A friend once asked me how God could be a “loving” God and yet permit all the heartaches he had experienced in life. I could add to that line of reasoning, “how could God really love us and be so slow in responding to our prayers”. Another friend commented recently that it seemed to him as if God enjoyed watching us wait and suffer.
And all of this is true if our definition of “God’s love”, or “real love”, is based upon a human, sentimental variety of love. That is, if love means that we protect those we love from pain and that build a hedge around them to guard them from unkindness or hurt, and that we quickly respond to their petitions each time they ask us for something, and that we rarely, if ever, say “no” to what they want——it these things mean “love”——then God is not love. He is something other than “love”. Actually, if we judge God on our standards of “love”, He is a very capricious God that seems to pick His favorites to bless and then treats rest of us like red-headed step children!
But what if our standards/definition of love is not the same as God’s? What if His love is something that we don’t fully understand and can’t fully grasp? What if His love is, in fact, a better love than the one we know and we are not showing those we are very close to the best love?
And that, of course, is central to my misunderstanding of, and lack of greater appreciation for, God’s love. His love cannot be fully grasped until we look at the cross of Jesus. That is the ultimate expression of His love—-not a new car, or the perfect job or a chest full of gold! Neither is an “easy life”, excellent health, the ideal marriage/family, and a lack of conflict, expressions fo God’s love. The cross is the symbol of His love. And when I can look at the cross I can begin to gaze into the very heart of God. Does He love me? Absolutely! Do I know how much? No…I cannot fathom it…I don’t fully “get it”!
God’s love is not about Him doing things for me that make my life easier, nor does His love have to do Him always giving me what I ask for, or answering my petitions as speedily as I demand or expect. No, His love is that intense determination to make me into the whole son that He destined me to be me the moment I gave my life to Him. That intense kind of love requires that He often say “no” to my requests, “not now” to things I think I must have, or, “wait, my timing is perfect, I will rescue you and you will not lose a hair on your head, but wait”.
And so I really cannot compare God’s love to me for the love that I have for my four boys, or the love I have for my parents or my best friends, etc. But I can begin to love those I love like God loves, by saying “no”, “not now”, and “wait, you are not ready”, without fear that I might disappoint the ones I love. I am going to disappoint people, annoy people and turn off people if I love them like God loves me. But I am loving them better and in the highest manner possible.
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