Friday, July 30, 2010

God's Love is Not Soft

We can never overestimate how much God loves us, but we can, and often do, misunderstand how His love operates in our lives.

My grandaughter is nearly three and she runs all the time. Consequently, she falls lots. Every day she gets a new bruise or cut on her shins. And when it happens, you'd think the world was ending.

She screams and holds the affected limb in both arms protectively. No adult is allowed to get near the injury and, to listen to her howl, you'd think there would never be a cure for what ails her. She absolutely refuses to let anyone wash away the dirt, because that will make it hurt worse, and it's all about the pain, after all.

We smile, but we're often like that in our own lives. God, in his love, lets us romp around, knowing full well we're going to get some scrapes and bruises as a result of our wholehearted enthusiasm about whatever we're doing. He loves to see us run. When we fall, He wants to pick us up and treat the injury, but we yell and scream, as if it's the end of the world, and we won't let Him touch it.

In his book, War Child, Emmanuel Jal says that we, in North America, have a romanticized view of children. Though he wishes every child could be free of pain and suffering, he realizes that the circumstances of life sometimes prevent that from happening. He prays and works for peace in the world, but he doesn't waste time lamenting his own pain as a child of war.

We North Americans have a romanticized view of pain in general. Our wealth gives us the means to control the amount of pain that enters our lives, so when something hurtful worms its way into our comfortable world, we are shocked, offended, as if it had no right.

But pain happens as a natural part of a healthy life in this unhealthy world we have created. The pain is part of what God uses to grow us and stretch our spiritual wings. God's love is not soft. It is not sentimental. That doesn't mean He won't happily take us on his lap and hold us when we need it. He does that whenever we let him. But His love doesn't protect us from all pain and suffering.

I've heard people say they could never believe in a God who lets bad things happen to good people. What they're really saying is that they can't believe in a God who would allow people the freedom to live their lives according to their own choices. These people want a God who legislates love.

The real God is above that. The real God allows his creatures to make evil choices, and He will not negate the results of those choices. But he died to give us the freedom to repent of those choices if we choose, and He will redeem the evil as it affects our lives if we let him. Often, however, we are too busy screaming and protecting our wounds to let him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Knowing the Unknowable

We can never overestimate how much God loves us. His love is boundless.

We can do nothing to make His love for us bigger or smaller. We can receive His love or reject it; we can give Him praise for it or take it for granted; we can use or abuse it. Through everything the love stays the same. He loves us no less or no more when we do all those things.

We are free to walk away from God's love, but when we turn back, it's always there, just behind us, waiting for the turnaround.

Amazing. Incomprehensible.

Paul writes, “...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, emphasis mine).

There's a kind of “knowing” that leaves us awash with the love of God. That knowing goes beyond mind and words. It's a knowing that takes our breath away, like jumping off a mountaintop wrapped in a paraglider.

The kind of knowing God wants us to experience demands that kind of breathless risk-taking. He dares us to take advantage, to test the limits, to find the love limitless, and to rest against it.

I want to receive that love. I want to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. I want that love to wash out over the whole world.