A Loving God in a Suffering World
Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on June 26, 2022
There has never been a sermon more aptly named and perhaps never a Truth more questioned or misunderstood.
The Hebrew word for Truth is emet. It is spelled with three letters—aleph, mem, tav—the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Just as Jesus—”the Word” (John 1:1)—is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), so the Bible—the divinely revealed Word of God—is the beginning, middle and end of everything. It is the whole truth, eternal and complete; nothing can be added to it.
Both Jesus as God incarnate—His exact representation and manifestation in human form (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3)—and the written Word of God reveal to us who God is, the very nature and character of our Heavenly Father.
And the life of Jesus and His written Word tells us that “God is love” (John 4:8, 16). Yes, He is loving—He always acts with love toward us, but love isn’t just something God does; it’s who He is. The very essence of who God is, His nature, is love. Love permeates His very being and infuses all His other attributes. Because God’s very nature is love, He must be loving—He demonstrates His love just as He demonstrates all of His attributes because in doing so, He is glorified. If you will pardon a double negative, God cannot not love. He cannot be unloving.
His Word also tells us that God is good. Over and over again, lest we forget or begin to doubt, the Psalms declare that the Lord “is good” and “His love endures forever” (e.g., Psalm 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 136:1). God’s goodness is another of His essential attributes, and He must always do good because He is good.
When God spoke the world into existence through the power of His Word, He declared that the work He had performed was “good” (Genesis 1). With perfect order, He created the perfect home for His children. And if that wasn’t enough, He planted a garden, a sanctuary where He would dwell with His children. His will was to do so forever.
Even the boundaries that God gave to Adam and Eve—that they could eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden except one—were good, borne out of the love of their Father and intended by Him to protect them.
James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
There was no suffering in Eden…until the fall.
When Satan convinced Eve that perhaps God was not good, that He was withholding goodness, was when she ate the forbidden fruit as did Adam, bringing death and suffering into the world. We have endured its effects ever since.
God is responsible for Eden, and man is responsible for the fall.
We live in a suffering world, but God is not the cause of our suffering; the world is.
God created us with a free will—a will to make good or bad choices. And while He is omnipotent (all-powerful), He does not take away our ability to choose and sometimes live with the consequences of our bad decisions or those of others.
God does not will that children are murdered, that women are raped, or the thousands of other things that break our hearts. His heart is always the first to break. God grieved the sins of the Israelites (read Hosea 11, especially v. 8). Jesus wept over His people who failed to recognize Him as the Messiah (Luke 19:41-44). These were not selfish or angry tears. These were tears of deep sorrow over God’s beloved and lost children.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Although God does not cause our suffering, because God is loving and good, He is with us in our suffering. Pastor Steve reminded us, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted…” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
The Truth of God’s love and goodness and the reality of God’s presence is what sustains us, and gives us hope to keep moving forward in the midst of our suffering.
But it gets even better. Not only will God be with us in our suffering, as He did in the life of Joseph, but if we trust Him, He will use the very thing that caused our suffering to bring about good in us, to us, and through us.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Even and perhaps especially in our suffering, God is still working for our good. He is using it to mature us, grow our faith, teach us that we can trust Him, and allow our faith to be a witness to others.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
We must never allow Satan to use the suffering of this world to doubt the Truth of God’s love and goodness. We must also be careful that we never confuse the outcome of our suffering with the origin. Just because God uses our suffering for good does not make the suffering good, nor does it mean He caused it. God is with us in our suffering. He responds to us in our suffering. He sustains us, rescues us, restores us. He strengthens us, grows us, and fills our hearts with His love.
Only the love and goodness of our Father can take the most painful experiences of our lives and turn them into something beautiful that draws us closer to Him in the midst of a suffering world.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
Think about a time of suffering in your own life:
Did it make you question or doubt God’s love for you or His goodness?
How did God reveal His presence to you during that time?
Can you identify ways that He worked in that suffering to bring good to you or through you to others?
Will you ask Him today to reveal the Truth of His love and goodness afresh and to seal that in your heart, replacing any false beliefs you may have had about Him?
How can you prepare now to suffer with faith and trust in the Truth of His love and goodness?
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