Not long ago I wrote about the oft-quoted biblical declaration, “God is love,” what we think it means, and what it really means. There’s another side to this truth we should consider: Are we reciprocating that love?
A friend, David, now in his early 50s, has dealt with a congenital disease that has presented major health challenges throughout his life. As a husband, father and businessman, he could express bitterness and frustration over the adversity that has become a constant, if unwelcomed, companion. Instead, he and his family have used it as an opportunity to strengthen their faith and become powerful witnesses for Jesus Christ to others. Here’s is what he wrote recently:
“I hear so many Christian songs speaking the truths of ‘how much God loves us.’ We sing, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know....’ This is a truth to which we all cling.
However, I ask the simple question: ‘Do WE love Him?’ Is our love for Him dependent on things going great (in our lives)? Learning to love Him, when the world is against us, or things aren't going our way, is the kind of love He wants from us. His love for us is never in question. The question is, do we love Him? Do we love Him during all of life's challenges? I suggest that this kind of love glorifies God and demonstrates His power more than the conditional love we often have for God.”
Despite decades of suffering and setbacks, David has gained wisdom and perspective that many of us never attain. We reason that if God really loves us, He’ll make our lives good and comfortable and prosperous. The so-called “health and wealth gospel” helps to propagate such beliefs. However, that’s not what the Scriptures reveal for us.
Throughout the Bible we find accounts of the all-powerful God allowing His people to endure hardships in various forms. From Abraham and Sarah going childless until late in life, to Moses and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, to the apostle Paul being subjected to torture, infirmities, even shipwreck while seeking to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, we see God never promised His followers “rose garden” lives.
To the contrary, we read passages that seem to assure just the opposite. For instance: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Romans 5:3-5 affirms this, stating, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.”
The Scriptures make it clear God’s love for His children is limitless and unconditional. So, the question, as my friend suggests, is do we love Him? When things don’t go our way, when we find ourselves in “the valley of the shadow of death,” as Psalm 23 describes it, is our love for God constant – our trust in Him unwavering?
How can we even know if we truly love the Lord, that we’re not just experiencing some brief emotional state during a worship service or when listening to a song of praise? Jesus was straight forward in explaining what loving God should look like:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command…. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 15:15-21).
The next time we find ourselves reflecting on the scriptural teaching that “God is love,” maybe we should also ask ourselves the penetrating, even convicting question, “Yes, but do I love God?” And if we say that we do, is there any evidence to prove it – even in the midst of challenging, difficult times?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.