By Greg Morse
(…continued) Oh, the fearsome, wonderful love of God. This God is so serious about having his own that he will starve them now to feed them forever, kill them now to keep them forever. His enemies may call him a monster, but his saints sing, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3).
To be loved by God is to be made holy, to be dressed for heaven, fitted for eternity, brought through the howling wilderness of this world, across the raging river Jordan, and secured within the Promised Land of a new creation. This love will not spare us the bumps, bruises, and bleedings to ready us for his presence.
To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because he is what he is, his love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us he must labor to make us lovable. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 41)
And he does just that. Having forgiven us, he makes us better. He bends all circumstance, works all things for good — every wound and every joy — for our everlasting glory of being conformed to this Son’s image (Romans 8:28–29).
God’s love embraces his children where they presently sit (he died for us while we were yet ungodly) — we do not make ourselves worthy of his love; we cannot. But his love, when it finds us, will not leave us where we are — we are destined to be holy and spotless before him in love.
Yet this does not imply that he blesses and bruises equally, nor that he stands indifferent to our cries or our pain. Just the contrary. In the middle of a heart-wrenching lamentation over the Lord’s chastisement of Israel, Jeremiah reminds us: The Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:31–33)
“He does not afflict from his heart.” His delight is not to wound us. Even when he lays the heaviest afflictions upon us, it is not his joy to do so. Rather, Jeremiah records his heart toward the church this way: I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:40–41)
This love — the only love strong enough to spare us from hell, to make us pleasing in his sight, to delight us for eternity — does not leave us alone to our pet sins and damnable devices. His love puts fear in us that we may not turn from him. He wants us where he is, with all his heart and all his soul.
He proved the imponderable depths of his heart for his people once and for all when Jesus Christ came to bear the wrath of God for our sins. It should not surprise us that God would crush us for our sins; it should surprise us that his love would crush the Son for us. No matter how God chooses to afflict us for our good, the heaviest blows are never what our sins deserve. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (John 3:16).
I Chronicles 28:9 — And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.
Almighty and merciful Father, whose clemency I now presume to implore, after a long life of carelessness and wickedness, have mercy upon me. I have committed many trespasses; I have neglected many duties. I have done what thou hast forbidden, and left undone what Thou hast commanded. Forgive, merciful Lord, my sins, negligences, and ignorances, and enable me, by the Holy Spirit, to amend my life according to thy Holy Word, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
O Lord Jesus, grant us always, whatever the world may say, to content ourselves with what you will say, and to care only for your approval, which will outweigh all worlds; for Jesus sake. Amen.
–Charles George Gordon (1833-1885), British colonial administrator
Dear Father, give us our daily bread, favorable seasons, and health. Preserve us from war, disease, and poverty. If your will is to test us a little by withholding your blessings for a while, then may your will be done. When our time and hour comes, deliver us from all evil. Until then, give us strength and patience. Amen.