The Lord is…..kind in all his works.(Psalm 145:17)
The apostle John said, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This succinct statement, along with its parallel one, “God is light”(1 John 1:5, that is, God is holy), sums up the essential character of God, as revealed to us in Scriptures. Just as it is impossible in the very nature of God for Him to be anything but perfectly holy, so it is impossible for him to be anything but perfectly good.
Because God is love, an essential part of His nature is to do good and show mercy to His creatures. Psalm 145 speaks of His “abundant goodness”, of His “abounding in steadfast love”, and being “good to all”, of how “his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145: 7-9). Even in His role of Judge of rebellious men, he declares, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11)
When calamity after calamity seems to surge upon us, we’ll be tempted to doubt God’s love. Not only do we struggle with our own doubts, but Satan seizes these occasions to whisper accusations against God: “If He loved you, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen”. My own experience suggests that Satan attacks us far more in the area of God’s love than either His sovereignty or His wisdom.
If we’re to honor God by trusting Him, we must not allow such thoughts to lodge in our minds. As Phillip Hughes said, “To question the goodness of God is, in essence, to imply that man is more concerned about goodness than God is….To suggest that man is kinder than God is to subvert the very nature of God….It is to deny God; and this is precisely the thrust of temptation to question the goodness of God”.
The story of raising Lazarus from the dead speaks well to this subject of questioning God’s love for us. The Bible tells us that Lazarus, Martha and Mary were very dear friends of Jesus. He had often been in their home and shared meals with them. No doubt they had provided Him a place to rest and sleep. I’m sure they had contributed to the purse so that His and the disciples needs could be met. They probably had seen or knew those whom Jesus had healed, so when Lazarus became sick, they sent word to Jesus. Like us they brought their need to God. Now this is where the temptation to question the love of God begins. If we thought God wasn’t aware of our need and therefore didn’t respond, that would be one thing. But since we have brought the matter to Him, we know that He knows. Second, if He wasn’t God and had no ability to meet our need, we could accept that even though He loves us, He is limited. It’s what we do with our fellow humans. We recognize that though they may love us, they are limited in ability to help us. They may be empathetic with us and cry with us, but at the end of the day can do little to help us. But we know that God has all power and that there is nothing that He can’t do or at least that’s what we say. The sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one whom You loved is sick.” I’m sure they and the disciples expected Jesus to drop everything and come instantly, speak the word, do the work, and Lazarus would become well again. But He didn’t. He just kept staying and doing what He was doing. This is how we feel about God sometimes. We wonder if He’s so busy with other things that He doesn’t notice little old us. I’m sure that as Lazarus grew weaker, the sisters looked anxiously out the door, every sound drew them to gaze down the road hoping and longing for the appearance of their friend and Lord. But it was in vain, He wasn’t in sight. Days dragged on, Lazarus became worse and then He died. I have no doubt that the sisters must have felt not only the loss of their brother but the failure of their friend. You can hear it in their words when Jesus comes. Their words imply that He had let them down. They had expected that His love for them would have had Him to arrive before it was too late. Like we often feel, they no doubt felt that life has fallen apart and it’s too late to come now or try to do anything about the situation. Martha and Mary literally say the same thing, “Lord, if you had just come sooner.” What Jesus taught them and wishes to teach us is that it’s never too late for the love of God and the power of God to meet us and our need. Though He may not show up on our schedule and He may not operate according to our plan, His love for us never fails. Hebrews says that “We must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of of those who seek Him”. Faith has its roots in our belief that God is good, God is kind, God is merciful and gracious. Unless we believe this, it will be almost impossible to believe that He will answer our prayers. Why would an uncaring, harsh and judging God move to answer the request of those for whom He doesn’t care for? Even if He has all power so that nothing is impossible for Him to do, why would He unless He loved us? Are we as humans more considerate than God? What moves us to help or assist those in need around us if it is not caring and love? Though we may be limited in ability to do so, will we not do all we can for those we love? Is God any less?
From the Garden to present day, our fallen nature, reinforced by Satan, questions the love of God. Hear the world who says, “If there is a god, and if he really loves us then why does he allow suffering, hunger, violence, oppression, and all the ugly in the world?” The root of these thoughts is the question of God’s love. Yet God has demonstrated that love through Christ and the cross. So if there’s a question of whether God loves us or the world the cross answers that clearly. Hear the words of Jesus:
“No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you [My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. 16 You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.”
Dr. John Thompson