A Love We Can Trust
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
According to 1 John 4:16, “God is love.” This does not say God loves, though He does love perfectly and unconditionally. The Scripture says that God’s essential nature is love. God will never act contrary to His nature. You will never experience God expressing His will except in a demonstration of perfect love. God’s kind of love always seeks His best for each person. If we reject His best, He will discipline us. However, the discipline will come from a Heavenly Father who loves us and who will do whatever is necessary to bring us to a place in our lives where we can receive what He wants to give us. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
God does bring discipline, judgement, and wrath on those who continually live in sin and rebellion against Him. Even this discipline, though, is based on love. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Because His nature is love, I’m confident that however He expresses His love to me is always best.
Your confidence in the love nature of God is crucial. This has been a powerful influence in my life. I always view my circumstances against the backdrop of the cross where God clearly demonstrated once and for all His deep love for me. I may not understand my current situation or how things will turn out, but I can trust in the love Christ proved to me when He laid down His life for me on the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God forever convinced me that He loves me. I choose to base my trust in God on what I know- His love for me- and I choose to trust that in time He will help me understand the confusing circumstances I may be experiencing.
Henry and Richard Blackaby
The great question posed by every human is, “Am I loved?” Particularly important is the question, “Does God love me”? These two questions become significant especially during times of suffering or struggle. One of Satan’s strategies is to cause us to mistrust the love of God in those times of difficulties. How can we as faulty human beings qualify for the fullness of the love of God? The travesty of religion is that it presupposes that one must in some way earn the affection of God through some work or manner of living. It is understandable that this is attractive for there is the supposition and experience that far too many times human relationships and love are based on performance. How many times have we heard or said, “If you love me, you will….” How often are we convinced that we must earn love and that unless we act in a certain way or provide something the other person desires, we will lose their love. Whenever someone says, “If you love me….” please know it’s not love but control they’re after and if you find yourself practicing this method of control, repent.
The question of love comes into play especially when we are disciplined. Sadly in our world today the idea of discipline rooted in love is becoming a fading concept. We have decided that love is acceptance and “support” of even wrong and harmful conduct. Some time ago one of my grandchildren was at my house. They were instructed not to do certain things. After several reminders, I chose to discipline them. At that point they decided they would go home. They were small and the only way they could do so was to walk so they started down the driveway. I called them back and they ignored me so I ran and picked them up and brought them back to the house. I will never forget their words, “Papa”, they said, “You don’t love me.” O, how that hurt but I knew it was love that caused me to discipline them. Now that grandchild runs to me every time I see them and throws their arms around me and they know they are loved.
There are many things I don’t understand. I think I will never fully understand suffering but I want to share some glimpses I’ve seen into why the God who loves us so doesn’t always keep us from suffering and why at times He disciplines us.
First, know there is a vast difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is carried out by one who loves with the purpose of helping the one being disciplined to become a better person. Discipline occurs because of love even at the risk of the one who disciplines being subject to the anger and dislike of the one being disciplined.
Punishment is impersonal. It is justice. A wrong act is met with an equal act of punishment. It’s the law of consequences. If you do x you get y. Punishment can often be cruel and uncaring but discipline never.
Second, there are times that God is expressing His love to another and I become the recipient of suffering. Let me illustrate. I learned this principle sitting in a hospital room in the last hours of my mother’s life here on earth. I had prayed diligently for her healing and for over a year it seemed to be working. That Sunday as I sat with her, she said to me, “Johnny, I want to go home.” The God who loves, through love honored her request and she went home with Him. God who loved my mom relieved her of her pain and suffering but that answer brought the suffering of grief and loss to me. Years later I walked through that same experience with my grandson and during my work as a hospice chaplain I saw this principle over and over. I’ve learned that sometimes the love of God chooses the greater thing even if it’s painful for me at the moment. Though I miss them everyday of my life, I’m so glad that God in His love ended their suffering.
Third, the love of God considers all of humanity and sometimes chooses for the best of all humanity to punish or even destroy unrepentant evil doers. This love explains the flood of Noah’s day. God saw that humanity would utterly destroy itself including righteous Noah so He intervened to preserve him. At the end of all things, God will preserve us throughout eternity through the banishment and punishment of the unrepentant. This is the love of God.
Finally, all question of the love of God for us is answered in the cross. Who can question the love of God toward us in view of the great price He paid to redeem us from the consequences of sin. Who can question this love when it was offered before we ever “qualified”?
“While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].”
So what ever circumstances you find yourself in, put yourself into the love and care of the God who always acts out of His very nature of love. If for some reason you are being disciplined and we are never disciplined without the knowledge of the specific reason, trust in the love of God and look for the growth of faith and character when discipline is complete. If you are suffering things such as loss because God has moved in love toward another, rejoice for their sake that God’s love has been demonstrated toward them. When someone questions the love of God for humanity and questions His compassion for those who suffer, point them to the great display of God’s love for humanity, the cross.
Dr. John Thompson