“God is not a cruel God. He is loving, and He wants only the best for us.” Correct. “God will never let any harm come to us. He will never hurt us or inflict any pain on us.” Hmmm… Really?
We may like to think so, but if we look at the Bible and even at our own lives, and be honest with ourselves, I think we will realize that such a statement is quite misguided.
The problem with us is that we have a difficult time reconciling that an all-loving, compassionate, merciful, and benevolent God could possibly have a hand in any sort of discomfort in our lives. Surely, He does not take part in causing us pain. All hardship comes only from the devil. God is the hero who steps in to save the day!
We often try to rationalize suffering and hardship by equating all forms of pain with evil. Because of evil in this world, we go through challenges and difficulties. Because of the devil, and sin, and the temptations of our materialistic and highly sexualized culture, we fall prey to our fallen nature. In many ways, we are victims of this corrupted world.
Unfortunately, while such a mindset/theology may seem accurate on the surface and works well in storybooks and movies, or in inspirational quotes on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, it can also be dangerous because that’s not exactly how it works in real life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these things are not true—that God does not deliver us from spiritual attacks and sin, that God doesn’t turn things around and use “what man meant for evil” for His good purposes, or that God does not come to our rescue when we call out to Him—because He does. He most certainly does.
Nevertheless, to say that He never causes us any pain is not only naïve, but detrimental to our understanding of God’s perfect love for us. If we go about our Christian life with the notion that God is never the source of any pain or suffering, there will come a point where we become disillusioned and disappointed in Him.
We will have a problem with many sections of His Word and subsequently risk doubting the authenticity of Scripture; we may even begin to question His goodness, or His sovereignty, or worse yet, His existence.
Because the truth is that God not only allows us to suffer at the hand of the devil (whether directly or indirectly), but He also sometimes actively participates in causing us to go through trials. It does not take a lot of Bible reading for us to come across accounts in which God deliberately sends trouble.
He sent the flood. He sent the ten plagues. He sent droughts and storms and entire armies—in judgment, as well as to refocus His people on Him. God is a God of love and mercy and grace, but He’s also a God of justice and righteousness who disciplines those He loves. He isn’t cruel, but He does give us grief if and when He deems it necessary.
Imagine a set of parents who want nothing more than for their child to live a happy and successful life. They pick him up when he falls down and scrapes his knee. They tuck him in at night and sing him to sleep. They keep him safe from harm and bullies.
They make sure that he is clothed appropriately according to the weather, and feed him with the proper nutrients that his growing body requires. They teach him to read, count, swim, ride a bike, and nurture him in all the necessary areas of child rearing. So far, so good. That’s good parenting.
But what happens if these parents do all of those things right, but give in to every whim and whine their kid makes? What if they give him everything he asks for and more? What if they never say no, never chastise him for his defiance, never give him chores, and basically allow him to do whatever he wants? Yup. That’s bad parenting.
Not only will that child become a self-centered brat with no regard for anyone else, his entire character will be crippled. He will not have any concept of what it’s like to handle disappointment. He will not know what it’s like to not have something he wants. He will not know how to relate with people when they disagree with him. The implications are endless and he will be miserable.
His expectations that have been constructed around a childhood that revolved around no one but himself would leave him in a whirlwind of confusion, rage, indignation, and alienation when his parents are no longer around to meet to his every desire.
And that is why God does not coddle us. He wants us to become men and women of character and integrity—men and women who will not crumble under the slightest bit of pressure—men and women who are respectful of others and will uphold His name and demonstrate His love.
God wants His children to be equipped to face hardships and turn to Him. To be able to stare challenges head on and remain firmly rooted in our trust in Him. He wants us to represent Him well and to depend on His strength. He wants our faith, our confidence, and our security to be grounded in Him.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
That is why He breaks us. He breaks our sinful and selfish will until it lines up with His holy and righteous will. He targets our pride, our rebellion, our stubbornness, and it hurts. But He does it anyway, and He will do whatever it takes for us to finally give up, surrender, and say “Ok, God. You take over. I’m done trying to be in control.”
Like any good parent, God does not take pleasure in seeing us struggle, but knows that the end result, which is for our own good, will be worth all the pain that He has to endure while seeing us suffer. In order to mold us into the people that He knows we can be, He does what needs to be done. Because as kindhearted and gentle as He is, our God is also the epitome of tough love!
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