Suffering and the Love of God

dispair

Love in our culture is an interesting thing. There are millions of songs written about love. There are movies that focus on love. There are even scientific studies done on love. Despite this focus on love, there seems to be a misunderstanding about love. The way the “pop” culture talks about love makes it seem like a flighty, ever shifting thing. Movie and music stars are deeply in love with someone one day and then deeply in love with someone else the next. If we were to base our understanding of love off of movies and music, we would probably come to the conclusion that when you are in love life is easy and the birds sing. At the same time, we would probably come to the conclusion that when there are relationship problems it is because love has ended and the relationship is over.

This idea about love is seen in some of the Hallmark Card expressions about love. We’ve all heard, “Love means never having to say I’m sorry.” Let’s be honest, that phrase was written by a single guy who lives in his moms basement and plays World of Warcraft all day. Chances are, we could all give examples of false cliché’s about love. You might even be able to tell some funny stories about when you realized the cliché was false.

What often happens is that we let these cultural, cliché expressions of love shape our idea of what love is. Then we read in Scripture that God is love and that God loves us and our mind instantly goes to these cultural, cliché expressions of love. When this happens, our idea about what it means to have a love-based relationship with God is going to be grossly distorted.

There are many different ways this false idea will be lived out. One is in expecting God to overlook our sin. Since love means accepting and affirming people just the way they are, then God understands that “this just how I am and He is okay with it.” Once someone has bought this false idea there is just about no amount of Scripture you can show them that will make them realize how wrong they really are.

This false idea will also be seen when hard times come into our lives. There seem to be many in our day who have the idea that if God loves us then He will make sure that no hard times, no suffering ever come into our lives. When we believe this idea and hard times do come we begin to wonder if God loves us and if He is angry with us.  This is probably one of the most prevalent wrong ideas about God’s love for us there is.

When we buy into this idea about God’s love, what we do is we start to look at the circumstances of our lives to determine God’s love for us. If everything in our lives is working the way should, then God loves us. The better things are working the more that God loves us or at least the more certain we are that God loves us. At the same time, if everything in our lives isn’t working the way it should, then God doesn’t love us or is angry at us. The harder it is and the longer it goes on, then the angrier God is or the more convinced we are that God doesn’t love us.

As a pastor, I’ve had more than one person, during a hard time in their life ask me, “Why is this happening if God loves me” or “What have I done wrong? Why is God mad at me?” It is probably pretty safe to say that we’ve all asked these questions during times of suffering. Here is probably what we really want to know. Are the circumstances of life a valid indicator of God’s love for us? Are the circumstances of life a good indicator of whether or not God is angry with us? If not, is there any consistent way we can be certain of God’s love for us?  These are the questions I am going to try and answer this week.

For further study read Romans 8:31-39.

What is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us?

What are we assured of because of Jesus.

What kinds of things can NOT separate us from God’s love?

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