Our Tender Hearted Lord
Is God Good?
I am sure this question can stir up some emotional debates. I can just about hear the heated arguments of those wounded souls who believe that God has deserted them and the impassioned appeals of those trying so hard to convince them otherwise.
And then there are those sitting quietly at the sidelines, listening and wondering. Doubts are eroding their faith. Maybe God just isn’t that loving? Maybe He is an angry, vengeful God?
Where are you?
Do you believe whole-heartedly that God is good – without evil and the source of all that is love and beauty? Or do you believe that He is cruel and absent, ignoring the agony of people? Or do you just waver between the two – hoping that He is merciful and loving, but fearing that He is not.
I believe He is good, merciful, loving…the list goes on. But there are moments when I hurt so deeply as I look around me at the suffering and wonder – how, how, how does this all work? How does God feel about this all? What is He doing?
This week in Beth Moore’s LBY study on the Fruit of the Spirit, we looked at the gifts of kindness (chrestotes – “tender concern for others”) and goodness (agathosune – “benevolent; active goodness”.) As usual, the study is deep in scripture and insights and I can only briefly touch on some of the highlights here.
What impacted me most were the verses and passages in scripture that reveal the loving, compassionate, empathetic Father that our God is. It is so tempting to look at the suffering of the world and conclude that God just doesn’t care as much as we do. We would stop the pain and yet He doesn’t. Therefore He is just not that good or compassionate.
But that is us at our limited vantage point trying to make sense of the divine. It is beyond us to fully comprehend free will and salvation. It is beyond us to understand why God allows the world to continue. And it is beyond us to grasp what God sacrificed and suffered in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
In scripture we have some precious promises and examples of how loving and empathetic our God is. He does not love us from a distance and leave us alone as we cry. He does not ignore the pain and suffering of His children.
In the study, Beth assures us that God is a nurturing parent. The first story she used to illustrate this point surprised me. It was the story of Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 21:1-21.) I often think of this story as such a tale of sadness that I never saw this insight. But when Hagar is alone and desperate, watching her son die in the desert, God comes to her. As Beth puts it,
“God unleashed His loving kindness. He refreshed and restored both mother and child; in the place of an absent father, God vowed to abide with the boy as he grew…it seems we witness not only the compassion and sympathy of God, but also the empathy of God. He could relate to her pain and need, so He responded to Hagar as a loving God and as a fellow parent.”
God knows suffering. He endured the agony as a parent watching his blameless Son suffer and die. And He watches the ongoing pain of his precious children here on earth, while they refuse Him and curse Him. Yes, God knows the pain of a hurting parent. And so He responds to Hagar and to us with empathy and mercy as a loving and disciplining Father.
Then Beth goes on to show us more scripture revealing God’s tender heart towards His children. (empasis in the following verses is mine)
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49 15-16
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me…It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent done to feed them.” Hosea 11:1-4
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
Yes, the God in Heaven – the Almighty Creator – actually cares about us little people down here. And as a loving parent, he aches for us to know His love and to return it. He shows us this sacrificial love in Christ – in his suffering and in how Christ loved us. Christ revealed even more of the Father’s tender, unconditional love and we can be assured that He does love us and that He is so very, very good.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-5
But there is more…
God does not stop with words and promises of kindness and love. He does. Throughout these preceding passages and the entire Bible, God reaches out and loves us through action and sacrifice.
And of course, He calls us to do the same.
Kindness must be accompanied by goodness – agathosune (“…character energized, expressing itself in…benevolence, active good.”)
Goodness requires action. God is good and He actively expresses that goodness through action. And His plan includes us also responding to goodness and living out our faith in good works and demonstrative love.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Yes, as we watch the evening news, we may be tempted to despair. But I urge you to not stop there but to look deeper, because beyond what we can see with our earthly eyes there is a God who loves us and works to save us from despair and pain.
And as His children, who have experienced his mercy, love and salvation, we need to remember that we are called to live out His kindness and goodness in action to a world that so desperately needs it.
Thank you for your kindness and goodness.Thank you that you love us so deeply. And please forgive me Lord when I doubt that love. Empower me Lord to actively live out goodness and holler at me when I fail to do the good works you have planned for me to do. I know I fail you and others so often God. I am so sorry. Thank you for your mercy.
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links
to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for
the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm – Saturday 8am.
Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is
welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live
beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of