Our God is a loving God. But we don’t always see it.
When we endure difficult life circumstances, God feels unloving and cruel. How could he let a precious loved one die so young? Why would he let us get laid off when he knows that our family relies on that paycheck? Why does he allow natural disasters to wipe out entire regions? Why does he make life so hard?
These are questions that Christians have wrestled with for generations. But humans only have a limited understanding of God’s actions.
In the Desiring God article God Wounds Us Because He Loves Us, author Marshall Segal writes, “Sometimes the Lord’s love for us feels like the opposite of love, but that’s only because we can’t see everything he sees. Behind the real pain he allows is an even more real love for those for whom he sent his Son (John 3:16).”
He continues, “The world would never call any kind of pain ‘love.’ The world simply does not have categories for God doing whatever necessary to draw us to himself — his strength, his righteousness, his help, his peace. But his love for us explodes the world’s small categories and far surpasses its weak expectations.”
When we feel wounded by God, Segal suggests remembering that the pain God allows is designed to lead us closer to him. Consider the following six reasons why we are allowed to suffer:
He allows us to suffer so that we would turn and receive compassion.
“The pain may feel like God’s fierce anger in the moment, but it actually serves to reveal his warm compassion toward us,” Segal says.
Again, we have such a limited understanding of God’s ways. Though our circumstances may seem unfair, God sees the bigger picture of compassion.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
So that we would return and be healed.
Segal writes, “The Lord does take away. The Lord does strike. The Lord will tear. All that he may heal.”
God shows us his majesty in his ability to heal our pain.
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).
So that we would return and be redeemed.
“When we return to the Lord, we don’t meet resistance or reluctance. This Father runs to receive his prodigal (Luke 15:20). We finally find redemption,” Segal says.
Have we turned away from God? This pain we’re experiencing may be his way of bringing us back to his loving embrace.
“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).
So that we would return and find rest.
“When we suffer, enduring disappointment or rejection, wrestling with disease or disability, losing someone we loved, we may want rest more than anything — rest from the pain, from the questions, from the doubt, from the anxieties,” writes Segal.
Scripture tells us that our rest is found in the Lord.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).
So that we would return and rejoice.
Segal says, “The devil wants your life to be all sorrow and no joy, but God means for you to find deeper, more durable joy in your sorrow and suffering (2 Corinthians 6:10).”
God is teaching us to be joyful despite our circumstances. Happiness is momentary, but the joy found in Christ is enduring.
“The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10; 51:11).
So that we would return and have God.
“...the sweetest gift God gives us when he wounds us is that he gives us more of himself. When we return to God, we get God (1 Peter 3:18)... He is the first and greatest gift he gives to any of us. And he is worth whatever we must lose or suffer to have him,” Segal writes.
God is giving us himself. Run to him. Cling to him. And put your trust fully in him.
“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).
Segal says, “Don’t be afraid to feel the pain in suffering, and to grieve the pain, but let it lead you to God, not away from him. He is wounding you with love, and pleading with you to run to him.”
Crosswalk.com contributing writer Lori Hatcher shares this beautiful story of finding God in the most difficult circumstances:
“I experienced a trial years ago greater than anything I’d ever walked through before. With one phone call, I felt like everything precious to me had been stripped away. I awakened the next morning feeling like I had nothing left but God.
“As I cried, and prayed, and cried some more, Jesus met me there. He wrapped his big tender arms of love around me and spoke words of hope into my troubled soul. He spoke words of truth into my reeling mind. He spoke words of love into my broken heart. And he spoke words of courage into my trampled faith.
“My encounter with him was so powerful and real that I will never again doubt his love, care, and purpose. ‘It was good for me to be afflicted,’ King David wrote, ‘so that I might learn your ways,’ and I agree. While I would never voluntarily choose to repeat those dark days, I know God used them to grow my love for him in ways he never could have otherwise.”
“... I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap. Carrie and her husband Dustin are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby, a daughter, in October 2017.