I took a deep breath and clenched my fists in a tighter grip on my Bible. The verse I was reading clearly expressed that God shows kindness and loving care to His children… And yet, in the darkness of my grief after a miscarriage 2 years ago, I felt like God was standing up in heaven with his arms crossed, glaring down at me and saying, “Sure I could have saved your baby. But I didn’t. So get over it already.” How could I worship a God who acted like that?
Thankfully, God does not act like that. This view of God is a terribly tragic lie, and there are myriads of verses that express God’s character as tender and loving toward His children.
“All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,” Isaiah 65:2
But the question stabbing my heart each time I came across another verse about God’s love was: “if God is that caring towards me, how come He didn’t show it by miraculously saving the tiny life I cherished so deeply?”
Then, one day something happened that dramatically healed my heart’s view of God: I came across a description of Molech, one of the false gods the Israelites worshiped in the Old Testament. This idol was a statute with a fire burning inside. Mothers would place their precious infants in the hands of this idol to be burned to death, during which time the mothers stood by and were supposed to worship this terrible god.
What horrified my heart just as much as the gruesome depiction of children dying, was how strikingly similar that description was to my underlying view of God’s response to my loss. I had imagined God ignoring me with unfeeling aloofness as He ignored my pleas for Him to intervene. And then demanding that I worship Him, as I stood with searing pain tearing at my heart.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” John 11:33-35
I began to cry as I realized that I had been accusing God of being like something he says he detests- something that is the opposite of His character.
Multiple times God says that He detests the practice of worshiping Molech, and calls it an abomination. (Leviticus 18:21, Jeremiah 32:34-35) God even gave a law that anyone who offered their child to this idol should be put to death. (Leviticus 20:2) My heart had been deceived into imagining that the God of Love, Redemption and Life was instead someone full of hate, cruelty and death.
“Though he [the Lord] brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” Lamentations 3:32-33
All I could manage in response to this awful realization was “I’m so sorry God.”
I repented of my incorrect view of God, and cried out for help to understand Him correctly. And as I read my Bible, God showed me this verse:
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (ESV)
Jesus so clearly expresses in this prayer that the Love God has for me is the same as the eternal love that is within the Triune God, who is the Essence of Love. God is not cruel or distant or unfeeling towards me. He is loving me with an infinite love beyond comprehension through every pain and loss I walk through.
But I still had this question: I know God is in absolute control over our life and death. So how is He showing this amazing Love, when He allows His people to walk through such deep pain and loss?
There are many very good answers in the Bible to that question, and many sermons and articles written about it. (DesiringGod.org has many good resources that speak to this topic. And my husband has a 3 part sermon on this topic on youtube.) But as I prayed over that question, a particular parable that Jesus told came to mind:
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9
If that fig tree could talk, I bet it would say something like this: “Can’t you see I’m already struggling here? What in the world are you doing by digging up around my roots! That manure STINKS! This is horrible. You said you care about me, Gardener. But you must hate me and want to kill me! Why in the world would I EVER be grateful to you as you hack away at my roots and dump a bunch of awful poop on me!?”
Yep. Been there.
We will never know this side of heaven all that God is working in and through our pain. (2 Corinthians 4:17). In all of the disease, death and cruelty that result from living in this broken world, God is not far off. (Acts 17:27). He is wisely and tenderly weaving these painful experiences in our lives in the same way a skilled gardener prunes and fertilizes his sapling trees. (Romans 8:18-30, John 15:1-17).
If we are God’s child, then we can trust that in the pain and sorrow in our lives, whatever shape it may take, our God is a loving Father who cares about the pains of His children. He is a tender Gardener who is working to make us more fruitful and healthier. And one day we will see the full extent of goodness He is bringing from the deep scars that are a part of that process.
For more thoughts on this topic: When The Pain Doesn’t Make Sense