God’s Love Toward Us"God loves us with an unfailing love."
I remember flying through the air and thinking “I’m really in big trouble now.” I knew that I was not supposed to get hit by a car while crossing the street. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it wasn’t my fault. I even wondered if I could get home without my parents finding out.
My body slammed into the ground hard, but I got up, ready to finish my walk home and pretend that this didn’t happen. But then I looked down and saw the blood. I knew my mom would have to help me wash that up. A woman I didn’t know was making me sit down. By then other kids walking home from school were gathering and I was very embarrassed that I had managed to get hit by a car. I was crying and I couldn’t stop. Why wouldn’t this lady let me go home? When the ambulance pulled up, I really thought I’d be in trouble. Soon after the ambulance, my mom and sister arrived. I was relieved when she wasn’t mad at me for getting hit. But I still thought if she knew the whole story, she’d be disappointed with me.
During school that day, I had gotten in trouble. It was normal for me to get in trouble, but on this day, I got in more trouble than usual and had to stay after school for five minutes. When I walked home that day, I was distractedly thinking about how I would confess to my parents that I had gotten in trouble. Usually, I walked home with a group of kids, and we would all cross the street together. On this day I walked by myself because they had already left. I waited at the street for the sign to say “walk,” but a car turning left didn’t see me. She didn’t even stop to see if I was okay. She just kept driving.
For a long time, I thought the two events were connected. I assumed God was upset with my bad behavior. I wondered if getting hit by a car was some sort of divine punishment for getting in trouble at school. I thought maybe that’s just how God worked: I would do something bad, then He would let something bad happen to me. But when I would go to church every Sunday and learn about a God who loved me, it didn’t seem like that thinking fit His character. Psalm 103: 10-13 says this about how God treats His children:
He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
As a pastor, I still find people thinking like I had as a child. They wonder if something bad happening in their life is somehow punishment from previous life decisions or mistakes. Our sin does have natural consequences, and we can expect these things to happen, but this is out of the natural order of things and not God’s wrath. A person who gambles all they have can expect to be broke. A person who has allowed their anger to explode can expect to lose some friends. But God loves us with an unfailing love. He is not vindictive toward His children.
Because we live in a broken and sinful world, bad things happen to us. The promise of scripture is not that bad things won’t continue to happen to us, but that we won’t have to face them alone. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
Miraculously, I was not seriously injured from the accident. When the car hit me, it picked me up and I slid across the hood and back to the side of the road, saving me from getting run over. My glasses were broken and found 50 feet away in a parking lot. I had a bruise from my shoulder to my knee and was sore for a few days. By the time I sat up, my nose was bleeding profusely from the initial impact (that was the blood I looked down and saw). But there were no broken bones, no surgery required, and no long hospital stays. I was fully checked out in the emergency room. The police came and made a report about what happened. They couldn’t believe that I wasn’t seriously injured or worse. Then I went home and went back to school the next day. Life went on like it never happened, except that I never had to walk home from school again. Thanks to my loving parents, I was picked up every single day for the next 11 years of school.
I spent years believing God had punished me for my bad behavior. I was ashamed that I had gotten in trouble and kept it a secret so others wouldn’t realize that God was mad at me. I considered the accident to be caused by God, and that thinking shaped how I approached Him. I’ve since found out that others also hold unfair judgments against God. We blame Him for the tragedy, the abuse, or the trauma. This kind of thinking builds a barrier between us and the God who loves us and wants to be with us in our brokenness.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12 says, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (NIV).
My childish thinking about God kept me from knowing and experiencing the full miracle of that day. Only as a mother have I now fully embraced God’s protection over me. We will never understand in this life why some things happen, but we can trust God to be with us and know how we feel and what we need.
When we recognize the judgments we hold against God, we can confess our sinful thinking and our heavenly Father welcomes us to come close to Him again. We can invite our loving heavenly Father to walk with us through the messiness of this life. When bad things happen, we can notice the ways God is with us and helps us through the difficult times. The enemy wants to use hard times to pull us away from God. But when we know who God really is and how much He loves us, we can trust Him even when bad things that make no sense happen to us or to people we love.
I have forgiven the driver who hit me and left me there. I’m thankful that God was there, guiding a nurse to witness the accident and care for me until emergency personnel arrived. I’ve also forgiven myself for my childish thinking and unfair judgments against God. I’m so thankful for His unfailing love and compassion toward me.
Have you ever held a judgment against God? Is God inviting you to recognize who He really is and how much He loves and cares for you?
Captain Catherine Fitzgerald serves as Corps Officer in New Albany, IN.