When You Doubt God’s Love For You
Dr. Harold Sala
Have you ever doubted that God does love you? Have you ever faced circumstances that caused you to say, “How could God love me when He has allowed circumstances as these?” It may have been the death of your child, or a mate who deeply disappointed you, or something about which you prayed, and your prayer went unanswered—or so you thought. Possibly you did not verbalize it at all, but way down in your heart you just allowed those thoughts of, “How could this happen if God really loved me?” to reverberate in your soul.
This question of God’s goodness is one that eventually confronts almost everyone. Shortly before his untimely death in an automobile accident, then the director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Paul Little, wrote that the bottom line of our theology is whether or not God is good. If you are convinced that He is good, then it is not hard to accept the fact that He loves you as a person. If you have questions that are on the back burner of your mind, you are the loser in many ways.
First, you are not certain as to what your relationship with Him really is, and then, secondly, your lack of peace regarding the matter keeps you from being a channel of His love to others. Those nagging questions effectively bottle up the flow of God’s love through your life. Then those thoughts about God’s lack of justice or goodness keep your heart torn up, and peace escapes you.
The solution begins by learning something the Bible says about the goodness of God and His personal love for you as an individual. Try to base your understanding of God on His Word rather than on circumstances, your feelings and emotions, or the state of your digestion. In both the Old and New Testaments, the fact of God’s love for you as a person is simply stated–like the following: Ephesians 3:19 speaks of love which surpasses knowledge; Jeremiah 31:3 says God’s love is everlasting; Psalm 103:17 says His love is steadfast, “from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him.” Then John 3:16 says God’s love was so great it compelled Him to send His Son. Jeremiah wrote that God’s love is unceasing (Jeremiah 3:22).
Paul, the apostle, wrote that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither circumstances nor emotions, not even spiritual darkness; however, your attitude can be a dark cloud that effectively keeps His love from penetrating your heart. Suffice it to say that the Bible consistently says that God loves you no matter how you feel about it. To be perfectly frank with you, I do not understand why He should love me but I have resolved the issue that He does, and it was an understanding of the cross which helped me to understand He really does love me. It was on the cross where Christ gave His life that I came to understand love means commitment, and here is the highest measure of commitment.
There is good news! God does love you as a person with a love that is unconditional–not based on your response—it’s unending.
On the banks of the Firth of Clyde in Scotland is a little stone church where a young pastor once began to lose his sight. Rejected by the young woman he loved and wanted to marry, he wrote these words; “O love that will not let me go; I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe; that in Thine ocean depths its flow; May richer, fuller be.” George Matheson discovered that God’s love is unending and so can you.
Based on the e-mail and letters that have come to our office over a period of many years, I have noticed that three issues cause us to doubt the love of God. 1. Suffering which we feel God could stop if He loved us, or, He cannot love us if He could prevent suffering and does not. 2. Injustice in the world. 3. Prayers which are unanswered according to our specifications. What do you do when you wrestle with this issue?
Guideline #1: Realize that God loves you unconditionally–regardless of your feelings or your emotions. Though you may not feel it or believe it, the writers of Scripture state His love and goodness as a fact.
Guideline #2: Strive to understand the reason behind your argument with God’s goodness and love. Three individuals have faced these issues and have come forth with books that have dealt with the question at length. Perhaps their names will ring a bell as you search for an answer for yourself. They are: C. S. Lewis, author of The Problem of Pain; Edith Schaeffer, who wrote Affliction; and, Phil Yancey, author of Where Is God When It Hurts? These, along with me and scores of others, have come to understand that there is profit in pain and that there is gain from grief.
When you are hurting, a theological or philosophical answer does not quite ring the bell. For me to tell you that suffering is the result of the Fall, when man turned his back on God, does not assuage the anguish or the pain that you are undergoing. It does not restore your confidence in a God who is good and who loves you.
Guideline #3: Trust God’s heart when you cannot see God’s hand. In time you may come to view the issue which troubles you as did Dr. C.E.M. Joad of the University of London. It was the suffering of World War 2 that troubled him when it came to a loving, just God. As he viewed the suffering of the concentration camps, he reasoned that the suffering and injustice of the world only demonstrated that an opposite had to exist, and that opposite, he finally came to believe, was a loving and just God.