God’s Love Still Reigns"He loves us so much He gives us every opportunity to experience eternal joy with Him."
I was six years old sitting on the top of the couch with my little nose pressed against the window watching my dad drive away with our camper in tow. I didn’t know it then, but he had already spent his last night in our home. When I was 12, I was shaken awake at 6 a.m. by my crying mother; it was the morning of September 11, 2001. We sat in my bed together, watching as the second plane hit and people did anything to free themselves from the heat of the flames.
It doesn’t take long for us to begin to notice that the world we live in seems unfair. Some are spared from childhood anguish; however, eventually the tragedies of the world catch up with each of us in one way or another. We don’t have to look far to see suffering in the world. The news always seems bad: a coworker’s results return unwanted, or maybe just a look in the mirror returns unwanted reminders of our current circumstance. Most of us need only look back a few years or months or minutes to recall some sort of suffering in our lives. And after every celebration of reaching a summit, it seems as if the descent is waiting impatiently on the other side.
The reality of the world we live in is that where there are peaks, there must also be valleys. These valleys, these sufferings, are the catalyst for a question that we believers get hurled at us, from the hurting and the lost, probably more than any other, a question that those hurting and lost might not realize we believers are also asking. It comes in the breathless plea we make when the undertow of the broken world sucks the ground out from under our feet, like an unexpected wave coming up from behind, we cry out to the Lord, “Why? Why do you let these things happen?”
The answer is love. God made a great sacrifice when He created us. Out of His great love for us, God chose, at the time of our creation, to lay down His own authority over our lives for the sake of giving us free will. Why? So that by knowing true love, through free will, we could fulfill the greatest commandments in the Bible. “‘And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Our Father has sacrificed His authority to overrule our choices to show us how much He loves us, to give us a chance to freely accept His love at the risk of us freely rejecting His love. Like a mother finding cigarettes in her daughter’s purse, God often finds His children making bad decisions because of the effect of sin and the presence of an enemy in our broken world. Like this mother who chooses to have a conversation with her daughter, encouraging her to make better choices, God gives us His printed Word as instruction for our lives. As that same mother could lock her daughter in a closet to keep her from the dangers of cigarettes, God could use His omnipotence to restrain us from our own bad choices. But as that mother knows, she would likely lose the love of her daughter by “solving” the problem that way. God knows the same. So as loving parents, they both offer instruction, and maybe consequences. They both continue to show love, and subsequently teach love, by allowing their children to choose their own way. They never abandon them and pray that one day, their child will choose to walk rightly and will return love unto them even more for the way in which they chose to love them first. They take the terrifying risk of allowing their children the free will, supplemented with instruction and encouragement, to grow into the person they were created to be.
Becoming the best version of ourselves means choosing to surrender that very same free will to God, allowing Him to be the leader of our lives. It is a show of great compassion and respect that God does not intervene. Instead, He gives us the ability to make this choice to surrender to Him, enabling us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Making this sacrifice freely shows our deep love for Him. It is with this understanding of the love relationship that I have discovered the necessity for the free will that causes such suffering in our world. I have revised my view of God from someone who ‘lets’ bad things happen to someone who ‘allows’ love to reign.
Choosing to trust God’s love allows me to walk through and witness suffering, understanding that God has never left us and is waiting to accept our sacrifice of personal control and replace it with His perfect leadership. These truths allow us to understand that suffering will remain until the day we find ourselves with Him again, only because He loves us so much He gives us every opportunity to experience eternal joy with Him.
“The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise as some people think. He is waiting for you. The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever. He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them.”2 Peter 3:9, NLV
I challenge you, in your times of suffering, to trust God’s ability and His intention to make good out of all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). From a posture of trust, we do not merely endure suffering but experience God’s inexplicable peace by finding hope in the midst of sufferings (Romans 5:3-4), hope that washes the mud from our eyes, allowing us to see the truth that the suffering of this world is not evidence of the absence of God but proof of God’s continued persistence to win our hearts because He loves us beyond our comprehension. With this understanding, we can be sure that though suffering remains, God’s love still reigns.
Kristin McClendon of Santa Clara, CA is a youth ministry leader and aspiring author.