Read: Luke 17:11-17; Matthew 9:35-36; Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 1:40-41
Last Sunday, Pastor Mark encouraged us to be real as we relate to one another. Among the many times it is good to walk this out is when someone, either one who belongs to Jesus or one who isn't yet resting in His care, asks a difficult honest question. For example, someone might ask:
"If God loves us, why are people abused?"
"If God loves me, why did my child get sick and die?"
"If God loves people, why do typhoons tear apart villages whose inhabitants are already needy?"
Those questions and myriads of others, are often truly honest heart-felt queries, and if we are to be real, we can admit the fact that we too have struggled with those same thoughts.
One reason it is so difficult for us as we ponder the truth of God's love is the fact that when we think of our love for people here on earth, we can't fathom the thought of having the ability to take away their hurts and pain and not doing it. So, when we think about God and His unlimited power, Matthew 19:26, it seems so logical to us that the Lord Who is Creator and Redeemer would always step in and show His love to the watching world through wondrous interventions. Sometimes, He does that, but on many other occasions, this doesn't occur.
Let's look into what Jesus shows us about God, noting God's heart toward human suffering. In Luke 17:11-17, we have the opportunity to glimpse an amazing incident that only Luke notes. A large crowd followed Jesus, and they met a very different group of people walking in the opposite direction. Sadly, a young man, the only son of a widow was being carried to his burial place. We see precious truths about God here. Unbidden, Jesus intervened, and we read that His heart went out to the broken-hearted mother. Without having been asked, Jesus acted out of His compassion and raised the dead man. The scripture tells us that he began to talk. I wonder what he said? I wonder what his mother said? We know for certain that Jesus wanted us to know that He cared about the pain the widow was experiencing. She was one woman who had a need, and Jesus' compassion was poured out upon her.
In Matthew 9:35-36, we see another time where the Lord's compassion was on display. It was when He saw a crowd and knew their needs, especially that they were helpless as sheep are when they don't have a shepherd. Jesus saw individuals, not nameless people, and He looked at them with compassion.
In Matthew 20:29-34, we once again, see the Savior's compassion on display. Two blind men were trying to get the Savior's attention. The crowd was loud and noisy, and they didn't care about the needs of these two men, but Jesus did. What a different heart Jesus had than the crowd. The crowd showed contempt for the two men, but Jesus, the Son of God stopped and called for them. His compassion was aroused by their need, and He healed them.
Finally, in Mark 1:40-41, we see that Jesus responded with compassion to the humble cry of a leper. Even though people with leprosy had to stand afar off, Jesus, filled with compassion, touched this man.
Through these examples, we surely know that when we have questions about Jesus' love because of the circumstances we don't understand, it is not based upon a lack of compassion. Truly God's heart is touched by the pain of people, just as we saw in the examples from the scriptures. In addition to these passages, we are told in Hebrews 4:14-16 that we should approach His throne with boldness, knowing that He is touched with our hurts because He experienced them as He walked on the earth.
Could it be that one difficulty we face in considering God's love is that the Bible tells us that God pictures it differently than we might think? We look at Jesus' acts of healing, caring and compassion, and those are pictures of love in our minds. Truly, they are loving actions that show God's care. However, when the Bible speaks of how God portrays His love, a different example is given. In Romans 5:6-10, Paul spells it out. That is where the apostle tells us that the demonstration of God's love came when Jesus died for those who were His enemies. That includes each of us, Romans 3:10-12. This same truth, where God says "I love you" through His sacrifice for our sin is reiterated in John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:9-10. Even though precious and sweet, God's interventions in our lives, are not what ultimately show His love. Although He has invited us to pour out our hearts to Him, Psalm 62:8; Matthew 7:7-11, His answers that thrill our hearts or the confusion we experience when we can't see what He is doing don't change His definition of His love for us. It is based upon His atoning death and resurrection.
Back to the good questions people ask about God's love and the pain and suffering that is so prevalent all around us. God wants us to know that the most loving act He could ever do to demonstrate His love was to make a way for us to live in the kind of world where none of these questions will ever arise. The kind of world we wish we lived in now where there is no pain, disease, injustice or disease. What if God intervened in every circumstance to stop the hurts, grief and pain of this world? I would love that. Yet, what if He did that but had never died on the cross. Yes, we would live a much more pleasant life in many ways, but if he hadn't paid for our sin, 1 Peter 1:18-19, we would all still be lost and spend eternity apart from Him in hell. No wonder God defines His love by His atoning death on the cross, 1 John 4:9-10. When we experience His compassion in the here and now that is wonderful, but His love as defined in the scriptures has opened the door for unlimited compassion to be poured out into our lives for all eternity.
Lord, Thank You for honest questions. Help us to humbly share the truths we know about You.