Pastor's Corner: Doubting God's love

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"You hate me!" Probably every parent of teenagers has heard that phrase at some point. As adults we remember the disappointments of our own adolescent years. Maybe you were grounded because of bad behavior. Or you really wanted that expensive pair of shoes and mom said, "Sorry, it doesn't fit our family budget." Maybe dad said, "No, you can't go to that movie or concert." And what did you say? "If you really loved me, mom/dad, you wouldn't be ruining my life like this!"

More seriously, many people express this attitude towards God. Something has happened in their lives -- perhaps something that was by no means trivial -- and because of it, they have concluded that God hates them. "Why has that blessing been withheld from me? Why do all these obstacles keep interfering with my goals? If you really loved me, God, you wouldn't be ruining my life like this!"

That raises the question: How can we know that God loves us? Is there something solid to back that up? We've all heard that God loves us, but where is the evidence for that statement when you find yourself wrestling with debt or divorce, loneliness or abandonment, illness or disease, discouragement or deep spiritual turmoil? How can you know then that God really loves you?

That's the question that opens the Old Testament book of Malachi: "'I have loved you,' says the Lord. But you say, 'How have you loved us?'" These Israelites were living 450 years before Christ and life had become difficult for them. After 70 years in Babylonian exile, they had returned to the Promised Land only to face more challenges. God had made some inspiring promises to His people, but they were tired of waiting for Him to deliver. Spiritual doubt was common; vibrant faith was rare.

Throughout the remainder of Malachi's book, the prophet responds to these doubts by reminding the people of God's sovereign grace in their lives, despite their unfaithfulness to Him. Sinful choices have painful consequences; and from a Biblical worldview, all of our pain in life can ultimately be traced to a bad decision, either our own or someone else's, going all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Yet God's unfailing love for His people will never cease.

When we go to the ballot box to elect a President, we choose the candidate we think is most deserving, the one with the greatest qualifications and experience and wisdom, the one we think has the most potential for good in them. But when God chooses us for salvation, it is solely on the basis of His good and loving will, not because of any potential or merit in us.

The reason God loves you is because God is love. It's simply His nature to love. And the Bible teaches that "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). How thankful we should be that God has proven His love through the cross of Jesus Christ!

May God stir your heart anew with an unshakable confidence in His Word. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17).