We’ve all asked, “Why does a loving God allow diseases, viruses, and suffering? How do we find God’s love when we’re hurting?” It’s a legitimate question. Though I’ve done my heart-work before on this, an illness a few years ago allowed me to dig a little deeper. (Thanks, God!)
Right before I got sick, a friend of mine had given me a book for my birthday. It’s entitled, When God’s Ways Make No Sense, by Dr. Larry Crabb. It’s really hard to read books like this when you’re feeling awful, and you’re not healing quickly. I hated it at times, but I knew there was great truth in his wisdom (and I had nothing else to do! LOL!).
This author counsels many who suffer. He has battled cancer himself. He knows heartache firsthand and the crashing waves of questions that roll over us and knock us down when God does not seem to come through with positive answers to our desperate petitions. This is the essence of the book and his belief:
God does back off from doing much good we think a good God should do, making the choice that is within His control to accomplish a greater good by denying us a lesser good.
Dr. Larry Crabb
This truth requires a great trust in the goodness of God. I would only add that I don’t believe God leaves us for one hot minute. Though His hand of healing may seem far removed and our prayers seem to bounce off an invisible shield, God’s hands hold us as we wait, trust, and hope in Him. As He holds us, His greater good is two-fold:
1. It grows us.
2. Unanswered prayer and suffering open the door for others to love us and fulfill good works.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
GOD’S LOVE THROUGH OTHERS
We are saved by grace, but we will be rewarded according to our works. I don’t want to miss anything God has for me to do, and I certainly do not want to take away anyone’s blessing! When we fight illness, it gives others the opportunity to help us. That’s what the body of Christ does, or it should do. We are the fulfillment of Jesus who fills everything.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
DEFINING LOVE GOD’S WAY
Love fills everything. But what is this love? Its meaning is filtered through how others have loved us, and those experiences shape our “love languages,”– the different ways we give and receive love. It’s complicated unless you define love as God defines it. The Bible defines it this way:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4: 9-12
This kind of love is Agape. Agape is the Greek word meaning sacrificial love. According to Chrsitianity.com, “Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.” When we think of love, we envision emotions and feelings, but Agape is not persuaded by emotion. It’s a commitment.
That’s how God loves and how He calls us to love each other. Of course, on our own, we fail miserably. Just look at the letter in the middle of “sin.” Yep, it’s “I.” We need help. On our own, selfishness wins, but God provided a way through the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22). The first manifestation of fruit to overflow out of us when Holy Spirit comes in and makes His home in us is Agape love.
SACRIFICIAL LOVE NOT RELIGION
When we live by the Spirit, surrendered wholly to this holy take-over, this sacrificial love will ooze out of us. Somedays we may not ooze as much as others, but He gives us the grace and energy to extend a helping hand even when it’s not convenient. His Spirit places people on our hearts in need of prayer or a phone call or a meal.
We love (Agape) because He first loved (Agaped) us. Take a breath. Put down all your disappointments and worries, unanswered prayers and questions. What Christ did on the Cross is the ultimate demonstration of Agape. God loves you that much. It‘s unfathomable, yet, it’s life changing, heart altering, and purpose giving. Agape cancels the power of religion as Paul explains to the Galatians: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6b).
GOD’S LOVE, LOVING KINDNESS
Looking back to my illness a few years ago, I have realized it was kind of the Lord to let me experience His love and the active love of others during that time. Every word I write has been proven. Every. One. That is why I so desperately want to help you know the God of love that I know. And my heart yearns for all of us to receive the ultimate healing of Agape that wipes away selfishness and strife because I don’t want us to miss one good deed God has planned for us to do.
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE
If you are hurting, look around, and you’ll find someone else hurting too. The sting of illness and sorrow loses its prick when shared with others. If you’re in need, let somebody help you. When you’re on your feet, look for those you can help. More than ever our world needs love, and we are the love bearers carrying the life and death of Jesus. Remember my friends, the world does not need another church service, the world needs Agape. It’s the only thing that counts- faith expressing itself in love.
Other articles on God’s love:
Responding to God’s Love- Tom Toya
Pruning From God’s Perspective- Charles Huff