How can there be a God of love when there’s so much pain in the world?
We hear that question often, don’t we? Some ask in bitterness, some with genuine doubt. And many ask because they hurt. They see unexplainable suffering in loved ones, in people around them, and in their own lives.
The couple who can’t conceive. The woman who lost her husband. The child diagnosed with an incurable cancer. People whose lives were stolen by inexplicable violence. Others who lost everything in natural disaster. The list goes on in our broken world.
I ask the question myself at times. Born and raised in a Christian family, surrounded by God all my life, I wrestle with “is there really a God who loves?” I’ve asked in bitterness, doubt and pain. Christ followers are not immune to these wonderings.
This morning I laid in the darkness of my bedroom and pulled out my Bible. “How can there be a God of love” has been rattling around in my brain again lately.
It’s always best to be honest with God, so I laid it all out.
“God, I believe that You are and You love. I’m struggling to reconcile these beliefs with the reality I see around and even in me today. I’m not abandoning faith or even tempted to do so right now. I think of the cross of Christ, and I know – no matter the suffering any of us endure, it will never come close to Your death for our sin. And I feel undeserving, unworthy to ask this of You, but You tell us to ask. So here goes. Would You please give me a reminder of Your love today? Something I can hold on to in the moments of pain and doubt. Something I can offer to others in their moments of pain and doubt.”
An image immediately filled my mind. My son’s face. Pudgy little baby cheeks, brown eyes that could swallow you whole, and a toothy grin that melts Mama’s heart every time he flashes it.
The image of his face was accompanied by a question: “Would you give him up to show your love for someone else?”
No. No, without a moment’s deliberation I can tell you: I wouldn’t give up my own child to save another. Maybe I’m selfish, but my Titus is more important to me.
And then I thought of Father God, relinquishing His only Son, the Child of His love – a more perfect and holy love than I’ll ever know. He gave His Son for me. For you.
The cross of Christ is often our ultimate picture of God’s love, and rightly so. On that cross, Jesus chose to take all our suffering and pain. He gave up His life and was ripped from the very presence of God. He demonstrated His love by dying for me.
But this morning, and as we near Christmas, I am reminded of another demonstration of His love. The Father saw our suffering, and He did not hold back His only Son. As a mother, I cannot imagine a greater sacrifice.
I wonder if Father God looked on the nativity and felt His heart break. We see a baby in a manger and think of joy to the world. Did the Father’s arms feel empty as Mary cradled His child? Did He see the Messiah who would save the world, or did His mind fill with scenes of His Son’s torturous death? Did He hear the angels singing, “Glory to God and peace on earth” or was His mind assaulted by “My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
I don’t pretend this answers every question about suffering in the world. But it answers my question about God’s love this morning.
A baby surrounded by sheep and goats, celebrated by kings and shepherds, and worshipped by the angels of heaven. The Father’s only Child. The greatest demonstration of love this mama can imagine. A sacrifice I could never make, but one God made for you and for me.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:9-10, NLT