So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)
Being loved and feeling loved are not always the same thing. A child may be denied candy because the parents love the child, but the child may not feel loved, even loudly profess that feeling when not getting candy or whatever else is wanted.
Sometimes I wonder if that is the way we are with God. He loves us, but when we don’t get our way and life hands us a bitter pill instead of the candy we’d hoped for, we think that God no longer cares.
Part of this is the same problem as the child who wants the candy; we do not always know what is best for us. Withholding something that seems like a blessing feels like unkindness, even cruelty. We question His love, forgetting that God knows what is best for His children and what will bring us more harm than good.
I have more trouble when the circumstances of life, which I believe are under His sovereign control, but become difficult. I know God could fix the problems, or make them go away, or not let them happen in the first place. So why does He allow this pain or that trial? I have acted like a disciplined child, questioning the love of my heavenly Father and failing to recognize or remember that His love is still set on me.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:5–14)
Today’s devotional reading says that the secret of walking closely with Christ, and working successfully for Him, is fully realizing that I am His beloved. He has set His heart upon me. He watches over me with tender interest and works out the mystery of my life with fondness. He keeps my hand from the candy jar and if need be, sends difficulties to deepen my faith. My part is to remember His love has already been proven. Jesus died on the cross for me.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:32–34)
Like a loving parent, not being allowed excess candy in life is God’s wisdom for His children. Allowing trials goes beyond what we suppose is love even more, yet even a loving parent will correct their children, and not dote over them to the degree that no tripping, falling or mistakes are allowed.
Then there is another reason for doubt. I have days where I feel that God does not love me, but my feelings are not attached to any circumstances or events. When that happens, I have to conclude that this is nothing more than the devil repeating his age-old line that he used on Eve in Eden; You can eat from that tree (or do whatever you want) because God really doesn’t want the best for you, a lie that suggests that God does not love me.
Father, I know this struggle from time to time. Yesterday’s class on spiritual warfare was about this very thing — that our enemy tells us lies in an effort to make us think wrongly about You. When that happens, I start feeling and acting contrary to truth. As John says, I know and believe You love me. Help me today to ignore the Liar and instead know, believe, and abide in Your love.