besieged. They had very little food. Only when cannibalism set in and the king heard of it did anyone seem to think of asking Elisha for help. He could have asked for his help when the siege hit. Instead, he waited until things were really bad. Then, instead of asking Elisha for help, he blamed him.

Why did he blame Elisha? Perhaps it’s because these were the same people who had attacked his land before, only this time there were more of them. It started when the king of Syria began sending small groups of troops into Israel in hopes of capturing the king. But God always told Elisha where they set up their camp. Elisha in turn warned the king, enabling him to avoid capture.  Once the Syrian king got wind of what was happening, he sent his men to capture Elisha. But this man of God who had ears to hear and eyes to see into the spirit realm struck them with blindness. When they opened their eyes, they found themselves in Samaria, the capital of Israel.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I smite them?”

But Elisha told him to feed them and let them go, which is what he did.

Afterwards, “the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.” (II Kings 6:23)

Sometimes after this, however, Ben-hadad  the king of Syria gathered his entire army and besieged Samaria. That’s what caused the famine.

Was the king of Israel angry that Elisha had let the first group of Syrians go? Probably.

“We could have gotten them, taught the a lesson, and sent the Syrian king a message!” I can imagine him saying.

But of course, he didn’t bother to ask Elisha’s opinion until the situation became desperate, and now all he wanted to do was kill him.

Not surprisingly, Elisha knew what he was thinking before he even said it, and he had an answer ready in the form of the above-mentioned prophetic word.

When the lord on whom the king leaned asked “How will God do it?”, Elisha replied, “You’ll see it with your own eyes but will not eat of it.”

Sure enough, God did a miracle. He supplied the food, all right. But the man who didn’t believe got trampled at the gate. He saw the miracle but never got to enjoy the fruit of it.

By asking, “How will God do it?” in a way that implied it was impossible, because it was something his natural mind couldn’t wrap itself around, he robbed himself of faith and missed his miracle.

You and I don’t have to miss our miracle, however, because Jesus Christ has come – not to condemn us but to give us grace. If we ask Him, He will help us overcome our unbelief.

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Corinthians 1:21)