The scriptures clearly teach us and illustrate for us that God not only loves us, but that His very nature is love. He is the supreme origin of love, and He is even incapable of acting outside of the defining boundaries (the definition) of His true love.
This certainly challenges all of our simplistic concepts of what love is and what it looks like. Suffice it to say, the love of God is better, greater, and purer than we could ever imagine or understand. If there is ever any conflict between what we see God doing and what our concept of love is, the conflict is due to our own misunderstanding: our misunderstanding of what love really is, and our own misunderstanding of what God is doing.
A common accusation of humanity [put forth in the form of a seemingly rhetorical question] is, “If God is so loving, why does He allow so much suffering in the world?” This is an overly simplistic view of an infinite God that is without limit in wisdom, intellect, holiness, power, etc. It is like an accusation of lovelessness wielded by a 3 year old child against a parent who withholds a second serving of ice cream at dessert time. Okay, I know comparing human suffering and withholding ice cream is not the greatest of illustrations, but it does hint at the magnitude that separates our simplistic views from the eternal reality of God and His purposes.
God’s love put into action is not a series of isolated and unconnected events that are measured only within their individual timeframes of seconds, hours, years, or decades. His love involves a perfect plan of intervention and redemption in a world that has been captivated by sin since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. The greatness of His love for us is better comprehended as it is viewed within the entire context of creation’s history.
If we invalidate God’s love by taking events and moments out of the context of the big picture, we too will truly ask questions like, “If God is so loving, why does He allow me to suffer with chronic sickness and delay healing me?”
In the Gospel of John, Lazarus was a man whom Jesus loved deeply, and though he became very ill, Jesus delayed coming to his bedside. He allowed him to continue to suffer with intense illness, and even to experience a miserable death. And yet Jesus loved him?
“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When He heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.‘
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days…
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem…”
~ John 11:1, 3-6, 17-18
Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead as a demonstration of God’s loving power for all who would choose to believe in Him.
If we limit our measure and perspective of Jesus’ love to just those days leading up to Lazarus’ death, we will erroneously conclude that because Jesus allowed Lazarus to suffer (when He could have healed him immediately) His love for Lazarus was a farce, it was bogus.
Likewise, if we “understand” our own suffering through the same errant method of cherry picking events out of the context of the entire plan and strategy of God, we will be sorely disappointed and disillusioned by God’s purported love.
Some have asked me about my own illness, “If God loves you the way that you say He does, why doesn’t He heal you and deliver you from your chronic suffering and pain?” Though I cannot fully comprehend His ways and His plans, I can answer their question. He DOES love me, and in the larger context of His grand design and strategy, His love is just as real, and intact, and active as ever. His love is far too great and complex for me to try and measure (or disprove) utilizing the limited resources of my human mind and reasoning.
I am at peace with God’s delay of my healing. No where within the scripture’s definitions of love is there a restraining quality that requires every act of God’s love to be started and completed within a small period of time such as an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, a quarter of a century, a half of a century, a lifetime, a century, a millennium…
Jesus, with great love, delayed His healing of Lazarus [for a few days] for purposes that extended His love to many other people, even two thousand years later. Raising Lazarus from the dead was not just about Lazarus, it was about demonstrating to the many the great power of the loving God who not only resurrects all of the dead in the future, but offers to all of humanity a choice to choose Him and His eternal love in the here and now.
As followers of Christ, our sufferings (though very painful and horrifying at times) are allowed by God so that He can demonstrate His love to us and through us [to multitudes] in ways that we may never comprehend or fully realize until we reach Heaven. Let’s allow God to show His perfect love according to His perfect wisdom and perfect strategies within the larger context of His creation, time, and space.
I am at peace.
#PastorsTip #John11 #Lazarus #GodsLove #Love #Suffering #Jesus #Healing #ChronicIllness