When I think of what it means to be loved by a supreme being – the ultimate creative force, an all powerful, loving, benevolent God – I think of safety, refuge, rest, and peace. I hear the Psalmist singing about deliverance and victory, and I imagine that being loved by God should feel like contentment and the end of suffering.
But that is not the lesson I have been learning.
I imagine that life as the Beloved would be like Jesus walking the earth in the power of the Holy Spirit, anointed with the favor of God, filled with the wisdom of the word, intimate with the Father, miracles and faith on call…
But I forget that the love and favor of the Father did not deliver Jesus from the cross. It gave Him the strength to endure the cross and delivered Him through the grave.
I think of the favor of God as something which lifts me up out of pain and suffering. I want Him to deliver me from danger and temptation and fear. But that’s not how we experience His love. Instead, the love of God is poured out on us as the strength to endure pain and suffering. His love does not deliver us from the valley of the shadow of death; it delivers us through it.
I have to admit there is a part of me that wants to shrug this idea off. To ask, “What good is the love of an all powerful, benevolent God that does not deliver me from suffering?” If we must all endure suffering, and we are not to be delivered out of it, then what difference does it make to be loved by God?
But the love of God is the promise of deliverance, not out of trial but through it.
It is the love of a husband and wife. Such love does not deliver us out of crying babies and dirty dishes. It does not take away the pain of loss, nor stave off the realities of hardship. Instead, this love gives us the strength to endure the trials of life. We lean on each other, encourage each other, lift each other up, and our love is made stronger for it.
It is the love of a parent for their child. A love that does not cripple the child by removing every obstacle from their path, but instead watches over them and encourages them to overcome their obstacles. Such love knows that perseverance produces perfection.
This love also knows that our perseverance is the hope of salvation for the lost. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, endured torturous persecution at the hands of the very people He came to save. And it was His endurance, strengthened by the love of the Father, that opened the door of salvation to the very ones who put Him to death. Now He calls us to lift up our cross and follow His example.
The question of suffering is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that the fruit of suffering is much more than our own spiritual perfection. It is our very participation in the mysterious plan of God, the hope of salvation to a dying world.
How might our perspective change if instead of praying for deliverance from our trials, we began praying for deliverance through them? Where would we be set free to choose love over fear if we knew that the very love of God sustained us? The key to resting in the Lord is being able to trust Him, knowing that His love is the promise of deliverance. This is what it means to be loved by God.